So as some of you may already know, applying for a Schengen Visa can be such a hassle — but it’s never an impossible task to be granted one! My first ever Schengen application was actually to the Embassy of Belgium, so I might as well help you guys out if you’re also planning on getting a similar one. Let’s go and make your Europe dreams come true!
But first, some disclaimers…
- There are different types of visas (for fiancé, work, study, etc.) but my main focus for this article will be on the ‘Visa for Tourists‘ in which the requirements are quite similar ‘Visa for Family Visit or Private Invitation’.
- To see a list of requirements for other types of visas for Belgium, go here.
- NO ONE can give you the guarantee of your Schengen Visa’s approval — not even a lawyer, a consultant, a travel agent, or an embassy employee. Anyone who says otherwise is most likely going to be a scammer. So what I’m rather offering you here is a comprehensive guide with helpful tips to increase your chances of getting that visa. Nothing more, nothing less.
[box_title class=”” subtitle=”” subtitle_font_size=”15″ font_size=”23″ border_color=”#ed2665″ animation_delay=”0″ font_alignment=”center” border=”around” animate=”” ]THE SCHENGEN VISA[/box_title]
» What is a Schengen Visa?
A Schengen Visa is a document that allows the holder to travel freely within the Schengen Area or Zone for a maximum stay of up to 90 days in a 6 month period. This Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries (22 European Union member states and 4 EFTA member states) that have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders and they are namely:
 Excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands  Excluding overseas departments and territories  Excluding Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands  Excluding Svalbard  With special provisions for Ceuta and Melilla
There are certain nationalities worldwide that are exempted from applying for a Schengen Visa, but as Philippine passport holders, in order to visit one or more of these Schengen states, we are required to apply for the visa. (Remember, Schengen Tourist Visa holders are NOT allowed to live permanently nor work in Europe, they only have the right to travel as a temporary visitor within the allotted timeframe indicated on their visa.)
NOTE: It helps to mention that there are non-Schengen members in Europe that allow entry to their country if you have a Schengen Visa, namely: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, and Vatican City.
HOWEVER, you must check these details beforehand since their rules might have changed. Plus, customarily, only multiple-entry Schengen visas are allowed. You can check this list for more details and updates.
» When should I apply for a Schengen Visa?
Apply as early as three (3) months or 90 days before your planned trip date departure.
You can apply several days before your trip, sure — but it’s always best that you give enough time for the embassy to look into your application since the visa processing could take longer. After all, you wouldn’t want to make plans only to have the embassy provide you with a visa that has a validity period that’s NOT within your intended travel dates.
» Where to apply for a Schengen Visa?
For Schengen Visas that have the main purpose of visiting a friend/family/national or reuniting with a fiancé/husband/etc. in a Schengen state, naturally, you should apply in the corresponding Embassy of the country where that person comes from.
Meanwhile, if you are planning to visit several Schengen Countries for your trip, your application must be made at the embassy of the main destination country — meaning, the country where you will be staying the longest. If the length of stay is almost the same, it’s best to apply for the country that you will first fly or enter to.
So as an example, you must apply at the Belgian Embassy in Manila only if according to your Europe itinerary, you will be staying the longest.
» Which Schengen embassy will I have a better chance of getting a Visa?
There’s NO such thing as an embassy that would easily give away Schengen Visas. But, if it is a question of time — like which Embassy can you get application results the quickest — then that would be an easier query for me to answer, which then leads us to the question…
» How long does it take for Schengen Visa results to be released?
To the best of my knowledge, the following Embassies usually release visas earliest in an average of:
- Switzerland Embassy: 4 days
- French Embassy: 5 days
- Norwegian Embassy: 5 to 15 days
- German Embassy: 7 days
- Belgian and Netherlands (Dutch) Embassy: 15 days
– the Belgian Embassy also handles Visa processing for Schengen countries that have no Embassies here in Manila, like Luxembourg, Slovenia and Hungary
- Danish Embassy: 15 days
- Italian Embassy: 15 days
It can surely take longer if they need more documents or details from you.
