Pointers for Getting A German Schengen Visa
The other day I wrote about the whole process and the requirements in getting a Schengen visa. This time, I’ll be providing some extra pointers to give you that slight advantage in your application. In addition to these, I will be giving some advice specific to my situation, i.e. applying while unemployed and with a purpose of honeymoon for newly-weds.
Let’s begin with compiling your documentation. Considering you have settled on going to Germany, you must expect the hurdles in completing all the needed paperwork. Rule of thumb is to plan ahead even before setting an interview appointment. Ideally, you should only schedule your appointment when you are already building your calendar schedule (no. 3 below).
- Create a checklist. Fortunately, the downloadable list of requirements is in checklist form where you can tick which document is on hand. If you’re feeling enthusiastic about keeping checklists, either you can make one on Excel or download checklist apps like Google Keep, and mark which ones are complete. Back then, we had a spreadsheet checklist that we’d kept updated each time we’ve accomplished credentials.
- Check your passport for validity. The German Embassy forbids changing passports during processing, so it’s recommended that you either renew your passport before visiting the embassy. Your passport should at least be valid ‘for another 3 months’ on the date of visa application and should have ‘two empty pages’.
- Make a detailed calendar schedule. Similar to a project calendar, this calendar will aid you in knowing exactly when to acquire which document. This schedule should include when your interview appointment at the embassy is.
- Photocopy your papers. Having a cache of photocopies of each of your documents – including your IDs – is truly a life-saver.
- Verify your bank account. Remember that submitting your bank statement with bank certificate is required. Make sure that your money in your bank account is enough to cover for travel expenses. My husband was asked a few questions regarding his finances – they’re that thorough.
- Prepare auxiliary documents as you see fit. These are additional documents which are not in the checklist provided by the embassy but you think would be necessary to present. We were newly-weds at the time of application, so we decided to present our marriage certificate. Providing this supports the fact that we were recently married as I was not using my husband’s surname on all my identification documents. Also, since I was unemployed at that time, I produced printouts of job interview invitations. Preparedness and anticipation are keys to getting this right.
It is imperative that you bring all the necessary supporting documentation at the appointment. The German Embassy reserves the right to refuse incomplete submissions. There are instances when the embassy will contact you for more documentation. For more information on submissions, read here.
At the Interview
Now that you have collected your paperwork, let’s move over to readying yourself for the interview. In the previous article, I mentioned that questions are usually based on the documentation you presented. It is, in fact, true as the embassy officers want to know whether you are sure about your credentials or not. Aside from the usual questions related to the documents you provided, you can find other possible questions they can ask you all around the Internet. Below are some of them including how you can answer them.
- “Why Germany?” and/or “What do you know about Germany?” – This question does not need to be overly formal. Answer this question truthfully and concisely. For example, if you’re a beer fan and would like to try German beers, then you can simply answer that. Be sure that your answer is sincere and personal. As I mentioned before, I answered that I was a fan of the German National Football Team for years and have dreamed of visiting their home country.
- “Do you have family or friends living in Germany?” – If you answered yes, answer in brief who, their relation to you, and where they are staying in Germany.
- “Are you married?” – If you replied yes, this might be followed by “What does your spouse do?” or “How long have you been married?” or “Do you have children?”.
- “Who will finance your travel?” – If you will not be shouldering your own expenses, respond briefly by saying who will pay for your trip and present their financial capacity. In my case, they accepted my husband’s bank statements instead of mine.
- “How much this journey is going to cost you?” – Prepare this beforehand by computing an estimate of your expenses. Google the prices of fares, venue tickets, food, and others. Don’t make things up. You do not need the exact amount, something close to that number should suffice.
- “Can you reschedule a shorter trip?” – State why you can or cannot reschedule, especially if your trip will happen during an important event.
- “How do we know you will return home within your visa’s validity?” Or maybe some trick questions like “What are your plans after your return?” or “When in the Schengen Area, are you going to seek employment?” – Of course, you would want your answer to imply that you will be returning. However, think ahead of supporting reasons that you can add to indicate why they should believe you. You can point to your personal responsibilities that demands your presence here, e.g. an occupation, a business, a sick relative, etc. The last two questions may seem easy for you to answer if you’re employed, but be alert as they can catch you unaware.
When answering questions:
- Make sure to make eye contact.
- Construct your replies in a way that the focus is on what is asked.
- Prevent yourself from giving lingering answers.
- Always remember that leaving a good impression (but please, do not overdo it) would be most helpful at this point.
Once you are done with the interview, and have paid the fee, you will then be advised that the processing will take three to five business days. If you are asked to pick up your passport, come at the date and time you are requested to drop by. If you are unable to do so, you must inform the embassy right away.
Wait, there’s a snag…
Sometimes, things do take a turn for the inevitable. Not all people receive the much-awaited Schengen visa. The question now is, what should you do if you get rejected? If you take a good Google search, you will find that there are people who have shared their stories of rejection and how they handled it. Surely, a turndown may seem sad and disappointing but it does not signal the end of the world for everyone. There is still hope.
Fortunately, I have not yet gone through this experience so what I will be providing below are mostly collated information from other people’s experiences.
If you have received a letter stating the reason why your application was rejected: I’ve read that people do receive rejection letters with ticked boxes corresponding to the reason behind it. In it, there are nine reasons why, but let’s stick to the most common reasons (as I have observed):
1) “The information submitted regarding the justification for the purpose and conditions of the intended stay was not reliable” – This would really make you ask yourself a million times what went wrong. If you have made a checklist, then you will somehow be able to pinpoint the snag. Did you give a copy of your confirmed accommodation? If you’re going to multiple places in different countries, have you provided a detailed itinerary? Are your means of financial support really enough to support you for the whole travel duration?
2) “Your intention to leave the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the visa could not be ascertained.” – Go over your checklist and see if you were able to submit the paperwork (BIR Form 2316/ITR, Letter of Approved Vacation Leave, and Certificate of Employment) that would prove your rootedness in the Philippines. If you did submit them, try to think about your current situation again. You may have lacked some more documents that would absolutely support your purpose. Aside from your submissions, they may have found your answers to their interview questions unsatisfactory.
If you have received a rejection letter, what you can do is to craft a remonstration letter. A remonstration letter aids you to make an appeal to the embassy to reconsider your application. You can start by looking at a sample remonstration letter and tips how to write one here. It also helps to read some Schengen rejection stories like on Dream Euro Trip, on Two Monkeys Travel, this article on Rappler, and this one from Huffington Post.