UPDATE AS OF JANUARY 2017: Starting January 16, there will be a Belgian Visa Application Center at VFS located at the ground floor of Ecoplaza Building in Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati. Rest assured, you can already start lodging your applications via VFS website by January 9.
So as some of you may already know, applying for a Schengen Visa can be such a hassle. My first ever application took a long time actually… so in the spirit of sharing, I might as well help you guys out if ever you are planning on getting a similar Visa, so that hopefully, you won’t go through the same hassle I’ve been through. (To see my travel experiences in Europe, come browse through here: click!)
- There are different types of Visas (for fiance, work, study, etc.) but my main focus for this article will be on the ‘Visa for Family Visit or Private Invitation (visa C)‘. Though actually, the requirements I’ll be listing below could also be enough if you’re rather applying for a ‘Visa for tourists‘.
To see a list of requirements for other types of visas for Belgium, go here.
- I will be relaying my experience the first time that I applied for a Schengen Visa. Take note that additional requirements could be asked from you if the Embassy deems it fit to do so; and of course, initial requirements might also change over time as of when I posted this article, so it’s best that you check the Embassy’s main website as well which is located here: [ click! ]
» Schengen Visa The 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. These countries are namely: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
In order for Philippine residents to visit one or more of these states, they are required to apply for a Schengen Visa, allowing the holder to travel freely within the Schengen countries for a maximum stay of up to 90 days in a 6 month period. Schengen Visa holders are NOT allowed to live permanently nor work in Europe, they only have the right to travel as a temporary visitor.
» When should I apply for a Schengen Visa? Applications can be made as early as three (3) months before the planned trip.
» Where to apply for Schengen Visa? For Visas that intend to visit a friend or national in a Schengen state (or any other type of Visas), naturally, you should apply in the corresponding Embassy of the country that you intend to visit.
If you are planning to visit several Schengen countries, 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, best to just apply into the country that you will first enter in.
Now, for my case, since I was visiting my then boyfriend, I applied into the Embassy of Belgium for a ‘Visa to visit a friend‘. My sponsor was my ex’s father since my ex was no longer registered as a resident of Belgium at that time (he has been away from Belgium for too long visiting other countries around the world). However, this was only on paper since I am going to use my own money for the whole trip. For the sake of formalities and for a stronger proof of financial capacity, I chose to refer to his dad as my sponsor since he’s employed (and I’m not; I was a newly self-employed person at that time and it was hard to provide enough proof to give the Embassy the assurance that my income is stable and that I can sustain myself while I’m away — even if I can actually have enough cash to secure myself).
As you can see, a sponsor can be anyone — it can be a friend, a relative, etc. — as long as they can provide the needed requirements to the Embassy needed to justify their sponsorship for you. (And if that guarantor/sponsor is located in Belgium and that you are going to live with them during your stay, there are other requirements that are needed too which warrants a ‘Visa to visit a friend’. After all, they have to give the Embassy the assurance that you will NOT overstay. For me, the assurance was that my sponsor indicated in his letter to the Embassy that I will not overstay since I had an online job in Manila that I need to get back to and that I had a team of Philippine employees to look after — which are all true).
» Which Embassy will I have a better chance of getting a Schengen Visa? This question is only applicable if you’re planning to get a Visa for tourists, since obviously, if you’re getting a Visa to visit a friend, you’re pretty much locked in to the country he/she is from. Still, I personally think that there’s no such thing as a separate Embassy that will be easier to get a Visa from since all their requirements are mostly the same (given that they’re all under the Schengen agreement). If however it is a question of time — like which Embassy can you get a Schengen Visa the quickest from — then that would be an easier question to answer, which then leads us to the question…
» How long does it take for a Schengen Visa to be released? To the best of my knowledge, the following Embassies usually release Visas in:
- Switzerland Embassy: 4 days
- French Embassy: 5 days
- Norwegian Embassy: 5 days
– the Norwegian Embassy also handles Visa processing for Schengen countries that have no Embassies here in Manila, like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Estonia
- 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 will of course take longer if they need further documents or details from you as they deem it fit. For example, my first application took a while: I applied on June 17, 2013 at the Embassy of Belgium. On the 15th day, they asked me for additional documents; and then later on, I eventually got my Visa on July 15, 2013.
