I am back to writing about one of my favourite topics and it is on how to obtain a visa if you are an Indian passport holder. This one is a little different since, in this post, I write about how to obtain a Schengen Visa Netherlands version and this is applicable for most nationalities. As many of you know, I am travelling back to Europe next weekend and I will be there for a month this time. Even though I have multiple Schengen Visas on my passport, I had to start from scratch for my Netherlands Visa. So read on to find out how the process went this time and how long it took to get my Schengen visa in hand.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Schengen Visa Netherlands Edition
- 1.1 Which Schengen State should you apply to?
- 1.2 Book A Schengen Visa Appointment
- 1.3 Documents required for Schengen visa India
- 1.3.1 Netherlands Visa Application Form
- 1.3.2 Netherlands Schengen Visa Checklist
- 1.3.3 Your Travel Document/ Passport (Including old passports)
- 1.3.4 Schengen Visa Photo
- 1.3.5 Proof of Travel Documents for Netherlands Visa India
- 1.3.6 Schengen Visa Insurance
- 1.3.7 Schengen Visa cost India
- 1.4 Schengen Visa Processing time
- 1.5 Netherlands Visa Tracking
- 1.6 Actual Experience at VFS Netherlands
- 1.7 Conclusion
Schengen Visa Netherlands Edition
In India, VFS Netherlands handles the Netherlands Visa application on behalf of the Netherlands Embassy in India. You can go submit all your Schengen Visa documents at the respective VFS center in your city. Also, you can delegate this task to someone else if they already have your biometrics data with them (past 5 years). If you have applied for a Schengen Visa after Nov 2015, you need not go to submit your biometrics data again. I am a DIY kind of person and hence I went to submit my documents this time too.
Which Schengen State should you apply to?
This is one query that I keep seeing on most forums. “I am travelling to the Schengen zone and which embassy should I apply to?” I know it can be confusing since there are 26 countries to choose from. This confusion is not there if you are only going to be in one country. But what do you do if you are visiting more than one Schengen country? Take my instance. I fly into the Netherlands for a conference, before moving to Germany and then east towards few more countries before exiting from a non-Schengen country, Croatia. This is the order to be followed in all cases.
- Main Destination/ Main Purpose of Travel: I am going to the Netherlands for a conference. Hence this time, this was applicable to me. This option takes precedence when you are going for a purpose other than tourism.
- Maximum Number of Days: Lots of people are confused about this. But the next thing to take into consideration if the above is not applicable is that you have to apply to the Schengen state where you are intending to spend the maximum number of days in.
- Port of entry: Last thing to take into consideration is your port of entry.
Book A Schengen Visa Appointment
Once you have figured which embassy to apply to, book your Netherlands visa appointment online at the VFS visa application center. As mentioned before, VFS global handles the collection of documents and biometrics on behalf of the respective Schengen country. You will need to first register an account to log in to this portal. Once you login, you will see an option to schedule an appointment. Enter the details and on the next screen, you have the option of adding all the applicants. You can add up to 5 applicants for a group appointment. Choose the most convenient slot and date from the calendar once all applicants are added.
I always choose the first or second appointment of the day. As the day progresses, the queue gets longer and your waiting time gets longer as well. To avoid this, I prefer the first appointment of the day. Usually, when you are scheduling, you will see the dates for one to two weeks ahead of the current date. In the case of Bangalore, I feel we have more open slots and hence you can book the appointment even couple of days prior. But one of my friends who applied from Singapore couldn’t find any free slots for almost a month. So while scheduling your appointment, please keep this in mind.
Documents required for Schengen visa India
Most Schengen countries have the same set of requirements when it comes to applying for a Schengen visa. Please find the Netherlands visa requirements for Indians below.
Netherlands Visa Application Form
Firstly, go and download the Netherlands visa application form. Fill this and carry with you a signed copy of this Schengen visa application form.
Netherlands Schengen Visa Checklist
Next, download the checklist of all the documents you need to carry for your appointment. Fill this checklist as well and carry it with you on the day of your appointment.
Your Travel Document/ Passport (Including old passports)
Yes, you need a passport if you intend to go to the Schengen area from India. I guess it is kind of obvious. Your passport should be valid for at least 3 months after you leave the Schengen area and should have at least two free visa pages. (Sigh. I am out of pages and the first thing I have to do once I am back is to apply for a new passport.)
