I finally got my passport back today. And with it comes my Schengen visa. My friend Chalyn claimed it for me so I would not have to travel to Manila just to pick it up.
For most Filipinos like me, getting a visa is often a challenge. I find the intense scrutiny and questions discomfiting. I sometimes think that it is a lot like being perceived as guilty until proven innocent. Not that I resent the stringent process. There has to be a reason for the strict screening. Still, it does not make the ordeal easier. Thankfully, the people at the visa section at the Belgium Embassy in Manila were okay. They were not rude or scary (in a bad way) as those who some of my friends met in other countries’ embassies.
Preparing to get the visa
I started preparing the requirements as soon as I received the invitation for an event I will attend this September. This was during the first week of April. I immediately checked the embassy’s website for the list of visa requirements.
(Source: Embassy of Belgium on the Philippines website)
~Appointment to lodge the visa application (done by calling any of these contact numbers):
1 909 1014545 (PLDT only through landline or SMART mobile phone)
1 903 1014545 (Bayantel only through landline)
1 900 1014545 (Globe through landline and GLOBE mobile phone)
~Passport – valid for at least 3 months before travel date
~2 copies of visa application forms
~2 x 2 colored passport-size photos (white background)
~60 EUR visa application fee – non-refundable (Note: Payment in Php should be in exact amount. I made sure to bring enough change in case my initial calculation was off.)
~Copy of confirmed flight reservation
~Confirmed hotel reservation(s)
~Official program of activities
~Proof of financial solvency [i.e. recent payslips (last 3 months), passbook, ITR, copies of credit cards, bank certificate(s), bank statement(s)]
~For self-employed – copy of Official Business Registration/ Business Permit; bank statement of the company/business (last 3 months)
~For approved visa application – original and 1 photocopy of medical and travel insurance
Lodging my visa application
My appointment for the lodging of my visa application was on July 6. I arrived in Manila on July 5 because I did not want to repeat the experience I had in 2010. That was when I had to fly to Manila at the last minute. Because I needed to make a personal appearance at the Embassy of China in Makati. Unfortunately, there was a typhoon that day so my early morning flight was cancelled. I arrived late in the afternoon thus missing my appointment.
This time, I was better prepared. And it was a good thing too since there was also a typhoon at that time. It was raining non-stop the entire time I was in Manila.
I arrived early in Makati on the 6th so I had plenty of time to kill. I used it to check the place then waited at a fastfood restaurant nearby. I went to the building about 45 minutes earlier than scheduled. The visa section was already starting to receive the applicants’ requirements.
Lodging my visa application did not take long. I just had to wait a bit for my turn to be called. The lady visa section officer at the window who received my documents checked them. She asked me a few questions. It was pretty straightforward.
The only “trouble” I had was at the fingerprinting window. For some strange reason, the machine had a hard time reading fingerprints on my right hand. And the lady was not as nice as the other one. I felt a bit stupid when she started barking instructions. But all in all, it was not a bad experience.
Things to remember
~Prepare a detailed itinerary
~Make sure that there is a copy of all hotel booking confirmations (if traveling to different Schengen areas)
~Bring old passport(s) with previous Schengen visa(s) – I was asked about this when I filed my visa application. Curiously, I did not get my passport with my old Schengen visa back when I got a new one after renewing it at the DFA in Manila years ago).
~Be early for the appointment (never trust Manila traffic)
~And if you need to fly to Manila to lodge the application, make sure to do so at least a day early. Because typhoons.