[box_title class=”” subtitle=”” subtitle_font_size=”15″ font_size=”23″ border_color=”#ed2665″ animation_delay=”0″ font_alignment=”center” border=”around” animate=”” ]How to Apply for a Schengen Visa via the Belgium Embassy[/box_title]1
Step 1: Determine the type of Schengen Visa that you need to apply for.
There are, of course, various types of Schengen Visas out there that you can apply for: a visa for residence, a visa for studying, a visa for work, a visa for transit, a visa for being a fiancé, etc.
For this particular guide though, I will only be discussing the requirements for a short stay (less than 90 days) tourist visa which is also similar to a visa for a family visit or private invitation since they are experiences that I’ve gone through.
So if you have a different situation or purpose of visit, it’s best that you head over to this page for more information.
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Step 2: Schedule your appointment online with VFS Global
Starting this 16th of January 2017, all applicants should place an appointment through VFS.
The steps you should take would be:
- First, create a new electronic visa application form and complete it correctly. You can do this by going to this link. Create an account as a new user by click ‘Not registered yet‘, and once your account is set up, you will be led to the electronic visa application form. There are mandatory fields indicated by an asterisk (*) in this form and they all have to be filled in correctly before you can submit your application.
- Once the application has been submitted electronically, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with the application form in PDF format in the attachment. You must print and sign this form, and then join it with the rest of your documents in support of your application (For family members or a group, an application form must be submitted for each person.)
- By this point, you should make an appointment with VFS by going to this link. Once an appointment is booked, the system will generate an appointment letter, and you should bring this when you visit the Belgium Visa Application Centre of VFS in Makati.
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Step 3: Double-check your documents
Apart from the printed electronic visa application form mentioned above that you filled out in this link, you should also submit the following additional requirements to VFS on your appointment date, as applicable to you.
Make sure that you submit 1 original copy of all the below applicable documents and 1 complete set of their photocopy.
- Valid passport with no less than 3 months validity from the date of intended travel
Note: Provide a photocopy of your valid passport, a photocopy of former visas, if any, and photocopy of entry/exit stamps of countries you’ve previously visited.
- Two (2) recent 2 x 2 colored passport-size photos with WHITE background
Note: Taken with nothing covering the face, without sunglasses or contact lenses, or a head covering unless worn for religious or medical reasons. The subject should have their mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eyebrows). Paste your photo on each of the electronic visa form that you completed online (1 original and 1 photocopy of the form).
FOR THE SPONSOR (IF APPLICABLE):
- Original Affidavit of Support called “Bijlage 3bis/Verbintenis Tot Tenlasteneming / Prise en charge/Annexe 3Bis”, legalized by the sponsor’s municipality in Belgium
Note: Make sure it is the original, so they should ship this document to you.
- Photocopy of the sponsor’s resident or Belgian ID card (front and back)
- Photocopy of the sponsor’s birth certificate or marriage certificate
- Original copy of the Family Composition of the sponsor called “Composition de Ménage/Samenstelling Van Het Gezin” to be obtained from the sponsor’s municipality as well
- Recent proof of financial capacity of the sponsor
- For employees: Proof of employment and salary slips in the last three (3) months and last income tax assessment paper from the Finance Department in Belgium
- For private businessmen: An extract of the company from the Chamber of Commerce (business registration), bank statements of private bank and their company’s bank account in the last three (3) months.
- Invitation letter explaining the reason for their invitation, the duration of your stay, where you will stay, their email, address, and contact number, and an assurance that you will not overstay there.
FOR THE APPLICANT:
- Cover letter stating your itinerary, why you are going to Belgium and explanation/details of relationship with sponsor.
- Here is the cover letter I used: [ sample guide ]
- Proof of relationship with sponsor
Note: I provided travel history and photos of my ex and me, and photos of that said ex and his father.
- Authenticated birth certificate from NSO.
If you’re married, bring also a photocopy of your marriage contract.
