I wish visas didn’t exist. I wish so because of the limitations it creates for someone to travel all around the world at anytime. In Bangladesh, getting a tourist visa for anywhere is moderately tough. People in Bangladesh who get the tourist visa for Europe usually have a nice, bulky bank statement, or are famous and in their middle age having a white collar job. If you do not have any of those and/or you are a teen and you don’t have a bank account/job yet, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t get a visa to Europe. Either you have to apply through your parents and your parents have to have the aforementioned criteria or you could pull some strings at the Embassy if your parents are politically involved/has relations somehow. I used the latter option in Bangladesh to get visas for the countries I visited, until I applied for a Schengen visa to Poland on my own.
I applied for the Schengen visa through the Swedish embassy in Bangladesh and was rejected under the reason, which I’m paraphrasing, that they can’t establish whether I’m going to Poland for tourism purpose or for immigration purpose. Why in hell would I immigrate to Europe when I had a US visa already issued in my passport for a bachelors program at RIT for 5 years? When I was handing in my application, I read somewhere in the embassy that Bangladesh is considered as an “Orange” nation in that embassy and has a history of people migrating illegally. I know it’s the fault of some of the people in Bangladesh but, what kind of classification is that? If you are pointing at our skin color, please get it right. You could say “50 shades of brown” nation. Anyhow, somewhere in the Swedish embassy, it even said that you won’t be given a visa if your purpose is to see your boy/girl friend. Is Hitler in command for that embassy or what? So I went to USA without travelling to Poland that time and went to Poland later with some help (an invitation letter) from a special friend of mine.
Things are quite easy when it comes to applying for a visa in USA. All you need to maintain is correct information in the application and sufficient means of travel. That is, you need to have the money to travel and feed yourself while travelling. If you could show this to the embassy, you should get a visa unless there is some other reason I don’t know of. So I am going to Germany and to other unplanned, European destinations this summer and here is the step by step procedure I followed to get a Schengen visa:
Step 1: Visit the website. If you are applying for a visa to any country in Europe, you’ll find the visa information usually in the embassy website (duh…but many people keep asking me about the visa procedure and requirements). In USA, there are states allocated to each embassy. For instance, the New York embassy of Germany won’t serve someone from California. So do that.
Step 2: From the website, find out the required documents needed to apply for the Schengen visa. Some embassies have tougher requirements than others. Some have thorough details of how much you need to show in your bank statement. So it’s a good idea to check multiple embassies and be flexible in your travel. Remember, Schengen visa allows you to travel to 25 countries. So you could apply for a visa to any of those 25 countries and later travel to your desired destination through cheap train/airline tickets.
Step 3: Know how to fill up the Schengen visa application. For the visa to Poland, I used tips from a fellow blogger: (http://bubbleofblah.com/schengen-visa-application/) and for the visa to Germany, I used this document from the Abu Dhabi embassy: (http://de.vfsglobal.ae/pdf/VIDEX_General_User_Guidelines_190613.pdf). Do a google search on ‘how to fill up the Schengen visa’ and you’ll get a lot of sample applications.
Step 4: Have your airline booking, hotel booking, bank statement, passport info, other residency info in a foreign country that you’re staying at, lined up. For the bank statement, a general rule of thumb is to have $100 per day allocated for your travel. So for instance: if you are going for 20 days, you should show $2000 in your bank statements (which can include a credit card if you have one). You won’t usually require $2000 for food and hotel in Europe, but most of the embassies see $100 as a good amount to survive the day anywhere in Europe. I’m a college student, so I’m always looking for ways to save money.
- Use http://www.bewelcome.org to couch surf and meet new people and make new friends. It’s a good way to socialize and roam Europe within a budget.
- And use http://www.seat61.com to find out about cheap train tickets all around Europe. If you want to fly, use http://www.ryanair.com for cheap airline tickets within Europe.
- And use http://www.booking.com to book hotels/hostels for free and use those documents for the visa application. If you later on change your mind about staying in a hotel and couch surfing instead, you can always cancel the booking without any fees.
- For the airline ticket, periodically check several websites. I use kayak.com, onetravel.com, airfare.com, studentuniverse.com, and norwegian.com to find my cheapest, international ticket to Europe. You should search for recent articles in the internet which talk about when to get the cheapest ticket. Usually for travel during December, the cheaper tickets are available during October and for travel during summer, you should buy the ticket during April/May. Also keep in mind that there are cheaper airports to travel to. So for instance, flying into Frankfurt is cheaper than flying into Paris.
- The embassies ask you to book the ticket and not to buy it, but you can’t really book a ticket with the online booking websites I mentioned - they charge immediately after you book it. You need to buy a ticket from a travel agent as they can book the ticket for the visa and charge you after the visa is issued – if you can’t take the risk of not getting a visa. I took the risk and that’s what I do :).
Step 5: Buy an insurance that covers 30,000 euros during your travel anywhere in the world for treatment and also ships you back to your country/state of residence, if you had an accident (basically, if you die). You can buy an insurance for 10-15$ from insubuy.com. They also give you the letter which is required for the application.
Step 6: Include all those documents which you think are relevant in establishing that you live where you live and would come back to that place after you travel. I mean, come on, no authority likes illegal immigrants. So if you want to travel, be a traveler. Don’t have any intentions other than travelling. There is a separate procedure for immigration and you should go through that. If you illegally immigrate, you would be ruining the visa procedure for the others and I don’t want that. The easiest way for you to immigrate might be to fall in love with someone from that country and marrying him/her! Wouldn’t that be interesting, huh?
I included my I-20 form from college, my college ID card, ISIC card, driver’s license, enrollment verification, rent, utility bill, class schedule etc.
Step 7: This is important (only if the embassy you are applying at has vague application requirements and asks you to provide additional, relevant documents). Write a cover letter (tips for writing the cover letter: http://bubbleofblah.com/schengen-visa-application/). In the cover letter list the documents you submitted precisely and explain in few words what they are intended for. Don’t be a waffle bot and write a lengthy essay. Also, it is in your favor if you explain the documents which support that you are going to return to the place where you came from. My college info were enough to explicate that point. I don’t know why the Swedish Embassy in Bangladesh weren’t convinced of that.
The German Embassy in New York had very friendly, smart and intelligent staff. They returned all of the extraneous documents I included in my application (including the cover letter) and gave me the visa in two business days. Kudos to the Germans!
I know the visa procedure is a hassle but you’ll forget about it once you reach Europe and start roaming around all the scenic places and meeting new people! I wish John Lennon’s words were true…imagine there’s no countries…imagine all the people living life in peace..and the world will be as one…
Disclaimer: Everything I said above is in no way affiliated to any government/consul/embassy and I am not in any way responsible for you or any of your actions, if you have followed the steps I mentioned (I am just saying this so that I don’t get involved in any legal consequence(s) and not saying that I just wrote 1500 words of useless advice). So be responsible and honest and have a nice trip! :)