Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Alors, must apply for a Schengen visa

photo from Summer Solstice
When my friend asked me where I was going for my birthday, I said "off to 'Blois" to which she replied "whaaaaat? Blah?? where's that?"

This year I'm spending my solar return in a yoga festival with, according to the 3HO site "about 2,000 people from Europe (and some from Africa, Asia, America, etc) in a natural environment to practice eight days of yoga and other activities related to the teachings of Yogi Bhajan including three days of White Tantric yoga." The festival will be held in Domaine de Fondjouan, located south of Paris, where the nearest train station is Blois (in the Loire Valley).

It was my yoga teacher Marisa Harnadh who recommended to go last May. She said "why not spend your birthday with the Yogis?"  Well, I asked for something different this year and the next thing I knew, I already booked everything from the festival fee, accommodations, even the flight.

I thought everything was a-ok until for some strange reason, I had an inkling to leaf through my passport. That's when I discovered that my Schengen visa has expired. Honestly, I was so confident that my visa was still valid that it didn't even cross my mind to check last May.  I immediately checked the website for information. Note that the the website indicated in italics Appointments may only be made within three months from the date of departure. Three months!?! I crossed my fingers, dialed the embassy's call center and I guess the universe must be on my side because I got an appointment for Friday, July 5. I know that it's a bit tight considering that the scheduled appointment is two weeks before the date of departure.

So, for those going on holiday to France or any other Schengen area - that's to any 22 European Union member states or to any four European Free Trade Association member states - do lodge your application early. Here are the steps to apply for a Schengen tourist visa:

First, set an appointment by calling the Embassy's call center. For France, call any of these numbers:  PLDT 1 (909) 101-3333, Globe 1 (900) 101-3333 or Bayantel 1 (903) 101-3333. There is a toll charge of  P32 per minute excluding VAT and NDD charges for calls made outside Metro Manila.

Then prepare two sets of documents (original and photocopy) of the following:

  1. Signed Schengen visa application form (click here) with photo (35mm x 45mm, white background).
  2. Valid passport (3) month's validity from the end of intended stay and photo copy of valid and former visas.
  3. Cover letter explaining the purpose of the trip and proposed day-to-day itinerary.
  4. Details about the trip:  Proof of accommodations (vouchers), round trip flight booking (note: it says not to purchase ticket).
  5. Proof of employment - certificate of employment with monthly salary and leave of absence approved by employer.
  6. Proof  of income - income tax return, recent bank certification, photocopy of the last three months statement of account.
  7. Identity - birth certificate, if married, also include a photocopy of your marriage contract.
  8. An international travel insurance
  9. The visa fee of EUR 60 (short stay) is non-refundable and must be paid in cash, in Philippine pesos. 

Wish me luck! 

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