you might need a Schengen visa to travel to Rome, Italy

Schengen Visa complete Step-by-Step Guide for Application

My boyfriend and I recently made a trip to Italy for ten days. He didn’t need a Schengen visa because he is a US citizen, but I needed one because I am Kenyan. I tried to look up on different sites how I could apply for the Schengen visa and also enquired from my married friend who lives in Germany. 

From all the information I gathered, I was able to successfully apply for a Schengen visa, and it got accepted the first time I applied. If you are looking to apply for a Schengen visa, I will give you as much information as possible to prepare you for your application.

What is a Schengen Visa? 

A Schengen visa is a visa that allows you to travel to 26 countries in the European Union that are a part of the Schengen area.

What are the 26 Schengen countries?

The 26 Schengen countries include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

To apply for a Schengen visa, you must know the visa type you want and why you travel to the Schengen area. 

Schengen visa allows you to travel 26 countries in the schengen area

Which Schengen Visa types are available?

There are several Schengen visa types available. We can classify them depending on the duration of stay in the Schengen area or the reason for visiting the Schengen area.

Schengen visa depending on the duration of stay.

The main type of visa in this category include:

A Schengen (short-term) visa.

This visa allows its holder to stay in the Schengen area for the duration mentioned in the visa, which can be up to 90 days within 180 days. The short-term visa can be issued for a single entry, double entry, multiple entry, or transit visa.

A single entry visa allows you to enter the Schengen area once; if you leave the territory, your visa expires even if your visa validity period is not over.

A double entry visa allows the visa holder to enter the Schengen area twice during the validity of the visa. You can leave a Schengen area and re-enter it twice during the visa validity. When you leave the second time, then the visa expires.

multiple-entry visa, this visa allows its holder to enter and leave the Schengen area as many times as they want within the validity of the visa.

Long-stay Type D Schengen Visa.

This visa is issued to individuals that intend to stay, work or study within the Schengen area for more than 90 days and upto one year.

A holder of this visa can travel and stay in the Schengen area outside the initial country of application for 90 days within 180 days during its validity. People would be applying for the type D Schengen visa for reasons including tourism and private visits, professional activities, studying or taking part in a training or an internship program, or for family reasons.

You can apply for either of the following visas depending on your purpose for travel in the Schengen area.

Transit visa. This one applies if you are connecting through a Schengen country on your way to another country that is not a Schengen territory. Different Schengen countries require citizens from different countries to obtain transit visas. 

Tourism visa

Visa to visit family and friends.

Business visa

Visa for culture and sports activities

Official visits visa

Study visa

Visa for medical reasons.

The above shows the purpose for which people would apply for a Schengen visa, but generally, most visa applications fall under the type C ( short-term) or type D ( long-term) category.

Once you determine the type of visa that you want to apply for, it is good to gather and get ready with all the documents that will be required in your application process. In my case, I was applying for a type C single-entry visa.

One important tip worth noting is that the visa issuer wants to ensure that you won’t overstay your Schengen visa. So, providing as much information as possible during your application is advisable.

Travel schengen visa application guide

What are the required documents for the Schengen visa application?

To successfully apply for a Schengen visa, you are required to submit the following documents:

 A valid travel passport. 

A travel passport usually is issued by the government in your country. To apply for a Schengen visa, your passport needs to:

have at least two empty pages where they can affix your visa.

Must be issued within ten years and not older than that.

Must be valid for additional three months after the date the applicant intends to leave the Schengen area. 

Schengen visa application forms.

The Schengen visa application forms ask for general details of the applicant such as name, sex, nationality, place of birth, etc. it also asks for your passport details such as its date of issue and expiration date. In the form also, you will declare the purpose of your visit and any family relations with an EU, EEA, or CH citizen. 

You also fill in the type of visa you are applying for, whether single entry, double entry, or multi-entry visa, and the duration of your intended visit to the Schengen area. 

Passport photos.

You will need two recent passport-size photos. One must be attached to the application form, and the other should be loose. The photo size should be 35*40mm, with a close-up of your head and top of your shoulders in sharp focus that your face takes 70-80%of the photograph.

The photo should have been taken within the past six months, with a neutral facial expression and a plain, light-colored background. You should have looked directly at the camera; the photograph’s lighting should be uniform, with appropriate brightness and contrast.

The photograph should show your eyes clearly and visibly, and your hair shouldn’t cover your eyes or part of your face. Sunglasses and caps are not allowed, and coloured lenses are not allowed.You should not wear big accessories that cover some part of your face. Digital makeup on the photo is not allowed, nor is red eye. 

Travel medical insurance.

You are required to have comprehensive travel insurance that covers at least 30,000 euros. The insurance has to cover your entire stay in the Schengen area, and it has to cover all the possible expenses that may occur as a result of repatriation for medical reasons, medical emergencies, hospital treatment, and urgent medical attention. 

Biometric data.

The Schengen area stores fingerprint information of applicants in a visa information system. All applicants are required to submit their bio metric data with the exemption of:

Children under the age of 12 years.

Heads of state and members of the national government, their accompanying family members, and their official delegation when on an official visit.