- Usually, since you have a sponsor, they don’t need proof of financial solvency on your part, but still, they tend to ask for this nonetheless, so best to provide them this just so you’re prepared:
- For employees: Proof of employment of the applicant such as a certificate of employment (COE) stating position, years of service, monthly salary, and approved leave of absence (this will help justify that you will NOT overstay). If you are going away for a long time, the Belgian Embassy might ask for a certified leave of absence (LOA) from your employer. Also: provide 3 most recent payslips and ITR (Income Tax Return) for the past year.
- For self-employed: A copy of Official Business Registration/ Business Permit, ITR, and bank statement of the company for the last 3 months
With coverage of 30,000 Euros, should be valid to all Schengen countries, and should be valid for the entire duration of stay. IF you’re going to purchase locally, the Belgian Embassy only accepts the insurance policies of the following Philippine Insurance companies. (Just visit their website by clicking the links below, and then email them to start your inquiry.)
- Chubb (formerly known as ACE Secure)
- Chartis Insurance / AIG (formerly known as Philam Insurance/AIU Insurance)
- Pacific Cross (formerly known as Blue Cross)
- BPI-MS Insurance Corporation
- FPG Insurance Co. (formerly Federal Phoenix Assurance Co)
- Fortune General Ins. Corp.
- MAA Insurance Malayan Insurance
- MAPFRE Insular Insurance
- Paramount Life and General Insurance Co.
- Malayan Insurance Company, Inc.
- PNB General Insurers Standard Insurance Co.
- UCPB General Insurance Co. Inc.
- Worldwide Travel Insurance Plans
- Charter Ping An Insurance Corporation
- QBE Seaboard Insurance Philippines, Inc.
- Liberty Insurance Coporation
- Pioneer Insurance Company
- Philippines First Insurance Company
- Oriental Assurance Corporation
Example: Proof of confirmed hotel reservations for the whole travel period, including all other countries that you are going to visit.
Copy of the roundtrip airline ticket reservation ONLY with passenger name & registration number (or reservation number). You can get a reservation typically from the airline itself or through a travel agency. Do NOT pay for/buy the ticket until a visa has been granted — besides, the Belgian Embassy does NOT and will NEVER require a booked plane ticket to be submitted during the application process. (Later on, if the application is approved, the visa will be issued according to your roundtrip airline ticket reservation.)
- Marriage contract issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper.
- Birth certificates of children issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper
*NOTE: Further documents may be needed from you at the discretion of VFS or the Belgian Embassy.
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Step 4: Submit your application at VFS on your appointment date
On the date of your scheduled appointment, you should submit all the necessary documents in support of your visa application in person to VFS in Makati.
Your biometric data (digital fingerprints and photo) will be captured and you will be asked to pay the non-refundable visa fee (except in case of gratuity) and a service fee by VFS for the deposit of your visa application Once you submit your visa application, you can choose to receive your passport via courier or you can collect it at the VFS counter.
*ADDRESS OF VFS BELGIAN VISA APPLICATION CENTER: Ground floor of Ecoplaza Building in Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati.
. [box_title class=”” subtitle=”” subtitle_font_size=”15″ font_size=”20″ border_color=”#ed2665″ animation_delay=”0″ font_alignment=”center” border=”middle” animate=”” ]Booking Essentials[/box_title]
[box_title class=”” subtitle=”” subtitle_font_size=”15″ font_size=”20″ border_color=”#ed2665″ animation_delay=”0″ font_alignment=”center” border=”middle” animate=”” ]OTHER TOP BRUSSELS TOURS[/box_title]
Ghent and Bruges Day Tour …straight from Brussels!
Chocolate Walking Tour Explore Brussels’ finest chocolates!
Antwerp Half Day Tour …a quick departure from Brussels!
[box_title class=”” subtitle=”” subtitle_font_size=”15″ font_size=”23″ border_color=”#ed2665″ animation_delay=”0″ font_alignment=”center” border=”around” animate=”” ]F.A.Q.[/box_title]
» How much is the Schengen Visa processing fee? The visa-processing fee is EUR 60 (it is approximately Php 3,500 – depending on the day’s official Belgian Embassy exchange rate). This fee is non-refundable even if the application is unsuccessful. Payments are made at VFS during the submission of your application, and it is best that you have the exact amount on hand.