» How do I apply for a Schengen Visa at the Belgian Embassy? 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 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*.
- On the date of your scheduled appointment, you should submit all the necessary documents in support of your visa application in person (these additional documents will be listed below in this article) 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.
NOTE: Once you submit your visa application, you can choose to receive your passport via courier service 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.
» What are the other requirements for a Schengen Visa in the Embassy of Belgium? GENERAL REQUIREMENTS:
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 photo copy of 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:
- 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 Embassy might ask for a certified leave of absence (LOA) from your employer. Also: provide 3 most recent pay slips and ITR (Income Tax Return) for the past year.
- For self-employed: A copy of Official Business Registration/ Business Permit, tax paying certificate, and bank statement of the company for the last 3 months
- For students: School enrollment certificate and approved leave of absence.
- For minors: Parental consent legalized by DFA 6 or a DSWD Travel, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) clearance, copy of passport of parents or legal guardian clearance, and birth certificate of the minor issued on National Statistics Office (NSO) security paper.
- For unemployed persons: It could work if you could show them a job offer, or if applicable, documents showing any of your real estate property here in the Philippines. For proof of financial credibility, you can provide copies of credit cards, bank certificates, or bank statements in the last six (6) months.
- Travel Insurance
With a 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 Embassy of Belgium 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
But if you’re looking for the best international travel insurance that you can purchase online with no hassles, I highly recommend World Nomads. They have enough coverage required by the embassy at an affordable price and they also have very comprehensive policies! (For the period that I intended to travel, I only paid about Php 3,000 for my insurance.)
- If you are not gonna reside/stay in your sponsor’s house of residence for the whole trip since, let’s say, you are planning to travel to other countries too, then also provide details of your trip as applicable:
Example: Proof of confirmed hotel reservations for the whole travel period, including all other countries that you are going to visit.
TIP: If you want to make hotel reservations, I suggest doing it through Booking.com! Why do I suggest them? You can book or reserve a hotel WITHOUT paying for it yet (so NO downpayment or pre-payment) which is useful for giving as proof to the embassy. Also, cancellations can even be done 24 hours prior to your booked date (just read through the hotel policies to be sure that they’re under this scheme).
- Proof of travel flight tickets
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 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.)
- If traveling with your spouse/children, please also provide:
- 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 Embassy.
» 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 Embassy exchange rate). This fee is non-refundable even if 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 Embassy of Belgium, see here.
Meanwhile, for the additional fee of VFS, it’s at Php 1,100.
» What should I wear if in case the 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 Embassy wearing a dress. (Don’t go in a revealing dress, of course.) Guys who were there were usually wearing pants and polo. So yeah, basically wear something that makes you feel confident, presentable, and comfortable.
The address of the Embassy of Belgium 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 have 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). 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.
So 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 Answer: To visit my ex’s family and friends. I even mentioned that my ex had a business in the Philippines and has been staying there for a while, so we will both be travelling at the same time and will go back at the same time. (Because of this, they also requested for addt’l documents like where is my ex staying and what his business is — in a way, this also helped support that I will not overstay or be an illegal immigrant in Belgium: which they usually fear).
- Relationship with the sponsor
My Answer: He is the father of my ex.
- Details about the relationship with my ex
Note: Like how the two of us met, how long have we been dating, if he has been providing me allowance (my answer was no since I have a job), and if we were living in together, etc.
- My financial status and my employment
- Where will I be staying and our planned itinerary
My Answer: I will be staying with my ex’s family’s residence in Belgium, and we are planning to visit neighboring Schengen countries. But for the most part, will be staying in Belgium. We don’t have a planned itinerary as of this moment; we will decide that when I have my visa ready. (I also mentioned how we will also be watching concerts there; by mentioning that, they also asked for documents/tickets supporting that).
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 yeah, just be honest and consistent, and all will work fine.
» How can I follow up on my application? There are times though 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? Since I was going to stay 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 Belgiumi 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 Embassy will usually provide you the reason for their refusal (often times, 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 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 own experience and the website of the Embassy which is located here: [ click! ]
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