New process for French Schengen Visa (guest post)

Guest post by Kunal. He is a US resident, currently in the UK on a short-term visa (6 to 9 months).
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Visa Type: Schengen Visa (tourist)
Issuing Country: France
Application Centre: TLS Contact Center, near Olympia Tube station, London

Duration of Visa Granted: 6 months
Number of days stay granted: 90 days
Time taken for processing: 2 days

Requirements:
All the standard Schengen visa documents — hotel bookings, flight bookings, photo, passport, application form, travel insurance, letter from employer, covering letter, bank statements, paychecks.

Experience:
We were able to make an appointment for one week later. There was a queue at the center and we were issued a number. Our number was not called and we saw people who came in after us being processed. When we brought that to the supervisor’s attention, she blamed it on a glitch and immediately asked us to proceed to the next available counter. The lady at the counter was nice and courteous and confirmed that we had submitted everything on the check list. The process took about 10 minutes.
We had submitted one confirmed itinerary and multiple travel plans over the next 4 months. We also had a one-year travel insurance policy. Our travel plans were for 10-12 days after the appointment. While they did not promise that we would receive the visa by that date, we received it on the third day.
Got an SMS e Email from VFS telling us that the application was sent to the French Embassy, and another SMS and Email when the Embassy returned our passports. Passport collection was painless as well.

Special Circumstances:
Since we are in London for a short-term (6-9 months) only, all our paychecks, bank statements were American. That did not seem to be a problem in obtaining the visa. There was also no problem with submitting printed copies of our paychecks and bank statements. We did have an employment verification letter from my employer in the UK.

Key points to keep in mind:
1. Book an appointment for applying. Plan ahead because appointments fill up fast.
2. Have all documents in order based on the checklist. They follow that checklist very strictly and having your documents in order will mean you spend less time on the counter.
3. List multiple travel plans over the duration that you wish to request visa for. This ensures that your need for a longer-term visa is explicit.
4. Make sure your travel insurance is valid across all planned trips otherwise you might end up with a shorter duration visa.

Tip about France: Get off the beaten path. Skip Paris and go south to the Alps. The pics below show a peak near Chamonix and sunset over Lac Leman.

Sunset over Lac Leman View from St Gervais
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Belgium Schengen Visa experience in London

Visa Type: Schengen Visa (tourist)
Issuing Country: Belgium
Application Centre: VFS, Soho Square, London

Duration of Visa Granted: 3 months
Number of days stay granted: 14 days
Time taken for processing: 2 days

Requirements:
All the standard Schengen visa documents — hotel bookings, flight bookings, photo, passport, application form, travel insurance, letter from employer, covering letter.

Experience:
There was a long queue at the VFS centre, but it moved quickly. Once inside the centre, we were issued a number. Our number was called within 10 minutes. We spent another 10 mins with the lady at the counter.

Got an SMS and Email from VFS telling us when the application was sent to the Belgian Embassy, and another SMS and Email when the Embassy returned our passports.

There was another queue to collect the passports. No appointment system for collection.

Overall very smooth experience.

Key points to keep in mind:
1. Book an appointment for applying.
2. Arrive 10-15 mins before appointment time (no earlier than that).
3. Arrive 15 mins early for collecting passport
4. Be prepared to stand in line (in the open-air) for 15-20 minutes at application and collection.
5. Costs an extra £26 per head to apply at VFS.

More on Turkey Visa on Arrival for Indians

Update – 13 Nov 2013 Looks like the Visa on Arrival has been replaced by an e-visa that has to be obtained at least 24 hrs before arriving in Turkey. https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

Old post:
I have been getting questions about visa on arrivals for Indians in Turkey. While I don’t have personal experience in this matter, I can only quote official sources.

Here is what CIBT have to say:

The traveller must:
* Hold a valid UK, Schengen or USA visa
* Hold the minimum of US$50.00 in cash on entry, per day of stay
* Hold a passport valid at least six months on entry with one blank visa page
* Hold proof of sufficient funds
* Hold proof of onward/return flights
* Hold all documents required for the next destination

Here is what the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to say:

India: Diplomatic passport holders are exempt from visa for their travels to Turkey up to 90 days. Ordinary, Special and Service passport holders are required to have visa to enter Turkey. Ordinary, Special and Service passport holders with a valid Schengen, UK or US visas may get their one month single entry visas at the Turkish border gates upon their arrival.

I hope this helps!

If you have personal experience with VOA in Turkey, please comment on this post

Entering Schengen Area before Visa Start date – not possible :)

Well that is not surprising, now is it?

Someone I know closely recently planned to visit Paris. When they had checked in on the Eurostar at St. Pancras Station, and were at the immigration window, did they they realize there was a problem. The officer pointed out that they visa started 2 weeks later.

The officer then called a policeman, who escorted them out of the Eurostar area, and gave them a ‘refused entry’ paper. Not sure if this will affect their future visa applications.

But the lesson is, be sure that you don’t try to travel to the Schengen area before the visa start date.