As Audrey Hepburn says in the movie, Sabrina; “Paris is always a good idea.” Whether it’s to see Monet’s waterlilies in Giverny or to lose yourself in the gardens of Versailles, there is no end to the reasons why a trip to France is a must for every travel enthusiast. Ever since the Schengen agreement was signed in the late 1900s instead of applying for a France visa for Indian citizens, tourists now have to apply for a Schengen visa. Here’s what you need to know about applying for this visa.
What is the Schengen Visa?
A Schengen visa is a visa that allows you to travel freely between 26 countries in Europe that have signed the Schengen agreement. Thus, though you may apply for a French Schengen visa, you can use the same visa to travel to Germany, Spain or even Switzerland. Similarly, you can travel to France even if you have an Austrian Schengen visa. The country you need to apply for your Schengen visa depends on two factors:
- Where are you spending the maximum number of days
- Which is the first country you are visiting when touring the Schengen area
Thus, if you are spending most of your time in France or are spending an equal number of days in three or four countries but are visiting France first, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa at the French consulate. For tourists, this visa is typically valid for six months and allows a person to stay in one country for up to 90 days. This is also known as a Schengen short stay visa.
How to Apply for a French Schengen Visa?
The first step to applying for a French Schengen visa is to download the application form and fill it accurately. You can download a copy of this application form here. You must then collect all the required documents and schedule an appointment to submit your application and biometric data. This can be submitted up to 3 months in advance and 15 days before your planed travel dates. If you are travelling with a group, remember that each individual needs to submit an independent form and schedule a separate appointment.
France visa requirements for Indian citizens
The documents required for a French Schengen visa depend on your reason for travelling. In the case of tourists, the documents needed include:
- Passport that is valid for at least three months after your proposed trip and has at least two blank pages. If you have a previous passport that has expired or been cancelled, this needs to be carried as well.
- 2 recent passport sized colour photographs
- Cover letter
- Copy of your travel insurance policy
- Copy of Flight Reservations
- Proof of Accommodation
- Proof of financial sufficiency
- Copy of Schengen visas issued over the past few years
One of the most common reasons a Schengen visa application is rejected is because of improper photographs. Some of the things you need to keep in mind when taking a passport photograph for a Schengen visa are:
- The photograph should have a plain, neutral background
- The photograph should have been taken within the last six months of your visa appointment
- It should be 35-40mm wide with the applicant’s face taking up 70-80% of the frame
- It should be printed on high quality paper and not have any creases or marks on it.
- The applicant should be looking directly into the camera with both eyes open, hair pulled back and a neutral expression
- Both ears and the complete face from the forehead to the chin should be clearly visible
- If you wear spectacles, choose a light frame that does not cover your eyes and has no tint
- Headgear is not permitted unless worn for religious reasons. In such cases, it should not create any shadows on your face and not cover your forehead or your chin
- In the case of children’s photographs, no one else should be visible in the frame
In many cases, the applicant may not be able to physically submit their application at the French consulate. In such cases an authorized travel agent may submit the application on their behalf. In such cases, a cover letter becomes very important. This cover letter must be well written and formatted clearly. It must mention the reason you are visiting France, how your trip is being funded, your itinerary and our intention to return to India after your holiday.
Insurance may seem expensive when budgeting for a holiday but in the event you lose your luggage, need to make a change in your itinerary or have a medical insurance, you will be very grateful for your insurance cover. When applying for a France Schengen visa, every individual needs to have a minimum insurance cover of EUR 30,000.
Flight Reservations and Accommodation
One of the main reasons tourists are asked to show proof of flight reservations is so that the embassy officials know that you will be returning to your home country and will not overstay your visit. However, it is not always possible to book your flight tickets before your visa is issued. Most airlines do offer to block a reservation for up to a week but the process of getting your visa could take up to a fortnight.
In such cases, when the issuing officer calls the airline to check your reservation, it may be void and you would have lost your deposit fee. You could also buy refundable tickets but these are typically much more expensive as compared to non-refundable ticket. Hence, it is always better to work with travel agents who can ensure that your reservation is help valid for a longer time period.
Understanding the high cost of flight tickets, Schengen officials do accept a detailed itinerary instead of confirmed seats while accepting visa applications. This itinerary must mention arrival and departure dates, flight numbers, booking IDs, airport IATA codes and the actual price of the tickets. Once your visa is issued, you will then need to show confirmed tickets at the time of collecting your visa.
Similarly when it comes to accommodation, you may not always know where you are going to be staying but when issuing a visa, it is necessary for you to show them proof of accommodation. For example, if you are planning on camping for a week, you cannot tell the embassy to consider your tent a valid address.
If you have friends or family members that you are planning on visiting, a letter from them stating that you will be staying with them is necessary. Else, you will need to show hotel reservations. If you do not want to put down the entire payment for hotel bookings before your visa is issued, you could make a dummy booking. For this, you will need to put down a small token amount on the basis of which a hotel room will be reserved for you. This confirmatory email will need to be printed and submitted along with your visa application.
One of the main factors the visa officers consider when issuing visas is how the individual intends on paying for his trip. For this it is essential for you to show proof of financial stability. This can be proven by copies of the last three month’s bank statements, copy of your income tax returns or the last three month’s salary slips. It is always a good idea to carry all these documents with you in case they are asked for.
Individuals who are company proprietors need to also carry a copy of their company registration certificate in addition to the above documents. If someone else is sponsoring your trip, you will need to explain your relationship with the sponsor and why they are sponsoring your trip.
For a regular tourist visa, France visa fees in rupees is 4348. In addition, a service charge of INR 1446 will also need to be paid. For children between the ages of 6 to 12, the visa fee is reduced to INR 2536 but the service charge remains the same. Children below the age of 6 years do not need to pay a visa fee or service charge. These rates are subject to change based on fluctuations of the Euro to Rupee exchange rate.
All fees are non-refundable and need to be paid in cash or by debit or credit card when submitting your visa application. If you cannot collect your passport once the visa is issued, you will also need to pay a courier fee of INR300 per passport. It is important to note that if you are married to a French citizen and have French marriage documents; you will not need to pay visa fees or a service charge.
However, if you are married to French citizen but hold Indian marriage documents, you will need to pay the visa fees and service charge.
So are you ready to ‘partir en vacances’ or in English, ‘go on a holiday’?