Travel Tips: Applying for a France Schengen Visa from the Philippines

THE PARANOID TRAVELER APPLIES FOR A FRANCE SCHENGEN VISA

paris
Image Source: Wikimedia
“Want to go to Paris for Christmas?” asked my uncle.

Other people would readily say yes but the thought of having to apply for a visa created a dent in my excitement especially recalling the rude treatment I received when I first applied four years ago. But I had to practice what I preach, “Think of the destination, not the hassle of getting there.” I tell that to my friends who don’t travel simply because they are overwhelmed at the thought of what it entails---packing, airport queues, cramped aircrafts, etc. So I said yes, especially encouraged that this time around, a travel agency was going to guide us throughout the process. The last time, my travel agency kept their hands off during my application process and only entertained me when I showed them my approved visa. They even lied to me when they said travel agencies were not allowed to help, only to see one agent after another assisting their clients at the consulate.

I guess much of the stress I encountered back then was the fact I was doing it for the first time with no one to guide me. But this time around, our travel agent was very much hands on plus I am wiser, too. Let me share my experience in the hope that you will find it helpful when it’s your turn to apply for a visa but please note that this is not a step-by-step guide. For that, click here.

First thing our agent did was to give us a list of documents to prepare and present both in original and photocopy forms: (By the way, please note that I only listed the items pertinent to my case. For a complete list, please refer to the link.)

1.      The duly-accomplished visa application form which they sent me but you can download from  the above link.
2.      Three 35mm x 45mm recent passport-sized colored pictures with white background, attached  to the application form
3.      Original and new passports with at least six months valid prior to departure
4.      Original certificate of employment and leave of absence approved by employer
5.      Cover letter explaining the purpose of my trip and proposed day-to-day itinerary
6.      Proof of accommodation
7.      Airline ticket
8.      The latest income tax return
9.      Recent bank certification and the last three months’ statement of the same bank account
10.   NSO birth certificate

After filling up the application form, I did not glue or staple the pictures as I wasn’t sure of the requirement. I remember when I applied for another visa, they only allowed pictures that were paper-clipped and rejected the glued ones.

I then prepared my latest passport and enclosed my expired one that bears my previous Schengen visa. I also readied a photocopy of the information page and my old Schengen visa as well as my existing visas to Japan and Korea.

After securing my certificates of employment and bank account, my agent booked my flight and my Trafalgar package which is kind of a chicken-and-the-egg situation. Common sense says I should postpone that until my visa is secure but I will compromise the success of my application. The travel agency assured me that I can get my money back should my application be less than successful.

Then they sent me a template cover letter assuring the French Embassy that I am part of the Trafalgar package that the agency is offering, that my airline seats have been paid for, that I promise to return and not be a burden to their country. I added the fact that they have given me a visa four years prior. Attached were all the official proofs of my statements including my day-to-day itinerary which I photocopied from the Trafalgar catalogue. I then submitted all my original documents (except for my Income Tax Return) including my passport to the travel agency for safekeeping while I held on to the photocopies.

The agency then secured an appointment for me, sent me a printout of my appointment letter, and later, met me at France Visa Application Centre at Ecoplaza Building, Don Chino Roces Extension, Makati City. Please take note of the address should you go to the wrong address which was what happened to one applicant who came an hour late of her schedule because she went to Pacific Star Building at Makati Avenue. She had to pay a little over PhP2,000 for a walk-in application.

I arrived an hour and a half prior to my appointment at Ecoplaza which houses several visa application centers including that of Netherlands, Spain, Malta, and Canada. I headed straight to the second floor where the restrooms were, expecting to see a long line but found it to be empty. I then went back downstairs to the food court to wait for the representative of my travel agency who soon showed up recognizing me from my photo even before I could ask him on the phone what he was wearing.

He then gave me my original documents all glued, stapled and paper-clipped where necessary, adding that they were also compiled accordingly. He said that we could try our luck to be accommodated earlier as he saw there were only a few applicants. But he told me how the centre does not allow closed bags so I should leave my belongings except for my documents in my car but alas, I took Uber. Fortunately, the centre had already anticipated people in my situation by offering a rental cloaking room where I deposited my stuff for PhP75. I transferred my papers, wallet, mobile phone, pencil case, and clipboard to my tote bag only to be told by the most polite guard I have ever met that only shopping ecobags were allowed at the office so I had to carry all my items in my arms. By the way, tablets and laptops are not allowed inside either. Good thing I did not bring my iPad.

I showed my appointment letter and passport to the lady behind the counter who returned them to me with three forms and my turn number and then I was let in. True enough, there were only four applicants inside. The last time I was there, it was like one entire barangay had decided to go on a field trip to Paris.

Seeing that I was three turns away, I sat down ready to fill up an information form (name, passport information, mobile number and email address) but my number was immediately called. I handed my papers to the officer who was on a fast-forward mode as she skimmed through my original documents and stamped the photocopies with “original seen.” She then asked whether I wanted my passport delivered by a courier which entailed a fee of PhP330. Part of the assistance of the travel agency was to pick up my passport so I declined. She then told me to go pay the visa fee at the nearby cashier counter. But I couldn’t resist asking her first if she was just naturally fast or that was part of their training. She chuckled and said it was the latter. I wish all our government agencies were just as fast and efficient.

After paying my visa fee, I waited for my turn for the biometrics but as there was only one applicant ahead of me, I did not wait long. After they take my picture and my fingerprints, they gave me a form indicating my application number which must be presented upon pick-up by my representative. I was told to wait a maximum of 15 working days for the result. And that was it. My travel time took longer than the entire process but no complaints here. I retrieved my stuff from the cloaking room and that afternoon, I received both a text and an email notification stating that my application was forwarded to the embassy. A week later, I received notification that my passport was ready for pick-up so I informed my travel agency who tells me two days later that it’s all systems go!

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