For music lovers, Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart and the Mirabell Palace, the backdrop to the 1965 hit film, ‘The Sound of Music’ are amongst places that make Austria a must visit. If you don’t care about music as much you do about the great outdoors, Austria offers a number of hiking trails across Waldviertel, Soll, the Vienna woods, Gmunden and many more breathtaking places. In the winter, the slopes of Ischgl, Solden, Mayrhofen, Lech and other ski resorts make Austria look like the winter wonderland that belongs on a postcard. So, don’t let the size of this European country fool you, Austria offers plenty for everyone.
Austria is a small land locked nation in central Europe that shares its borders with eight other countries. Peak tourist season in Austria is between April to October but if you want to enjoy the sights without jostling for space, plan your trip between March to May or late September to October. Austria became part of the Schengen area in 1995 and since then has opened its borders for free travel between the Schengen states. Thus, if you live in one of the other Schengen countries, you do not need a visa to visit Austria but if you’re traveling to Austria from India, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa to Austria. This negates the need of applying for a separate Austria visa for Indian citizens and allows you to visit any of the Schengen countries along with Austria.
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What is the Schengen Visa?
In 1985, the Schengen agreement was signed between five European countries to open their borders and allow their citizens to travel freely from one country to another. Today, 26 European countries are a part of the Schengen area. In opening up their borders, they have made it easy for travelers to move between these 26 countries. Now, instead of applying for individual visas to each country that you want to visit, you only need to apply for one Schengen visa. Short stay Schengen visas allow a tourist to stay in one of these countries for up to 90 days at a stretch and are valid for six months from the date they are issued. If you intend to stay longer for educational purposes etc, you will need to apply for a long stay visa. Short stay visas are further categorized as single entry, double entry and multiple entry visas. Hence, it is important to clarify the type of visa you need before you start the application process
How to apply for a Schengen Austria visa
Schengen visas are relatively easy to get as long as you have fulfilled all the Austria visa requirements for Indian citizens. You need to apply for a Schengen visa at the Austrian consulate if you are planning a holiday only in Austria, in a few European countries but are spending the maximum time in Austria or if you are visiting a few European countries and Austria is the first country on your itinerary. Applications are accepted from three months before your departure date and ou should ideally apply for your visa at least one month before your planned trip. The latest it can be submitted is 15 days before your departure date.
To begin this process, you can download the Schengen visa application form. You can either edit this pdf file to fill in your details and print it out or take a print out and fill in your details with ink. The former is usually a better idea as it makes it easier to correct mistakes and is more readable. To support your application you will need
- Your passport
This needs to be valid for at least three months after your return from Austria. In case you have an older visa that has expired or been cancelled for any reason, you will need to submit that as well. Any previously issued Schengen visas will also need to be submitted when applying for a Schengen visa.
- 2 passport sized photographs
These should be no older than six months from the date of being submitted. No headwear is permitted for these photographs unless worn for religious purposes. Similarly, sunglasses are not allowed on passport photographs for visa applications. If you do wear prescription glasses, try wearing a light frame and ensure that it does not create a shadow over your face or cover any part of your face. 70-80% of the frame should be taken up by your face and all your features from your forehead to your chin and both ears should be visible.
- Proof of financial stability
The visa office needs to know that you have the financial backing required to pay for your trip. As proof of financial sustainability you can submit a copy of your last three month’s salary slips or bank statements and a copy of your last year’s income tax returns. If you run your own company, you will also need to submit a copy of your company’s registration certificate.
In case your trip is being sponsored by someone else, you will need to explain your relationship with the sponsor and why they are sponsoring your holiday.
In addition to having the financial ability to pay for your holiday, you also need to have insurance that covers any potential mishaps or health issues. According to Schengen visa requirements, you will need a minimum insurance cover of EUR 30,000 from any approved Indian insurance agency. If you are travelling with your family, each family member needs to be insured.
- Airline reservations
It is a misconception that you need to buy your tickets before you apply for your Schengen Austria visa. However, you will need to show a detailed flight reservation with your arrival and departure dates, flight numbers, airport IATA codes and flight ticket prices. It is best to work with a travel agent for this to ensure that you get all the details right. You could get in touch with the airlines directly and reserve a seat on the flight you want to take to Austria but airlines typically hold seats only for one week and it might take longer for your visa paperwork to be processed.
- Hotel reservations
When applying for your Schengen Austria visa the visa officer will want to know where you are planning on staying. This could be in the form of:
- Hotel reservation details
- A letter from your friends or family members in Austria sponsoring your stay
If you are travelling as part of a group in a pre-paid tour this can also take the form of payment details to your tour organizer
In some cases, you may not know where you will be staying at all times. In such cases, your travel agent could help again by making a dummy booking for you. This involves making a small payment to the hotel which will then reserve a room in your name for the dates needed. You will receive an email confirmation of the same which you can submit along with your Austria visa application.
- A cover letter
A cover letter is your way of introducing yourself to the visa officer. This is not always mandatory but is a good idea especially if you are not submitting your documents in person. A good cover letter should be well formatted and contain details of all the documents you are submitting along with your application and your reason for travelling to Austria.
Travelling with Children
In case you are travelling with minors, there are a few additional documents you will need such as your child’s birth certificate. If only one parent is travelling with the child, a signed consent letter from the other parent is needed along with a copy of the other parent’s passport. If the child is travelling with a guardian and will not be accompanied by either parent, a consent letter is needed from both parents as well as copies of their passports and last three month’s bank statements.
Austria visa fees in Rupees
Once your application and all the supporting documents are ready, you will need to ask for an appointment at the consulate to submit the application and your biometric details. At this time, you will also need to pay a visa processing fee and a service charge. These fees are non-refundable and can be paid in cash or by credit/debit card at the consulate. Visa processing fees for an adult amount to approximately INR 4300 and INR 2500 for children aged between 6 to 12 years. The service charge payable in both cases is INR 1400. There is no visa processing fee or service charge payable when applying for a Schengen visa for children under the age of 6 years. In addition to this, if you need your passport to be couriered to you once the visa is issued; you will need to pay INR 300 per passport as courier fees.
So, are you ready to sing about how the hills are alive along with Julie Andrews…