I did not have to submit my old passports. But please keep them handy with you since sometimes you may have to submit them as well. Also, make sure that you take a photocopy of personal pages of all your passports. Even though the checklist had asked me to take a photocopy of all my visas and stamps (trust me. I have a lot), the VFS guy did not take these copies while collecting the documents and gave them back to me. But this can vary from case to case and hence keep these handy as well.
Your passport can be submitted as proof of legal residence.
Schengen Visa Photo
For Netherlands Tourist visa, you need to carry with you two passport size photos. You can find the photo specifications here. This is to meet the Dutch passport requirements. For all my other Schengen visas, a photo was taken at the VFS center itself.
Proof of Travel Documents for Netherlands Visa India
These documents are mandatory for all Indians travelling to the Schengen zone.
Cover Letter for Schengen Visa
I always include a cover letter in my docket. It is usually a one page word document listing where all I am visiting as well as few details about me and my travel history. I also include details on my purpose of travel.
Invite Letter from my conference partners
Since I am going for a conference this time, I did not apply under tourism category this time. I attached an invite letter from the folks conducting the conference and hence the VFS guy collecting my documents told me that I was not eligible for a Schengen tourist visa.
You have to show travel reservations to and from the Schengen zone. They advise you to book refundable tickets or enlist the help of a travel agent to make the reservation on your behalf.
Hotel Reservations for your entire stay
Again, you have to show reservations for every day of your stay in the Schengen zone. I will definitely get back to this soon.
Documents showing financial means
I recently heard that they don’t accept your fixed deposit statements. I am not sure how true this is. But you have to include bank statements for the past 3-6 months. Additionally, if you own a property in your country of residence, include details of the same as well. I had included my Income tax returns for the past 3 years as well.
Leave letter from your employer
If you are employed, then this should be included in your docket as well.
Other Proof of travel documents
One of the biggest concerns that all immigration officials have is that few people don’t return to their country of residence after entering the Schengen zone. This is one of the biggest reasons that they have made the Schengen visa application process so cumbersome for Indians. So when you are submitting your documents, your case becomes stronger if you include documents that show intent to return. This can be showing proof of property or proof that you still studying or an employment contract.
Schengen Visa Insurance
This is mandatory for all Schengen visas. You should take an insurance that provides coverage for at least 30,000 Euros for the entire duration of your stay in the Schengen zone. I always take the maximum coverage and my go-to insurance is ICICI Lombard in India. I always do it online and it is usually done in 5 mins.
Schengen Visa cost India
The Schengen Visa Application fee needs to be paid when you are going to submit the documents at the VFS center. The Schengen Visa fee is approximately 60 Euros + VFS service fees. If you are opting for courier service, then you need to pay additional Rs 350. I paid approximately Rs 6700+ according to the exchange rate that day. They accept only cash. Hence don’t forget to withdraw cash before you
Schengen Visa Processing time
You are allowed to apply for a Schengen visa at least 3 months in advance but no later than 15 working days before your intended day of travel. Since this was peak time, I was told to expect that it may take up to 30 calendar days for my visa to come. I hoped that was not the case since I knew I didn’t have that much time. Thankfully, it took only 7 working days for me to get my passport in hand.
Netherlands Visa Tracking
You can track your Netherlands Visa status online. However, you will know if your visa has been rejected or approved only once you receive your passport in hand.
Actual Experience at VFS Netherlands
This is cross-posted from my FB wall. It was an extremely frustrating experience for me this time and I want you to be aware of what not to do while applying for a Schengen Netherlands visa.
“So, long story short. I had to apply for my next Schengen visa and I was up bright and early in the morning to go submit my documents for my next Schengen visa. Even though I could have sent someone else to do this (They already had my biometrics details from my past experiences), I am a DIY person when it comes to travelling and visas. Also, travel agents are really negative when it comes to my case. If I had listened to them, I would have never gone anywhere in my life.
So, for people who know me know that I am not a morning person. I am up in the morning only when I am travelling or in this instance since I had to go for a visa run. The reason is very simple. The later your appointment is scheduled in the day, you will realize that the wait times get longer, the center will be extremely crowded and you will find more people with bad moods. So, I usually end up scheduling the first or second appointment in the day.
