Many people around the world dream of traveling to Europe, a continent rich in history, architecture, and natural wonders. The allure of its many destinations draws in countless tourists year after year. Recognizing the appeal and to simplify travel within the continent, in 1985, several European nations convened in Schengen, a city in Luxembourg, to sign an agreement. This pact, known as the Schengen Agreement, led to the creation of what we now refer to as the Schengen Area. Comprising 26 European countries, this zone allows for ease of movement. With a single Schengen visa, travelers can visit almost all these countries, experiencing seamless travel without the need for passport controls at each border. This is akin to how one might travel domestically without a passport. Yet, it’s worth noting that some exceptions exist. For instance, while traveling to Germany from countries like France or Italy, one needs to present a valid ID. I’ve personally observed police checks, especially at the Frankfurt port when traveling from Poland to Germany.
The Schengen countries are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
How Long Can You Stay with a Schengen Visa?
It’s commonly said that with a Schengen visa, one can travel within the Schengen countries for up to 90 days. However, this isn’t always practical for everyone, as planning a 90-day trip through European countries can be both extensive and costly. This might be feasible if you have close relatives in Europe and are visiting upon their invitation; in such scenarios, securing a 90-day visa makes sense. I’ve journeyed to the Schengen countries on a tourist visa twice, purely for leisure and not for conferences or training. During my first visit, I was granted a single-entry visa that lasted 13 days, aligning with my 13-day itinerary. For my second trip, I applied for a multiple-entry visa for 35 days and was pleasantly surprised to receive one allowing a stay of up to 45 days within a three-month period.
Where to apply?
In Bangladesh, not all Schengen countries maintain High Commissions or Embassies. For those that do, visa applicants cannot directly submit their documents to the embassies or commissions. Instead, they must route their applications through specified visa centers. For countries without a High Commission or Embassy in Bangladesh, applicants must travel to India and process their applications via the appropriate visa center there. It’s noteworthy that the Schengen visa process is primarily document-dependent for tourist visas, eliminating the need for an interview. Nonetheless, in-person visits are still required for biometric submissions during the visa application process.
VFS Global serves as the principal visa processing center for most Schengen countries in Bangladesh, except Spain. To the best of my knowledge, VFS Global operates multiple offices in Dhaka. Applications for countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium (which is processed through the Swedish embassy), and a few other smaller countries can be submitted at the VFS Global office located in Delta Life Tower, Gulshan-2. For Italy and Malta visa applications, head to VFS Global’s Visa Center in Borak Mehnoor Tower, Banani. German visa applications can be directed to the VFS Global Center in AJ Height Tower, Pragati Sarani (North Badda). For Spain, however, visa applicants must approach BLS International at Simon Center, Gulshan-1.
Documents Required for Schengen Visa Application
The Schengen visa is predominantly document-dependent, especially for travel category visas. This means applicants must provide adequate documentation to demonstrate their intent to travel within the Schengen area and return after their trip. While the base Schengen visa application form remains consistent, individual countries may offer forms customized to their native languages. This application form is available for free, accessible via the visa centers’ official websites.
Below is a list of the necessary documents to accompany your Schengen visa application:
- A fully completed visa application form, along with the required visa fee.
- A formal application letter on your company’s letterhead detailing personal information, the company’s profile, travel purpose, and itinerary.
- An invitation letter and its associated documents. If traveling for tourism, an invitation letter isn’t necessary; a confirmed hotel booking suffices.
- One passport-sized color photograph that adheres to the specific format preferred by the applying country, usually in a matte finish.
- A notarized English translation of your trade license.
- Valid travel health insurance pertinent to European travel.
- If married, a notarized English translation of your Nikahnama or Marriage Certificate.
- Business professionals should provide their business cards.
- Personal bank statements and a bank solvency certificate.
- For sole proprietors, the company’s bank statement and solvency certificate are necessary.
- A comprehensive tour itinerary outlining your planned destinations, accommodations, and activities.
- A notarized asset valuation statement detailing all significant assets in your name, such as properties, vehicles, jewelry, etc. This should be consolidated to depict a total value, authenticated with a notary stamp.
- Printed confirmations of hotel bookings, flight tickets, internal transportation tickets, and other relevant travel arrangements.
- An English-translated, notarized copy of your Income Tax Certificate.
- Remember, these documents collectively validate your intent, financial capability, and travel plans, ensuring the visa processing authorities of your genuine intent to return post-travel.
Potential Reasons for Schengen Visa Rejections
Many Bangladeshis, legally and illegally, enter European countries without the intention of returning home. This behavior negatively impacts genuine travelers from Bangladesh, leading to visa denials. However, countries do recognize and respect authentic travelers. If your sole purpose is tourism, rest assured that eventually, your visa will be approved. It’s crucial to differentiate between seeking better opportunities and casual travel; those aiming for the former should consider job category visas, as various countries offer seasonal and non-seasonal permits. Anyway, now let’s know the reasons why the Schengen visa application of Bangladeshis is rejected-
- Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation: Properly filled applications and supportive documents are vital. If uncertain about the process, consult an experienced individual for guidance.
- Bank Statement Concerns: An applicant’s financial stability, as demonstrated by their bank statement, plays a crucial role in the visa decision process. If one possesses 10 taka, it’s only prudent to spend, at most, 1 taka on travel. Moreover, if you estimate a 3-month travel itinerary with hotel accommodations in Shenzhen to cost around 9 to 10 lakhs, having bank savings that reflect a balance of 15 to 20 lakhs is more convincing. However, without other strong ties to your home country, even this may not guarantee visa approval. An exception exists for those with valid US or UK visas; for instance, visa approval is more likely if the estimated travel expenditure is ten lakhs and your bank balance is five lakhs.
- Limited Travel History: Applicants without a prior travel history, as reflected by a blank passport or minimal travel to just one or two countries, can face challenges when applying for a Schengen visa. It’s helpful to understand the world in terms of continents and regions. While countries within a region might share cultural and lifestyle similarities, one doesn’t need to visit all countries in a region to grasp its essence. For instance, visiting just a couple of countries from the Middle East, like UAE and Saudi Arabia, can provide insight into the broader regional culture, obviating the need to visit all countries within that belt. This approach can also be more cost-effective. Similarly, while Africa boasts over 50 countries, visiting two or three can offer a comprehensive cultural experience of the continent. The same logic applies to South America and Asia. By establishing a diverse travel history, you solidify your credibility as a genuine traveler.
- Doubts About Return: Due to past incidents where individuals overstay their visas or enter illegally, visa officers might suspect that an applicant won’t return. It’s essential to emphasize ties to the home country in your cover letter, supported by relevant documents.
To enhance your chances of visa approval, ensure your application showcases genuine intent, thorough documentation, and compelling reasons to return. While travel agents can assist with the basics, the onus is on you to prove your authenticity as a traveler. Preparing a solid application backed by clear intentions and documentation minimizes the risk of rejection.