Applying for a Schengen VISA,Ireland VISA, and US VISA from the UK
with a focus on Indonesian Citizen
(updated: 15 June 2019)
The unfortunate thing about Indonesian studying in the UK is that it’s so very near to go to other countries (as cheap as £12 to go to France, for example), but you can’t because there’s a huge barrier…
What is that?
VISA, of course (still seething inside looking at Malaysian friends who can just impulse-buy flight/bus ticket)
Fortunately, most of the conferences I attended were held in one of the Schengen countries, and Schengen VISA usually last at least for 3 months, so impulse buy is possible sometimes!
So far, I’ve applied for Schengen VISA 5 times (update: 7 now), Ireland VISA once, and applied for US VISA once. Schengen VISA usually lasts for 3 months, as well as Ireland VISA, while US visa last differently (5 years for Indonesian, 10 years for Chinese national, for example). I guess I’m pretty knowledgeable by now (though not a know-it-all yet) as far as VISA application goes, so forth!
General VISA Requirement
Generally works for almost all VISA application (though not really).
Of course. Make sure that the expiry date is more than 6 months from the day you’re planning to go back. Also, remember for Indonesian national (and other nationalities who need big pages of VISAs instead of just stamps): enough empty pages.
- Passport photo
No need to go to specific booths (though if you want to go there it’s OK), just take a picture at home in a place with good lighting (white/ cream background). Then format it in Corel Draw/ Photoshop/ online service like this. Print at Boots because it’s quite cheap. Also important: They’re supposed to be a photo from the last 6 months. You can take a new photo every time, or alternate between two sets of photos so that it’s not that weird to see that your VISA photos are similar looking for 4 years in a row (my solution: get the same top/ hairstyle/ hijab every time so that the similarity seems deliberate)
- Foreign Travel History
Please have a note of this, especially if you
live the jet set life travel abroad a lot. Will be very helpful for VISA application. Also important: the reason why you travelled to “sensitive” countries (I have Iran in my travel history, need to explain a few times).
- Travel plan
Though it can be changed (definitely), it’s better to have an excellent plan to explain to the VISA application officer. You can make one and print it in case the officer asks you for one.
Generally, the steps are:
- You can go to VFS Global Website (maybe not for France, but I don’t have the experience). Choose the country you’re applying your VISA to, and the country you’re applying from. For France, go to TLS. You can also try applying straight to the correct embassy, like Germany for example. Austria’s only works for business VISA (I’ve just known about this! Will definitely try if there is a chance next time)
- Book a VISA appointment date as sometimes they’re entirely filled already (ensure that you can fill the requirements by the date though). Empty the whole day (as the queue can be pretty crazy). Better to book earlier one to ensure better timeliness + possibility to print important paper/ letter before everything’s closed. The queue can be very long if you’re applying for a “popular” country (looking at German queue, while the Latvian one was a breeze). Keep the SMS appointment or print the appointment letter.
- Look at the type of VISA you need and its requirement. Fulfil the requirements:
- Filled VISA application form. Remember to use black ink (some doesn’t allow blue ink). Ensure that everything is correct.
- Original passport.
Old passport is not necessary, but better to bring it.
You need to show this on the desk. Better to provide a copy as well
- Two passport photos, write your name on the back, I suggest writing with a pencil so that the ink doesn’t run
- Flight/transportation, from countries of residence to your destination and back.
Sometimes, if the destinations are different from the country you’re applying to, you need to make a statement (I needed this for my Latvian application). Be careful of Megabus ticket as it doesn’t have your name on it there were some cases where they’re rejected as valid tickets. One of my friends explained a trick to get a refundable KLM ticket (which I haven’t tried, so can’t tell anything more than that, maybe Google a bit). If you move between countries and have valid tickets already, prepare all and show all.
If you’re not staying with friends (proven by invitation), you need to have room booking available. People say it’s getting stricter now compared to before as before booking in booking.com without “PAID” sign was accepted, but now it isn’t. Some people suggest refundable AirBNB, but I am still on booking.com camp (paid first but refundable ones nevertheless) because AirBNB has booking fees, so not exactly fully refundable. If you already have a solid plan, however, just prepare everything from the start.
If you attend a conference, you need this. If you have paid your registration, you can ask for one with “registration paid for” on it, as some VISA officers ask you for one with registration to ensure that you’re attending the event. If you get an invitation from friends, you need to have one prepared (with friend’s address & ID information). Conference organiser usually able to send a physical invitation (allow 1-2 weeks), but if you print the PDF one in colour, they will mostly be okay.