So, I am third in the queue (at 8 in the morning) and I am soon called for my appointment. I give the guy my documents and the conversation goes like this after he takes my documents.
“Him: Madam, your flight is scheduled for the 24th of this month. The processing time is 30 calendar days and the time is not enough.
Me: That is Ok. I will still go ahead with the submission. (I knew about the 30 day processing time since it was already on their website. However, due to personal reasons, I couldn’t apply before yesterday. They told me the same thing the previous two times and the visa came in 4-6 days)
He goes through my documents and he notices that I had not submitted accommodation proof for 4 days.
Him: Where are you staying for 4 days between so and so date?
Me: I am staying with a friend in Germany and I have mentioned the same in the cover letter. (I had not given booking details for 4 days out of the one month I am there this time)
Him: We can’t accept the documents. You will have to show proof of accommodation for every single day you are in the Schengen area. Please attach an invitation letter from your friend and a copy of his passport. I will give you time till 11 AM to submit the documents.”
I walk out after this conversation, trying to figure out what my next steps are. It must be around 4 AM in Germany and there is no way I can contact either of my friends in Germany. So, I decide on the next logical thing to do. Book a hotel for those 4 days which I can cancel later when I get my visa. There is a printer in the ground floor for which they charge Rs150 for 30 mins web browsing and 4 printouts (the atrocity of taking advantage of people like us).
I go back up and take another token for submitting my documents. My early morning advantage is gone by now. The whole place is crowded by then and I wait patiently for them to call out my token.
This time, another guy goes through my documents. He just flicks through it and he accepts my documents. The only thing he tells me is that some of the countries are not in the Schengen area. I tell him that I have a valid US visa for the same. He asks me to pay my fees and then wait for them to give me the confirmation of the acceptance. I finally walk out at 10:30 AM after all the hungama.
So why am I writing this? As someone who writes so much about visas for Indians and the endless set of problems we face, I believe it is time for some dialogue around it. Unless we start asking for change, how can we expect for things to change? We have started to take such practices as the new normal and that is definitely not done. My friend had warned me that things were different now but I didn’t realise that they would be so adamant about 4 days (out of 30 days).
I now have a community of readers who look to me for advice when it comes to visas. I get daily queries from my readers on how to apply visas for some of the countries I have been to. I know it is confusing and I try to assuage their fears in whatever way I can. If I can’t answer their queries, then I direct them accordingly. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I try to guide them from my experiences.
For my non-Indian friends, let me just tell how difficult the process can be for us. For this application, I had to submit at least 150 pages of documentation (paper wastage and responsible travel, anyone?) in my docket. I had to submit my flight tickets, proof of stay for every single day I am in Europe, insurance coverage, proof of transportation in Europe, my income tax returns, my bank statements, leave letter from my employer, copy of all stamps and visas in all my passports and other documents based on the individual case.
All I am asking is for some consideration in some cases. I know there are people who try to game the system and this is one of the reasons they have been wary of potential immigrants. But then shouldn’t the same rules apply to people from western countries as well? Why is it that they have a privilege when it comes to their westernized passports? I have been to Europe consistently every year for the past 5 years. I have a great travel history with numerous visas and stamps from around the world. I think my passport is enough proof that I am not a potential immigrant. I may sound like a pompous ass but all I am asking is to give me the same privilege as my contemporaries from other countries.
I have had enough experience in this area to think calmly yesterday and come up with an alternative solution. But what about the numerous others who are clueless when it comes to visas? Those people who have to be dependent on travel agents when it comes to such trips. Let us face it. The more rules you put in place, the more you are dissuading people with buying power, especially senior citizens from not visiting your respective country. This means loss of tourism revenue and that just does not make sense to me. There are so many youngsters who have the money but are scared to apply due to fear of rejection. You may ask why we have to go to Europe and not go to some other place where it is easier to obtain a visa. But you shouldn’t take the spotlight from the actual problem and that is one of the reasons I penned this post.
Did I open a can of worms by writing this? The guy was just doing his duty and I don’t have any hard feelings against him though.
“Let us strive to create a dialogue on making the process of application of visas simpler for Indians. That is all I ask of you. “”
I hope you found this post about the Schengen Visa Netherlands edition useful. Please do let me know if you have any queries in the comments below.
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