NOTE: For a complete list of visa fees imposed by the Belgian Embassy, see here. Meanwhile, for the additional fee of VFS, it’s at Php 1,100.
» What should I wear if in case the Belgian Embassy invites me for an interview? Even if visa applications are now simply submitted to VFS, there is still a chance that the Embassy might ask that you visit them for an interview. If they do, there’s no need to come in wearing formal or business wear — casual wear is the best to have as long as you appear respectable and clean.
For my case before, I just came to the Belgian Embassy wearing a dress. (Don’t go in a revealing dress, of course.) Guys who were there were usually wearing pants and polo. So basically, wear something that makes you feel confident, presentable, and comfortable.
The address of the Belgian Embassy in the Philippines is at: Multinational Bancorporation Center, 9th floor, Ayala Avenue at Makati (somewhere near PLDT’s business center).
» How will the interview be like? It helps to note that my interview experience happened before the implementation of VFS services, so it’s possible that the interview process in the Embassy has changed. Nevertheless, I will just continue to share my past experience as it might already help you.
So upon arrival, you will be greeted by the security guard asking for your reason of visit. Tell him that you’re applying for a Visa and are scheduled for an interview at the current time frame. He will ask you to leave your bag and your mobile device; you will only be allowed to bring in the additional documents needed from you (if applicable). Once inside, wait for the visa officer to call your name.
TIP: Bring a book with you to amuse yourself. Remember, they don’t allow any gadgets to be taken in at all.
Regarding the interview, there’s no need to be scared of the Visa Officer (who is also Filipino) even if they generally appear to be non-smiling people. Give ’em a break, it’s just part of their job; they’ve been doing it for quite a while. You can respond in Filipino or English, but never “TagLish” and usually their questions are just aimed to double-check the information in your documents to know more about your background, etc.
From what I can remember, the questions that were asked of me were about:
- The purpose and length of stay in Belgium
- My financial status and my employment
- Where will I be staying and my planned itinerary
Generally: the questions will vary depending on your situation, but going by what others were asked of as well, these were usually the ‘main’ issues that the Visa Officer wanted to ask about. So just be honest and consistent, and all will work fine.
» How can I follow up on my application? There are times when the Embassy must submit your visa application to the Immigration Office of the Federal Public Service Home Affairs in Belgium for further decision. In such a case, your file number will be communicated to you upon the submission of your file to the Immigration Office. From this stage onwards, the Immigration Office is the only authority to contact, if you wish to know the status of your application.
With the file number, you can inquire about the status of your application by…
Telephone: + 32 2 793 80 00
Email: [email protected] (link sends e-mail)
By fax: + 32 2 274 66 91
You can also track your visa application on the Belgian website of VFS here. Rest assured, you will be immediately informed once a decision has been taken regarding your visa application.
» Were there any conditions upon the issue of your Schengen Visa? For one of my applications that involved staying at my sponsor’s residence/house in Belgium, I was required to report to their town hall within the first 8 days to request an official paper stating my registration of stay. I was to submit this paper to the Embassy of Belgium in Makati for as soon as I am back to Manila as proof that I have traveled, that I am back, and that I did NOT overstay.
» My Schengen Visa application was denied. Is there anything I can do? I haven’t gone through this, so I am unsure how you can proceed if this happened to you. But from what I’ve heard, the Belgian Embassy will usually provide you the reason for their refusal (oftentimes, it’s usually because of the Embassy’s uncertainty that you will return back here to the Philippines so it is best that you really give them the reason/assurance that you WILL go back.)
Anyhow, I believe you can appeal to them and the steps on how will usually be enclosed in their letter to you. I am not sure what the other details are since I couldn’t seem to find any info in the Embassy of Belgium’s website, so if ever this does happen to you, feel free to contact the Belgian Embassy for more information on how you can appeal on your application.
Otherwise, just try applying again! There’s no limit to reapplications; but of course, try to learn from your past mistakes and ensure that you have ever needed document. Good luck!
SOURCES: My experiences and the website of the Embassy which is located here: [ click! ]
Ideas for your Eurotrip itinerary!