The power of the blue (American) passport is strong. Going to Europe is as easy as buying a plane ticket. Non-US citizens, however, are required to obtain a VISA to enter the Schengen Area. This will require an in person visit to a consulate. For us, this meant a flight to and from Los Angeles to a European consulate. Yes, in person. For most people, this will require expensive travel and the Europen consulates as few and far between. The resources on what we needed was confusing and the process can be stressful. Purchasing flights and organizing a trip around a single appointment, you want to be prepared. We found this website helpful, but it did not answer all our questions. Here is what we learned.
Which consulate? If you are traveling to multiple European countries, apply to the consulate you are visiting first or spending the most days within.
Prove your roots in the United State, financial or otherwise. For most people, this will be showing you have a job and money in the bank account. The remaining documents almost felts secondary after we provided proof of employment and bank account records. The consulate wants to know that you are there for a visit and with plans to
In person appointment can only be within 90 days of travel. This is important. Plan ahead. We have two jobs and had to schedule the trip to the consulate in this window. Plan schedule as early as possible because you do not want to make firm plans until you have the VISA.
- Passport and Green Card/VISA with copies. Make sure the passport is valid for 6 months after your European stay.
- Self addressed and PAID envelope. The consulte will retain your passport and mail back to you. USPS or Fedex is recomended with tracking.
- Employment letter. See example here.
- Application form. Available on the specific consulate website.
- Two passport photos. These are expensive and will easily add another $15 dollars to the process. We recommend using a passport photo application form your phone such as Passport Booth.
- Proof of financial subsistence. Checking account statements should be sufficient.
- Health Insurance. I recommend Allianz. When we have actually needed to use our travel insurance policy they came through for us. Another positive is they are very familiar with European travel insurance and will draft an Embassy letter for you stating you are fully covered.
- Remember to bring your consular fee of 60 euro in USD cash.
- Round trip travel reservations.
- Proof of accommodation. Make reservations directly with the hotel which is easy to cancel. You can always cancel and get cheaper accommodation with hotwire/Airbnb/VRBO etc when the VISA is final.
- Flight reservations. DO NOT buy flights. Most travel agents can make a ‘dummy’ or ‘passive’ itinerary for you for free. Make sure you have a return ticket reservation no matter how long your stay. * Book final tickets after you have the VISA.*
We watched an applicant struggle in front of us who should have definately been more prepared. We labeled all of the above documents in the requested order. The consulate employee told us in no few words that we were very organized and approved on the spot. We do think making her job easier increased our chances of eliminating snags in the VISA process.
If you have any questions about this process, please comment or contact us directly! We will respond and answer any questions you have. Happy travels!