My paper was accepted for presentation at a conference in Lisbon in April. It was the perfect opportunity to apply for my first ever Schengen visa. Unfortunately, applying for one is challenging. Just like a US visa application, it’s another step to travel adulthood.
Having previously been granted visas to the US, Azerbaijan, and Turkey (the last 2 just given last year), I was a bit emboldened to snagging a Schengen and Portugal seemed like a perfect entry point.
So here’s how to apply for a Portuguese Schengen visa in Manila.
First, do know that there no Portuguese Embassy in the Philippines. Visa applications are handled by the Greek Embassy in Makati.
Step 1. Request for an appointment.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 2 months before your preferred appointment date which should 2-3 months before your intended departure. In my case, I emailed them on Nov 16, 2018 to request an appointment for Jan 18, 2019 with an intended departure on Apr 2.
Write the following info on the email using this format:
If you are applying as a group, put the same information for each person in the same email.
The embassy responded after a few days and gave me a date and time: Feb 19 at 11:00 am. The email stated that considering my departure date, this was the appropriate appointment date. So I guess, 1.5 – 2 months before departure date is enough time for the application process.
You will also be asked to reply back confirming the appointment. I simply responded that I was confirming our appointment on the scheduled date.
2. Prepare the requirements.
Download the list of requirements from the Greek Embassy website at https://www.mfa.gr/en/visas/schengen-visas/application-form.html
Make sure you present as many appropriate documents depending on your purpose for travel. Since I was going to a conference (listed under cultural events), I presented the official letter of invitation from the conference organizer. I also presented the printed program which showed my name in the schedule as well as my abstract to further bolster my claim to attending a conference.
My sister and aunt who were joining me as tourists simply presented the standard requirements:
- Hotel reservations
- Flight bookings (courtesy of a travel agency; confirmed for but not yet paid)
- Bank certificates
- Photocopies of bank book pages showing transactions for the past 6 months
- Photocopies of credit card statements of the past 6 months
- Certificate of Employment
- Letter of Official Leave from my university (in my case)
- Business permit (in my aunt’s case as she was not employed and she had to show proof of income). Photocopy this.
- You will also need the following:
- 1. Application form (download from the website and type in the info. It’s in Word format so just type it in. Do not handwrite it.)
- 2. ID picture (follow the required size) to be pasted on the application form.
- 3. Travel insurance specific for Schengen countries. Check the list of approved insurance providers at the website. I always use Malayan whenever I travel as you do everything online and receive your insurance policy in your email immediately. Quick and easy.
Also photocopy your past visas if you have any to save you the trouble of going across the photocopy shop across the embassy building should they ask for it. This is not in the list of requirements but everyone else during the time we were applying brought their old passports with them. In the case of one of our 2 family friends who had a different appointment date, she was asked to photocopy stamped pages of her passport.
Put all of the documents following the order prescribed in the official list of requirements inside a long brown envelope. On the back, upper left corner, write down your name (Surname, First Name) and your contact number beanethe it.
Step 3. Show-up at your appointment.
Head to SEDCO 1 building at Rada St in Legaspi Village, Makati. No sense arriving early as the guard will only let you in the building lobby 10 minutes before your appointment. So be there 20 minutes before and check that your name is on the guard’s list. Wait outside the entrance. He will then announce the appointment time and you all line up and sign the log book and leave an ID. Head to the 6th floor.
Inside the Greek Embassy.
Step 4. Sign-in at the log sheet at the counter. Submit your documents. Remember to put your current and old passports inside.
Step 5. Wait. Take a seat and wait to be called.
Step 6. Pay. You will be called. If your documents are in order and have been verified, you will be given 3 BDO deposit slips. Fill these up with the bank and payment details posted on the bullettin board on the left side of the room. Our visa fee was Php 3,600.
Go to the BDO across the building and pay. No need to surrender your ID or log out at the building lobby.
If some of your documents need to be photocopied, you will be told to do so. There’s a photocopying shop that also sells office supplies across, beside Mini Stop.
If there’s something wrong with your documents, you will be informed and you might not be asked to proceed to the next steps. One woman didn’t have any flight nor hotel reservations for Portugal only for Spain. She was told that she needed to apply at the Spanish Embassy even if Portugal was part of her IT.
