Both the Netherlands Embassy website and the VFS Global Services website contain useful information on the application process for a Schengen visa. (VFS is the company that assists the Netherlands embassy in processing visa applications.) It can be a little confusing, navigating both websites and all their visa-related pages, so we put together this step-by-step guide.
To secure a Schengen visa for a trip to the Netherlands, here’s a summary of what you need to do:
- Before anything else, make sure you’re applying for a Schengen visa at the right embassy. The Netherlands must be your main destination.
- Pay the visa fees at Unionbank.
- Schedule an appointment through the VFS website. Wait at least 1 business day after paying the visa fees before making the appointment.
- Prepare the required documents.
- Go to the embassy at the appointed time to personally lodge your application and submit your requirements.
- Wait for the decision.
Should you be applying at the Netherlands embassy?
A Schengen visa allows you to travel to the Netherlands and/or any of the other countries in the Schengen Area. In other words, once you obtain a visa from any of the Schengen countries, you can travel to all of the Schengen countries. That said, you can’t just apply for a visa in any Schengen country. The rule is: your visa application should be lodged at the embassy/consulate of the country that constitutes the main destination of your trip in terms of purpose or length of stay.
- Are you traveling only to the Netherlands?
- Is the main purpose of your trip in the Netherlands, even though you will be visiting other countries?
- Is the Netherlands the country where you will be spending the most time?
If you answer yes to any of the questions above, then, yes, you should apply for a visa at the Netherlands embassy.
Please note that “purpose” in no. 2 usually refers to business or some other official engagement. If you spend 3 days in Amsterdam and 4 days in Paris, you need to apply for a visa at the French embassy, no matter how much you protest that the main purpose of your trip is to see a windmill.
If you are spending equal time in 2 countries — say, 3 days in the Netherlands and 3 days in Belgium — that is when other factors are taken into consideration, such as where your flight from the Philippines will actually land.
Pay the visa application fees.
The total fee for an adult is PHP 4,540 — this includes the actual visa application fee (PHP 3,700), the VFS service fee (PHP 740), and the bank charge (PHP 100). This amount is payable at any Unionbank branch in the country. Bring your passport with you when you make the payment, and fill out a bank payment form (download it here) in advance.
Schedule an appointment.
First of all, take note that you need to pay the visa application fees before scheduling an appointment. The appointment system will require your receipt number and date of payment, so it’s just not possible to make the appointment before paying. Second, you need to wait at least 1 business day after paying, to make sure that your payment details have been entered into the system.
When deciding on your appointment date, there are certain factors you need to consider:
- A visa application may only be lodged 3 months prior to intended departure at the earliest. (I know — the suspense kills me too.)
- After lodging your application and requirements, you will usually receive a decision within 10 calendar days. That said, you may be asked to submit additional documents, or your application might need to be referred to authorities in the Netherlands, which will certainly take time. Procrastinate at your own risk.
- Your embassy appointment is when you will be handing over your requirements. Make sure you give yourself enough time to secure things like bank certifications, confirmed hotel reservations, etc.
- If you need to fly to Manila, make sure there are flights available on your appointment date.
You can schedule an appointment here. Again, you will need your Unionbank receipt number and your payment date, so have those info on hand.
Prepare your requirements.
Here are the documents you need to submit in support of your visa application:
- Completed and signed Schengen visa application form with photo. (Application Form | Consent Form | Photo Specifications)
- One passport picture, 35 x 45 mm, white background — this is in addition to the photo attached to your application form.
- Valid passport. Schengen countries require that your passport be valid a mere 3 months from the end of your intended stay. However, be aware that some countries (including those you might have a layover in) require 6 months’ validity. In addition, your passport must have at least two blank pages available; otherwise, you need to get a new one. (A passport with only one page left — oh, what a nice problem to have!)
- International travel insurance with a minimum coverage of EUR 30,000. The Netherlands embassy doesn’t specify that your insurance should be issued from Schengen-approved companies; however, it’s best to cover your bases. Here’s a helpful list of Schengen-approved insurance companies from the French embassy. (I used Blue Cross, as it is extremely easy to apply for their insurance online. See the following articles for more info: Travel Insurance for European Trips | Sample Itineraries and Prices from Blue Cross.)
- Detailed travel itinerary. This means where you’re planning to go on which day (and “why” might be something they’ll ask during your interview). Make your itinerary as detailed as possible; it’s one way you can reduce the risk of being suspected of planning to stay in the Netherlands illegally. I put in flight numbers and train schedules; whenever possible, I actually specified which station the train was departing from, the coach number, and the seat number. (I don’t know if that really helps but…I got a visa. With no fuss. So.)
- Documents proving sufficient means for the entire visit — at least 34 euros per day of your trip. The VFS website just states “such as bank statement or copy of bank book” but, again, it’s best to cover all your bases. Get bank certificates and statements of account; prepare a copy of your latest income tax return too, just in case.
- Copy of hotel reservations for the entire trip, including in any other Schengen country you will be visiting.
- Copy of flight booking. (“The Embassy advises you not make any payment for…flight tickets before you are granted a visa.”)
- Letter of employment or other proof of livelihood, such as your official business registration.
- 1 copy of all the documents above. For the passport, photocopy those pages with your photograph, personal data and previous visas.
Download the VFS checklist here.
Show up at the embassy.
Before you ask, yes, you have to be there in person, even if you have a travel agency handling your application, because the embassy needs to get your fingerprints.
I was lucky enough to be interviewed at the Netherlands consulate in Cebu on the very last day that they were accepting visa applications. (The Cebu visa desk was closed on November 11, 2013.) It was actually less of an interview and more of making sure that all my documents were in order. The papers were examined thoroughly but there were no raised eyebrows or suspicious tones. The lady who interviewed me was nice enough; she even gave me a chance to tweak my itinerary (long story) and come back later that day. It was a pretty straightforward interview and, overall, a more pleasant experience than the one I had at the French embassy.
Wait for the decision.
After your documents are accepted by the embassy staff, they will be sent on to the Regional Support Office in Kuala Lumpur, which will decide on the merits of your application. Processing time is usually 10 calendar days. You can track your application here.
One week after I filed my visa application, I received a package from the Netherlands office in Kuala Lumpur. My fingers trembling, I tore open the plastic and anxiously examined my passport…and there it was, a Schengen visa issued by the Netherlands. At that time, Typhoon Haiyan had just struck the Philippines and I was up to my neck in relief operations; my birthday was also coming up in a few days. The visa felt like a birthday gift and a pat on the back from the universe at the same time. Small pleasures, I guess, but for someone who loved to travel, who had spent the last few months researching and organizing and preparing, who desperately needed a break…that visa could not have come at a better time.
Good luck with your visa application!
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Getting a Schengen Visa at the Netherlands Embassy: What You Need to Know
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