- copy of passport information (better x2)
Generally, for Schengen, they only ask for the information page and the signature page, but I usually prepare a copy of the entire passport. Update: asked the officer, they said to prepare copies of pages with Schengen VISA made during the last 2 years)
- Bank statement or sponsorship letter (if any)
Bank statement for three months with a valid stamp (no older than 1 month before appointment date). Go to your bank branch to get one. Current account or saving account is OK (but current is preferable, I think). Different countries are different, but a rule of thumb: 50 EUR * number of days. If you want a longer VISA, better to have as much money as you can show (not sure whether this is just a myth, but everything helps!)
- Proof of employment/ studentship
Request a letter from your employer/school with a valid stamp. No older than 1 month as well. If possible addressed to the specific Embassy.
For 30,000 EUR minimum, for the entire duration of the trip. My suggestion is to get a year-long one to ensure longer VISA (not sure whether it’s a myth or not). I can’t really suggest anything on this as I use my university insurance, but from my friends’ suggestion, either Coverwise or post office insurance are quite OK.
4. Bring everything to VFS Global (66 Wilson St, nearest Tube Moorgate/ Liverpool St) for the appointment. After entering the building, ask for queue number from the security while showing your appointment message/ letter. Go to the room with your destination country. Wait for the queue. Can last for 2 – 3 hours, so empty your schedule, bring your work/ book. Can be finished in 15 minutes however if you’re going for the earliest spot and have everything prepared.
5. After you’re called, show all documents to the officer. Usually, they will ask for your travel detail. After everything’s finished, they will ask you for fingerprints and photo. You can then pay. The fee is about 72.7 GBP. You can pay by card or by cash. You can get everything sent to you by post (if you live far from the office ) by adding 14.95 GBP (? forget), no need to bring your own envelope. DON’T FORGET TO SAY THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO RECEIVE SMS UPDATE IF YOU DON’T WANT ONE. Seriously, you’ll get updated by email + SMS costs you extra (about £2.5?), they don’t say anything about it if you don’t ask and don’t check. Sigh. I forgot twice and protested, severely disappointed.
6. After the VISA is finished, you’d get a notification (email, and SMS if you subscribe for SMS). You can then bring your receipt, your passport copy, and your BRP to VFS global after 16.00 (come early! It’s from all countries served by VFS Global, the queue ends up very long. Queue can last until 18.00). If you lost your receipt, no need to make a police statement. Just print or show the SMS/ email and ID. If you get it mailed, just wait patiently until it arrives.
My Schengen VISA Experiences
Countries I’ve applied Schengen VISA to:
Iceland (via Denmark)
As far as my experience goes, the Czech Republic was my first Schengen VISA. The result was a pretty stingy VISA (single entry, valid for 1 month, date of stay 11 days). I guess that’s pretty fortunate compared to my Chinese friends who almost always get conference days + 3 days. The first time my biometric was taken for a Schengen VISA. Please remember the date for future Schengen VISA application. Finished in less about a week. Not exactly recommended.
My second application was for Germany. I was supposed to attend an event before the Czech one (though I’d just applied for a Czech Schengen VISA). Worse than the usual anecdotes from friends (they said 3 months, I got 1 month, multiple entries, date of stay 15 days), but maybe it’s because I have the Czech visa already for the month after. Overall processing was faster, less than a week. Recommended.
Iceland Via Denmark. A very happy camper. Finished fast, multiple entries VISA valid for a year for 90 days in total. Very recommended.
Latvia. Not a very good experience. My flight ticket back was supposed to be from Lithuania (as I planned to go visit by bus for a bit after finished with Latvia). I needed to make a statement that I’d travel to Lithuania from Latvia, and then I’d go back to the UK. Other than that, my student statement wasn’t valid anymore (31 days since I made it. My mistake, but still could go back to the university and finish letter + student statement in 40 minutes before VFS closed). I also got an impromptu phone interview during the VISA wait time (with the interviewer asking me the reason why I stayed in a hostel for attending a conference + scrutinising my travel history). All of those with about 15 working days of waiting. Overall fine but if you don’t want the hassle and not intending to go to Latvia as your primary destination, better to choose others. VISA last for 6 months, multiple entries, 90 days max. OK, I guess?
(Update: I made a German one again with a new passport. Not sure whether this was the cause, but I only got 3 months, 15 days max, sad that it ended before the Christmas break. This is definitely a sign that I need to concentrate during the weeks
Another update: I made an Austrian one. The officer said it was free because I went there for a conference. Got email to pay because I went to other countries before and after the conference + a bit suspect because I attached my Netherland conference schedule (which has longer period in the country compared to Austria). Got a stingy 2-entries, 1 month VISA as well. Pretty disappointed.
