All words by Juliane Rhea
The student life is not easy. You have tons of studying to do, a lot of fees to pay, and books to buy. Yet, being a student does not mean deprivation from the joys of life. A student too, maybe more than most people, deserves to make a little trip during the university years.
And what else would be better than visiting the old continent of Europe and the countries that have affected the history of the world for centuries, for either good or bad.
Europe has some mesmerizing sites, beautiful ancient and modern architecture and breathtaking nature. It is a filming location for some of the world’s most famous TV shows and movies. Delicious food and hospitality will make you want to go back there the moment you leave.
However, the need to get a visa to Europe makes travelling as a student a bit more difficult. In particular, if you want to travel to more than one country and you need to apply for a visa for each of them. In such cases, you should do yourself a favour and get a Schengen visa. It enables you to enter 22 European Union member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, though not the UK.
Moreover, if you get a multiple-entry Schengen visa you will be able to enter a bunch of other countries, not only in Europe but in other continents as well.
A Schengen Visa enables you to enter and remain in the Schengen territory for a maximum of 90 days within half a year, for purposes as tourism, visiting friends or relatives short-term studying or medical treatment, business, attending conferences, seminars, training, sport and musical events etc.
To get a Schengen visa, you will need to meet a few requirements, collect documents, file an application and attend an interview. To simplify that for you, we have written this guide on how to apply for a Schengen visa as a student from South Africa.
Do You Really Need a Visa to Enter Europe?
The first thing that you should make sure about is whether you really need a visa to enter the Schengen countries in Europe. Because, good news, you may not.
You will be exempt from the need of getting a visa if:
- You are studying in South Africa with a residence permit, but you hold the passport of a country that is under the Schengen visa-free regime.
- You have dual citizenship, South African and of a country that is under the Schengen visa-free regime.
Steps to Apply for a Schengen Visa in South Africa
Applying for a Schengen visa is not an easy thing to do, but it is not as hard as many people describe it to be either. If you check the application procedures and criteria beforehand, and you carefully meet them, chances are quite high you’ll get that visa without any trouble.
Figure out which type of Schengen visa you need
First, you must have a clear reason why you want to get a Schengen visa. Depending on the purpose of application, there are several Schengen visa types. If you are traveling for tourism, you ought to apply for a Schengen tourist visa.
You should apply for the right visa type, as it outlines the activities you are permitted to perform while in Europe with a Schengen visa. It also defines the documents you need to collect for application.
Find out where you need to apply
If you plan to visit only one Schengen country, then go ahead and apply for a visa at the embassy/consulate/visa center of this country. On the other hand, when planning to visit two or more Schengen countries, then you should lodge your application at the embassy/consulate/visa center of your main destination country, which is:
- The country you will spend most days at.
- The country you will step in first, if you are planning to spend an equal amount of days in each country.
Make a visa appointment
Once you know what Schengen visa type you need, and where you will be applying, go on and make a visa appointment. You will need to schedule a visa appointment through the website of the embassy that processes your visa, or the website of a visa center to which the embassy of your main Schengen destination has outsourced visa admission.
- VFS Global – Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland or Liechtenstein
- TLS Contact -Belgium and Luxembourg
- CAPAGO Centers – France, Italy and Malta
- Intergate Visalink (Pty) Ltd. – Germany and Slovenia
- Global Visa Center World – Greece
- BLS International – Spain
- Embassy of Hungary – Hungary and Latvia
- Embassy of Lithuania – Lithuania
- Embassy of Poland – Poland
- Embassy of Slovakia – Slovakia
Collect the required documents
Next, start collecting the Schengen visa required documents for applying as a student from South Africa. These documents are:
- Dully completed Schengen visa application form
- Your passport, issued within the last 10 years and valid for an additional period of three months beyond the date of your intended departure from the Schengen territory.
- Two identical photos, taken within the last three months.
- A copy of your passport’s pages.
- Previous passports, if you have any.
- Valid residence permit for South Africa, if you are a non-South African.
- A cover letter in which explain why you wish to travel to the Schengen Zone, and list the countries you are planning to visit.
- Travel Health Insurance, valid for the whole Schengen territory with a minimum coverage of €30.000 for medical emergencies as accidents and illnesses, as well as repatriation in case of death.
- Booked flight from South Africa to Schengen and back.
- Proof of Accommodation, which is a document that shows where you will be staying while in Europe. This could be one a hotel booking or a letter of invitation from a host residing in the Schengen country you will be staying at.
- Proof you have the financial means to support yourself while in Europe. You can meet this requirement through your bank statements or a letter of sponsorship from another person who will be financing your trip to the Schengen area.
- Proof of enrollment at a school/university in South Africa.
- No objection letter from School or University you are enrolled at.
You may be asked to submit a few additional documents, depending on the embassy that processes your application. Make sure to include them all in your application file.
Attend the visa interview
On the day of your interview, show up at the embassy/visa center with all the required documents with you, organized in order.
You will have to give your fingerprints and have your facial image taken, if this is the first time in 5 years that you are traveling to the Schengen territory. You’ll also need to pay the Schengen visa fee, which is €60.
You will also attend an interview with a visa officer. You should hand the documents to this person, who will ask you questions about your background and your intended trip. After the interview, you will have to wait for at most 15 days, for a response to your application. Good luck!