Step 7. Submit your deposit slip.
Just give it at the counter. Take a seat and wait to be called.
Step 8. Photo and Biometrics. You will be called to have your photo taken and your fingerprints scanned. Wait again.
Step 9. Get your claim stub. You will be called and given a sheet of paper which you should bring with you to claim your passport.
Does this mean you get a visa?
Apparantly not. When we were called, we were told that there would be no interview that day. Should it be needed or additional documents were required, we would be called. In the meantime, they will process our visa application.
After 10 business days…
Step 10. Get your passport back. Passports are released between 2:30-3:30pm. Just simply show up on the day of releasing. Log-in at the lobby and head up to the embassy.
I was unable to join my sister and aunt so I sent my claim sheet along with an authorization letter and a photocopy of my ID. The visa should be in your passport if you were granted one. In the case of our 2 family friends who were denied, there was a letter explaining the reason why they weren’t granted a visa.
Other Things to Consider:
1. Is there an interview?
The next morning, my sister received a phone call from the Greek consul (my sis gave our house landline as contact number). She was interviewed about our itinerary, etc. The concern was that while my sister had been granted a Schengen visa years before, my aunt and I had nevet had one. The consul, however, recognized that “one had to start somewhere.” My sister assured her that we will surely come back and would even show ourselves at the embassy on our return, to which the consul replied that indeed it was a requirement for first-timers. As my sister narrated it, the consul was very nice and she even said, “So it was your brother who instigated this trip. I wish him good luck in his presentation. ”
I guess, what’s really important is that your able to convince the embassy of the intent of your visit.
In our 2 friends’ case, they never received a phone call. When they were called to get their claim sheet, it was simply given to them, no instructions about a probable interview.
2. So what’s in the visa?
We were given the requested 15-day visa that was valid for 30 days starting April 1 (our date of entry as stipulated in the IT and flights). That means we could enter Portugal anytime from April 1-30 and stay 15 days.
Our visa also stated that it was “multiple entry” and alid for “Schengen states.” We could exit Schengen countries and re-enter any number of times. Suddenly made me think of crossing from Seville to Tangiers in Morocco (visa-free for Filipinos). In our visa application, we checked “single entry” as we were only traveling to Portugal and Spain.
There was also a small stamp at the bottom of the passport page saying that we needed to show ourselves at the embassy on our return.
3. Why were our friends rejected?
The letter said that the information given to support their intended travel was deemed unreliable. Hmmm… what does it mean? I guess they didn’t believe that they would join just to listen to me at the conference. Among their documents was letter from me saying they were close friends and that they will be listening to me at the conference. I should have showed proof that we had previously traveled together.
Also, they could have had a better chance if they hadthe same appointment date as ours. I had already made an appointment for my sister, my aunt, and myself when the 2 of them decided to join. Though I did request for their appointment and asked to put them in the same appointment as ours as we were traveling together, they were give a different date, about a week later than us.
Also, one of the ladies at the counter replaced Portugal with Spain as their entry point and asked them to sign the correction Perhaps she got confused with the flight which had Madrid as a stop over enroute to Lisbon. They, however, did not protest about the mistake. Perhaps, the embassy noticed that it did not coincide with the IT.
Tips on applying for a visa
1. I guess, the lesson to be learned here is to really prepare strong documents that would convince the embassy that your travel intentions are what you say they are. So take time to prepare and understand your documents and the application form. Try to give all the documents required.
2. Have other visas. The consul mentioned in her phone interview with my sister that though my aunt and I had never had a Schengen visa, we both had previous visas. My aunt had US and Canadian visas issued more than a decade ago while I had a US visa that expired 2018 (placed in an expired passport) and an Azerbaijan, Turkish, and Nepalese visas in my current one. They must have some sort of data base as my aunt didn’t show her US and Canadian visas. Neither did I with my US visa. In addition, my sister didn’t also submit her old Schengen visa in an expired passport. In the visa application form, since her Schengen was issued about 15 years ago, she ticked the box that said she had not been issued a Schengen before. The consul, however, mentioned that my sister had a previous visa which was to her advantage.