SA travellers' 5 favourite European escapes according to Schengen Visa applications

Europe, while expensive thanks to the Euro exchange rate, will be on the travel itinerary for South Africans at some point or another. A continental holiday just has that sort of once-in-a-lifetime, if not more, appeal.

But where exactly are South Africans headed to?

According to SchengenVisaInfo.comone of the largest Visa related information websites for the block that has for the past five years reported on policy changes in the Schengen Zone - Italy remains the most popular. They shared data with Traveller24 for applications made between 2016 and 2017.

Schengen visa applications in South Africa grew by 21% during this period. During 2017, there were 206 786 citizens of South Africa that applied for a Schengen uniform visa. In turn, a number of 200 626 of them have issued a Schengen uniform visa.

Based on the collection of Schengen uniform visa applications it reports the following countries were the most popular destinations in the block for SA citizen: 

On the other hand, based on Schengen visa application statistics in SA, Slovakia is the least visited as entry points into the block:

  • Slovakia – 200 applications 
  • Lithuania – 218 applications
  • Finland – 1 250 applications
  • Hungary – 2 067 applications
  • Poland – 2 081 applications 

A portion of 75.2% (or 150 957 to be more exact) of Schengen visa grants in South Africa during 2017 were Multiple Entry Visa, therefore most of them were opting to get such type of visa, says SchengenVisaInfo.com. The data unfortunately did not distinguish between single and multiple entry visas.

As Brexit looms in March of this year, there will be certain immigration changes applied from EU members of Schengen and UK on the other side - however, no direct bearing on applications in South Africa are expected. 

How to apply for a Schengen Visa

What is the Schengen Visa?

Although you may find that the name has a deceptively oriental ring to it, it is in fact the document that will get you into most European countries.

To be more specific Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lituania, Luxembourg, Maltea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland all require the Schengen visa.

Where does the name come from?

It comes from a treaty that was signed by member states of the European Economic Community in Schengen, Luxembourg in 1985.

The Schengen Area comprises the territories of twenty-five European countries that have implemented this agreement.

Where to apply?

The most important thing to know about Schengen visa applications, is that you are required to appear in person at the consulate/embassy of the country through whom you will be acquiring the visa. The country you will apply through depends entirely on the structure of your trip:

  • If you are only visiting one country, you apply at that country's Embassy or Consulate.
  • If you are visiting a few, but staying longer in one country, you apply at the Embassy or Consulate of the country you will be visiting for the longest period of time, i.e. your main destination.
  • If you plan on visiting a number of countries, and staying in each one for the exact same amount of time, you apply at the Embassy or Consulate of your first point of entry.

SEE: #AfriTravel: A visa quick-guide for smooth travel to these 14 SADC countries

Types of Visas

There are four different types of Schengen visa, but only three are applicable to South African citizens.

  • Short stay visa: this spans a period of 1-90 days and includes single, double or multiple entry.
  • Long stay visa: Visas for visits exceeding 90 days are national visas, and are issued by member states in accordance with national legislation.
  • Transit visa: this spans a period of 1 - 5 days and is required for those who are travelling from one non-Schengen state to another, but crossing Schengen territory. If the main destination happens to be in Schengen territory, a short stay visa will be issued instead.
  • Airport transit visas are required for certain nationals, but not for South African citizens.

Documentation to be submitted:

Now this is the real tough part: collecting all of your important documents, making sure everything is up to date and having a fully-planned itinerary! But if you make a check list of the following items at the very beginning of planning your trip things might go surprisingly smoothly.

1. A Common Schengen Application Form - available from Consular websites or offices.

2. Your SA passport. Ensure that it is valid for a period of at least 3 months after your last dayof stay in Schengen territory.  

3. Passport photo - a recent one in colour.

4. The visa of the final country of destination (if needed) must be obtained before applying for a Schengen visa eg. United Kingdom.

5. Round trip air-ticket and itinerary with dates and flight numbers specifying entry and exit from Schengen state.

6. Proof of sufficient funds for duration of stay. The minimum requirement differs from place to place, so check with the consulate of each country. Tax receipts of foreign exchange purchased, traveller's cheques and credit card statements/an original letter from the bank manager stating credit amount available serve as proof.

7. Travel/health/accident insurance with minimum medical coverage of the Rand equivalent of Euro 30.000,00. The policy number and dates of cover must appear on the document. No quotations will be accepted.

8. Proof of Accommodation. Either confirmed hotel/backpacker/B&B reservations, or a letter from the family member or friend who will be hosting you along with a copy of their ID or passport.

9. For business: an official business letter from a company in a Schengen state and from the employer in South Africa, stating purpose of visit must be presented. For conferences: proof of registration and payment is required.

10. Certified parental consent -

  • by both parents for children under 18 travelling alone or with school group.
  • If the child travels with only one parent, the other parent must produce the notarized/certified consent.
  • If only one parent has guardianship of minor, the court documents stating so must be presented. Certain consular authorities require that both parents sign before a consular official.

ALSO SEE: The Golden Visa: Travelling the exclusive world of the 1%

Take note: The Schengen State's Consular offices reserves the right to request further documentation should it be deemed necessary, such as: 

a. Proof of Employment: eg letter from company stating continuing employment after period of leave and duration of vacation, etc. 

b. If applicant is a student: letter from school/college/university confirming attendance/registration.

c. Bank and credit card statements for last 3 months.

d. A personal interview with the applicant may be requested at any time.

PLEASE NOTE: Certain countries have specific requirements that other countries don't have. Best to check with the Embassy or consulate BEFORE going through the whole schlep only to find you missed out on one crucial point!

Fees and exemption

You can expect to pay about 60 euros for adults and 35 euros for children between 6 and below 12 for the transit and short stay visas. For long stay visa fees, you will have to contact the Embassy or consulate.

If you fall into one of the following categories you are lucky enough to be exempt from visa fees:

  • Children under 6 years of age
  • School pupils, students, post grad students or teachers who undertake trips for the purpose of study or educational training.
  • Researchers carrying out scientific studies.
  • Spouses of EU/EEA citizens and their children under the age of 21 years, who are accompanying the EU/EEA citizens. You will need to submit copies of EU/EEA passport, full marriage certificate as well as full birth certificates.