For last 2 Months we have been planning for a trip to Italy and figuring out the visa requirement(s). In this process, I read though many different articles and thought of jotting down what I think were some useful nuggets of visa related information.
This is the visa required for most of the European countries which are part of Schengen agreement and more than 25 countries are part of it. . UK and Ireland are not yet part of this agreement, but Switzerland has joined this treaty last December.
Once you have a schengen visa, you can enter one country and travel freely anywhere within schengen territory. If you are going as a tourist, you need the short-stay visa which is also called Type "C" which allows up to maximum 90 days stay in a 180 days period.
Some info on immihelp which I found really Useful
Note: If you have a green-card, then probably you do not need a visa for most European countries.
Which consulate do you go to:
The rule of thumb is that you should apply for a Schengen Visa at the Embassy or Consulate of the Schengen country where you will be spending most no of nights on your trip to the Schengen Space. If you are only visiting one country on your trip then you apply for your visa at the Consulate of this Schengen country. If you are going to many countries and spending almost equal amount of time, then you can file in any of the consulates. But if you have a primary destination, then it is more advisable to go to that specific consulate. As for example, in our case we are going to Germany, Switzerland and Italy and in 9 Days and we are spending 6 days in Italy. So, we filed our petition in Italy Consulate.
What documents you need to produce:
This varies little bit from consulate to consulate. You can go to the website of the specific consulate and they generally list the required documents (and the order in which you should produce the documents)
Here is the Link to Italian consulate in SFO - At the bottom of the page there is a link to a document which lists all the required documents.
Photo specification for schengen visa is not same as US visa or passport size photo. They have own specification and we took our photo from walgreens. The in the studio section might not know off the top of his head whether they do schengen visa photo or not..But if you him/her to check, then there is a option of Italy visa (or any other consulate) in the machine and chosing the right one finally works.
We went to another chinease studio where they charge 15$ per person for 2 copies. In walgreens it was just 7$ for the same :)
Some mistakes we did which you should not.
- Irrespective of which consulate you go, Schengen visa application always asks for hotel reservation and they are very strict about it. We did the mistake of taking it lightly and we were sent back one time. When we went second time, we realized that they closely scrutinizes the lodging details - they actually matched our train itinerary with hotel reservations to see that there is no gap.. Come to think of it, they are actually very caring...they do not want to spend nights in airport or train stations ;)
- Carry a glue and pen - else you will end up searching for a store in SFO's intimidating hilly area and buying a tiny glue for 3-4$.
- Even though the timing says 1-3:30 - if you reach on time, you will be at the tail of a 10-12 persons long line. Reach there 15/20 minutes before time and you get done soon.