Persons whose collection of fingerprints is physically impossible, for example, hospitalised people, are travelling to seek further treatment.

Proof of Schengen visa application fees.

You will need the receipt issued upon payment of the visa application fee to collect the visa. Note that the application fee is not reimbursed if the visa is denied or if you cancel the application.

Proof of financial capability.

With the application, you have to prove that you can sustain your financial needs during your stay in the Schengen area. Usually, having your previous three months certified bank statements that are not older than three days will be enough proof. 

Different countries in the Schengen area have different financial minimums, so check with the consular services of the country you are traveling to see the threshold.

Schengen visa cover letter.

Usually, this is a short letter that you write to explain the details of your travel plan, where you intend to stay, and for how long you will be in the Schengen area.

Proof of accommodation.

This is a show of where you intend to live. A hotel booking will work if you are staying at a hotel. If a friend or a family member is hosting you, they have to write you a letter explaining that they have enough room for you, which you submit.

Depending on the Schengen country you are traveling to, the host might be required to provide additional documents; check with the consular services of your intended Schengen country what other documents your host might need to provide you with.

Copies of your previous visas.

If you have traveled to the Schengen area with a passport already expired or full, you should submit all those passports together with your application. Hold them together with a rubber band but do not staple them together. 

Flight details.

Usually, this flight booking shows your trip to and from the Schengen area. A flight reservation is enough; you do not have to purchase an actual ticket.

Depending on your working status, you are required to submit additional documents. Remember I mentioned that the visa issuer needs proof that you won’t overstay your visa and you have enough finances to sustain you for your stay? Some additional documents you might need include:

Student ID, transcripts, or a letter from your school that shows you are a student.

Evidence of self-employment includes a letter from your accountant, a solicitor, or a company house.

Evidence of employment if you are employed. This may include a copy of your employment contract, a letter from your employer, recent payslips, and a vacation confirmation from your employer.

For retirees, evidence of retirement, such as pension statements for the last six months.

What are the Schengen visa application requirements for children under 18 years (minors?)

The application form must be signed twice by both legal parents/ guardians.

Birth certificate.

If the child travels with only one parent, the other parent must give certified consent.

If the child travels alone, they must have certified consent from both parents.

Suppose a single parent is traveling with the child alone because they solely hold paternal authority. In that case, relevant legal documents, such as a death certificate, custody agreement, or divorce agreement, should be submitted.

The consulate of the Schengen country you are applying to has the right to ask for additional documents upon evaluating what you have submitted.

Where should you submit your Schengen visa application?

Depending on your Schengen destination country, you can submit your Schengen visa application at:

Their embassy.

A visa center to which your destination country has outsourced visa application submission. For example, the Italian embassy outsourced these services to VFS Global in Kenya.

One of the destination country consulates.

The embassy or consulate of another Schengen country to which your destination country has outsourced visa application submission.

Where should I lodge my Schengen visa application if I visit multiple countries within the Schengen area?

Good question! At the beginning of this article, we said that a Schengen visa allows you to freely enter 26 countries in the Schengen area. However, a few Schengen rules guide where people should lodge their visa applications.

Suppose you intend to visit just one country in the Schengen area. In that case, you should submit your Schengen visa application to the embassy, consulate offices, or outsourced visa centers of the country you intend to visit.

If you are visiting more than one country in the Schengen area, then you need to lodge your application:

With the embassy, consulate, or visa center of the country where you will spend more days if you are planning to stay for an unequal amount of time.

With the embassy, consulate, or visa center of the country, you will first step in if you spend an equal amount of time.

Once you have gathered all the documents, book an appointment to submit your application forms and visa fees. You can usually book an online appointment, but some may require an in-person booking. Once you get a date for your appointment, get ready for the interview and be there on time. 

How long is the processing time for a Schengen visa?

Typically, Schengen visas are processed within 15 working days. However, some cases may extend for up to 45 days depending on the applicant’s country and the need to seek further information about some applicants.

Can you extend a Schengen visa?

Though you can apply for a Schengen visa extension, sometimes getting an extension may be hard. If you know you intend to stay in the Schengen area for more than 90 days, apply for a national visa for the country you intend to stay in, which will allow you to stay upto a year.

Why do Schengen visas get rejected?

That depends on the Schengen country you are applying to; if you fail to provide enough documents, or provide false or unverifiable information, they may decline your application. However, you can appeal the decision if you think the rejection was by mistake.

How Much is the application fee for the Schengen Visa?

The charges for the visa vary from case to case for different groups of people. Here is a table showing the fees.

Visa CategoryFees in Euros
Children between 6-12 years old40
Children younger than 6 years oldFree
Holders of diplomatic,official or service passports travelling for official purposesFree
A family member of an EU or EEA nationalFree
Pupils, students and accompanying students during a school trip.Free
Researchers travelling to carry out scientific research.Free
Nationals from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia35


Ensure you provide all the required documents and other documents you think will be necessary for backing up your Schengen visa application. Avoid taking shortcuts or giving false information during your application, as this may result in Schengen visa rejection.

Keep the excitement and stay positive! All the best in your Schengen visa application! If you have more questions, please leave them in the comments section below. I will be more than happy to help!

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