The Schengen Visa: Bureaucratic Nightmare or Convenient Travel Tool?

Schengen VisaBefore traveling abroad, one must brace themselves for a bureaucratic process that is frustrating in the best of times and anger or despair inducing in the worst. Today we’re going to discuss a travel requirement that involves a process which, when not handled properly, can become infuriating: obtaining a Schengen visa.


What Is the Schengen Visa?


In order to travel abroad, one must first obtain a passport. Passports beef up international travel security and help keep everyone safe. But having a passport is not necessarily enough to allow you entry into another country. Most countries require some sort of visa, either applied for in advance or when you reach the country’s borders, before you can enter. The Schengen visa makes travel in Europe much more convenient as it allows free travel within 25 different countries through just one visa.


While it currently covers 25 European countries, that number is growing. The Bulgarian newspaper, Standart News, reported in 2012 that Bulgaria was close to being added to the Schengen visa-free area. So as valuable as the Schengen visa is now, it stands to become even more valuable as a time-saving device for European travelers in the future.


Applying for a Schengen Visa


Travelers must apply for the Schengen visa through the embassy of the country in which they will spend the most days during their trip. Believe it or not, this introduces a pretty big potential for problems for travelers. Many travelers assume that the process of applying for a Schengen visa is universal amongst all member countries, but it isn’t. In an August article about the Polish-Ukrainian border, The Economist interviewed students who’d applied for the Schengen visa in various countries and they stated that the process of getting the visa in Poland was fair and straightforward. The article goes on to describe the process of obtaining the visa in other countries as, “consular sadism.”


Sadism and Visa Applications? Oh Yeah


Embassies and consulates aren’t exactly known for their information sharing or accessibility. Often, travelers who attempt to get information from an embassy or consulate will find that they get little communication and what tidbits of information they manage to piece together are frequently wrong.


This information bottleneck isn’t just frustrating, it’s also time consuming and dispiriting. Take the traveler who recently told us about his experience trying to secure a Schengen visa—which he did … after four trips to the country’s local embassy. Initially, he tried to call the local embassy for the country he planned to spend the most time and found that no one would pick up the phone. He then applied for his Schengen visa and was told he needed international travel health insurance in order to have his application approved. He obtained what he thought was the appropriate insurance coverage and only then—after his coverage was approved—was he told by the embassy that he’d secured too little coverage. He applied for more insurance and, breathing a sweet sigh of relief that he would finally be free to travel, went proudly back to the embassy only to find out that not only did he need to have the right amount of insurance but he also needed the original policy documents from the international travel health insurance company in order to proceed.


Preventing Visa Problems


While it shouldn’t take a travel expert to apply for a visa for international travel, unfortunately in this environment it may. Rather than attempt to piece together the various requirements for the visa application of your country and hire a team of psychics and mind readers to anticipate the needs of the consulate that you need to work through, a better idea is to give us a call. No, we don’t have any psychics or mind readers on retainer, but we do have decades of experience in helping our customers save time and money by traveling abroad with the right insurance coverage.


There’s no need to expose yourself to the consular sadism mentioned in The Economist’s article. Just pick up the phone and give us a call. Tell us what country you plan to spend the most time in during your travels abroad and we’ll help you sort through the visa requirements so you’re less likely to shroud your trip in bureaucratic misery.


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