Have you ever wanted to see the original painting of The Last Supper by da Vinci or the Birth of Venus by Botticelli? How about the renowned frescoes by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel? If you nod your head in agreement or can’t keep yourself from saying ‘Si’, it’s time you say ‘Ciao’ to Italy! Though Italy is famed for its contribution to the art world, this country offers a lot more. For young couples, a ride in a Venetian gondola is a must while history buffs need to put the ruins of Pompeii on their itinerary. And then there’s Tuscany and its beautiful hills that tempt explorers and the fashion scene in Milan that almost every woman wants to be a part of.
You can travel to Italy at any time of the year but if you’re looking for a budget trip, plan your holiday between April and June or in September and October. Tourist season begins in July and ends in August but if you want to be part of Italy’s cultural activities, the best time to visit is from November to March. Italy has no currency of its own at present and uses the Euro. As of July 2017, one Euro is equivalent to approximately INR 74. Getting to Italy is easy with a number of airlines that connect major cities in India to Milan’s Malpensa airport and Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport. But, before getting to everything else, you need to get your documents and visa in place. From 1990 onwards Italy has been part of the Schengen area or the passport free zone in Europe. Thus, you no longer have to apply for an Italy visa for Indian citizens but need to apply for a Schengen visa for Italy.
What is the Schengen Visa ?
The Schengen agreement was originally signed by 5 countries in Europe in an effort to make travelling between countries easier. Italy became part of the Schengen area in 1990 and today there are 26 countries that fall into this area. Countries in the Schengen area have open borders and Europeans do not need a visa to travel between these countries. For non-Europeans, all you need is one visa to travel anywhere within these 26 countries. This is known as the Schengen visa. The country that will issue your Schengen visa depends on the country you intend to stay the longest in or the country through which you will be entering the Schengen area. Thus, if are planning a trip to Italy, France and Spain with Italy as your first stop, you need to apply for a Schengen visa at the Italian consulate.
Italy visa requirements for Indian citizens
The Schengen visa is one of the most popular types of visas with Indian citizens. It is typically issued for a period of 6 months and allows a tourist to stay in a Schengen country for up to 90 consecutive days. Like other visas, a tourist visa cannot be used for business purposes. Hence, the first step to getting your visa is to determine the type of visa you require. The basic categories of Schengen visas are tourist visas, business visas, student visas, transit visas and working visas. Tourist visas can further be categorized as single entry, double entry or multiple entry visas. All three types of visas allow you to move between countries inside the Schengen area as freely as you’d like but are differentiated by the number of time they allow you to enter the Schengen area from a country not included in this area. The documents required for a Schengen tourist visa are:
- Application Form
- Cover Letter
- Valid Passport
- 2 Passport Photographs
- Proof of Financial state
- Flight and hotel reservations
The application form for a Schengen visa to Spain can be downloaded from here. There are two ways to fill this form. You could edit the PDF form and print it out or print out the three pages and fill in your details with a blue pen. The former is usually preferred as print is more legible than handwriting. If you need some help, take a look at our sample visa application form.
A cover letter is not always mandatory but is always a good idea. If you are not submitting your application in person, this is your way of getting your voice heard by the visa issuing officer. The ideal cover letter should be well written and formatted for easy reading. It must mention the following points:
- Dates of planned travel
- Reason for Travelling
- How your trip is being funded
- A list of documents being submitted along with the application form
You cannot apply for a visa if you do not have a valid passport. When applying for a Schengen visa to Spain, your passport should be valid for atleast three months after your holiday dates. In cases you have an earlier passport that has expired or been cancelled for some reason, you should carry them as well.
One passport sized photograph needs to be affixed to your visa application form. In addition, you will also be asked for a second passport photograph. It is crucial that your passport photograph follows the specifications mentioned below as one of the most common reasons a visa application is rejected is because of improper photographs.
- It must not be cropped out of a larger photograph
- The photograph should be printed on high quality paper with no creases or marks.
- The photograph should have a plain, neutral colour background such as grey, off white or blue
- The photograph should measure 35mm in width and 45mm in height
- 70-80% of this frame should be covered by the applicant’s face
- The photograph should be sharp, well focused and clear so that all the applicant’s facial features are recognizable
- The photograph should capture the applicant looking straight into the camera with hair pulled away from the face, both eyes open and a neutral expression
- Both ears and the entire face form the forehead to the chin should be visible
- If the applicant wears glasses, they should not cover the eyes or create a shadow or glare. If possible wear a light frame
- Headwear is permitted only if worn for religious reasons. This should be worn so as to not create any shadows over the face or hide part of the face
Your visa will not be granted if you cannot prove that you have enough money to cover your expenses while in the Schengen area. For a stay up to five days, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy recommends a budget of EUR 270 per person while if you are planning to stay for over 20 days, you will need a per day budget of EUR 28. To prove that you can afford this holiday, you will need to attach a copy of your last three month’s bank statement, your last three month’s salary slip and a copy of your income tax returns. In case your travel is being sponsored by someone else, you will need to explain your relationship with the sponsor and why they are funding your trip.
Travel medical insurance is a must when applying for a Schengen visa to Spain. A minimum cover of EUR 30,000 is required by the Italian consulate from any of the approved Indian insurance agencies. This amount should cover your expenses in the event of luggage being lost, a change in itinerary or medical emergencies. If you do not want to buy insurance before your visa is approved, ask a travel agent to get you a refundable insurance policy.
Flight and Hotel Reservations
Many people compare buying international flight tickets and getting your visa approved to the question of who came first-the chicken or the egg. You cannot apply for a visa without a reserved flight ticket but flight tickets don’t come cheap and having to buy these tickets before your visa is approved could result in quite a loss if your visa application is rejected. You could buy refundable tickets but these tickets are usually more expensive as compared to non-refundable tickets. Hence, the ideal solution is to work with a travel agent who can block a seat for you while your visa is being processed. You will then need to show the visa issuing officer a detailed itinerary that mentions your flight dates to and from your destination, the flight numbers, airport IATA codes and flight ticket prices. Once your visa is issued, you can then book your tickets and show the confirmed flight tickets when you pick up your passport and visa.
Similarly you will need to tell the visa officers where you are planning to stay while on your holiday. If you are staying with friends or family members a letter of introduction from them will suffice. Else, you will need to show hotel room bookings. Again, booking and paying for these rooms without a confirmed visa is a scary thought and hence it is better to work with a travel agent who can book a room for you on the basis of a small token payment for documentation purposes. These details can be presented in the form of a printed copy of your reservation details that would have been emailed to you.
Once you have all your documents in place, you will need to book an appointment at the consulate to submit these documents. An Italy visa fees in rupees will also need to be paid along with a service charge. For adults, this amounts to INR 4300 + INR 1400 while for children between the ages of 6 and 1 years, this amounts to INR 2500 + INR 1400. This amount may change according to fluctuations of the EUR to INR exchange rate.