After that I applied for Netherland. Got a very long one until my British one expired. This trip was in a period of less than 3 months from the Austrian one. I should have applied for Netherland from the start bypassing Austria. Sigh.)
Where to apply?
If you have a specific country to attend, definitely can’t suggest any other than “apply for VISA there, then”. If you don’t have any in mind and looking for a country with generous VISA expiration date, based on my friend’s anecdotes, France and Germany are the usual recommendations (update: I’ll add Netherland as well). You can get a minimum of 3 months for tourist VISA, and a lot of stories about getting a 1-year long VISA. My other friend said that Denmark is very generous as she got a valid VISA as long as her BRP lasted. I do think so based on my Iceland experience. The other friend said she only got 3 months as well though. Conclusion: not sure.
How long does it take?
VFS website said to accommodate 15 working days, but if the queue isn’t long (not on winter holiday/ spring break, for example), France/ Germany/ Denmark can finish your VISA in less than a week. My Latvia and Netherland experience says 15 working days. Better safe than sorry though, apply sooner!
I had a friend to visit in Dublin. For Indonesian national, Ireland VISA is free. Ryanair had cheap flights to Ireland. Generally, everything’s the same to Schengen VISA with things to note:
The form is available here
- No need to purchase a travel ticket (though if you have them already, it’s better to submit them. It’s weird though, this says you need accommodation information but on the same page there was “You are advised not to purchase travel tickets before you know the outcome of your visa application.”)
- Ireland VISA office is at 114a Cromwell Road, London, SW7 4ES
- Submitting application in person is only between 9.30-12.00 (tight schedule!)
- Processing time is about 7 working days
- Please photocopy all your passports, including the old ones. Just the information page and pages with VISAs
- The closest photocopier (if they need to ask you to copy things out) is in Biz Internet Cafe in Gloucester Rd (based on experience)
Generally, everything else is similar. For VISA appointment, just come, get a queue number. Go to the kiosk and submit everything. Wait for the receipt, no need to pay for Indonesian. I did have my passport sent back instead of getting it back in the passport office, for this you need to prepare a Special Delivery Envelope (about £6.9?)
The visa finishes pretty quickly actually, and last for 3 months since it’s produced. I applied mine two months before my flight, so it’s quite a waste to apply early.
I hope that helps! I got some questions from my friends about VISA applications. I will add the US one when I bother to write about it, but other than that, here it is!
Short update: US VISA (incomplete, as of 18 March 2018)
Ended up typing some information about this, although not everything, I hope this can help. Generally the same with the others, with some notes:
- Book appointment early
The dates are filled VERY quickly. If you need your passport to travel/ apply for another VISA/ etc., better book the appointment early and work around the dates.
- Be prepared for filling up forms when you book the appointment
You can still save to edit at a later date, but when you submit it, you submit it. Also be prepared to know where to send the passport (hopefully with a VISA) after it finishes. Get ready for Google Map to check the closest warehouse for a cheaper fee.
- Upfront payment
You need to pay after finishing the form. I believe it’s nonrefundable even if you get rejected, so be careful. (still, need to check on this)
- They actually suggest not to buy flight tickets and accommodation beforehand
I guess this is because the rejection rate is quite high. Was actually nicer than Schengen in this regard. If you have a fixed plan already, bring all the bookings.
- Passport photo
You need to take one online when you fill the form, otherwise, need to submit one in the interview. It is very difficult to get your picture accepted as a passport photo. You need a very bright lighting and clear picture of your face (that with a laptop camera, not a good combination)
- Usually valid for 5 years for Indonesian national
- For the interview, you will need to go to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square
As usual, empty up your schedule. Just bring a small bag without any electronics (I think a phone is still OK, but Kindle or Table is not… I need to re-read the page). You’ll need to go through security, wait until your number is called, then get interviewed. As I applied for a conference, the interview went faster than I expected. I just gave the invitation letter, answering a bit about what the conference is about and where then I was allowed to go.
As far as I remember, it finished in about 1 month. I booked a pickup in the nearest warehouse which opens on Saturday. Visited the warehouse on Saturday with the receipt, asked the lady in charge, waiting a bit while they rummaged around mail sacks. Obtained the passport (which fortunately had the VISA)
Do you have a Schengen VISA, Ireland VISA, or US VISA story to tell?