So much has been written about the Schengen visa, but I don’t know of any other South African that has been to all of the Schengen countries, including the 15 additional countries this visa allows you to visit. It only took 45 trips to Europe to do them all.
I lived in England for eight years and I always had a Schengen visa in the event my company needed to send me to a European client on short notice. During that time I successfully applied for six multiple entry Schengen visas. The shortest one was for six months, but the last one was for five years. Like an urban legend no one even believed it existed!
I have now been back in South Africa for nearly four years and it only expired last month. It made me think I should do some research on how the Schengen has changed in the last five years and what I needed if I wanted to renew it.
More about that later, but first let’s look at all the countries you could visit with just this one visa…
Most people can name the 26 Schengen countries (or at least most of them), but few people know that there are a few de facto countries that also require a multiple entry Schengen. These are San Marino, Cyprus, Andorra, Monaco and the Vatican City, so we’re up to 31.
The Balkan countries are all trying to get into the EU, although they might reconsider now. Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo all accept the multiple entry Schengen visa for trips between seven and 30 days. Kosovo’s website said South Africans don’t need a visa, but they would not let me through the border from Macedonia without one. I write about this trip in more detail in another article. 40 already!
Far East Europe: Armenia’s website said I would get a visa on arrival, but I walked into Armenia from Georgia and they would not let me enter the country until I produced a Schengen visa. 41!
The current (2016) migrant crisis might force a few countries to reconsider and obviously Turkey is pushing hard to get in, so we might get to 42, or down to 0. You never know, so while it’s still relevant let’s look at what you need to get the visa:
2016 Multiple entry Schengen visa guide
The basics haven’t really changed in all the time the Schengen has been available and it is true for most visas (I have successfully applied for over 100 visas across the world!). When applying for a visa always remember that they just want to know you are coming over as a tourist, spending your money there and then leaving again. To simplify the requirements:
Who are you (proof of identity & ID photos)?
How are you getting there and back home (tickets)?
Where are you going (itinerary)?
Where will you stay (hotel bookings)?
Will you go back where you came from (employment letter)? You have to promise! Seriously, you have to go back where you came from!!!
Who is going to pay for it all (bank statement)?
What happens if things go wrong (travel insurance)?
Obviously for a multiple entry Schengen visa you need to visit more than one country in the Schengen region.
I found that France issued the longest visas, so I always scheduled my longest time in France. It’s also one of my favourite countries, so no complaints from me. The rules state that on a multiple entry visa you should apply to the country where you spend the most time.
You should have travel insurance that is unlimited or for as long as possible. It has to be valid in all the countries and should include expatriation to your home country if you get ill. I had comprehensive travel insurance through my credit card that had no end date, so that’s why they gave me a 5-year visa.
Make sure you answer all the questions truthfully when you fill in the application form and for the interview.
Get an appointment with the closest embassy and take cash with. Not all of them have card machines.
Remember to make copies of ALL the documents and take the originals with. They check that it’s a real copy and keep them. You take the originals home. Simple.
Always check the website of the embassy you applying to for information. The rules keep changing and blog articles stay online for years. You will only get the latest accurate information directly from the relevant embassy.