On my KLM flight to Delhi from Colombia, a few hours before I would land, I slid into the realization that I had to do CELTA in Hungary. And with that realization, another thing also became clear: I had to apply for a Schengen Student Visa.
Ok, I think I need to step back a little and connect the dots.
Here is the thing. I had been teaching English in Ecuador for almost a year and then made my way to Colombia. I got a Colombia Volunteer Visa to teach English and everything was looking great.
Yet, long story short, things did not work out in Colombia and I needed to come back to India. And while I already had quite a bit of experience in teaching English, I wanted to do a professional English teacher training.
So I looked around and CELTA Seemed like a great option. Now before I go into the details of the Schengen Study Visa Application and all that, let me tell you a bit about CELTA for those who are interested in becoming ESL Teachers.
What is CELTA Cambridge Teacher Certification?
CELTA from Cambridge is a qualification for teaching English as a foreign language, and it is probably the most well-recognized English teaching qualification.
I wanted to go to Hungary for a one-month CELTA certificate Course from IH Budapest, which is one of the most well-known places for doing a CELTA. Plus to be honest, I could also use a bit of traveling in Europe.
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Do You Really Need Schengen Student Visa?
Well, that depends.
For me, it was a tough call between a tourist visa and a study visa.
When I called my institute they told me most candidates apply for a tourist visa as this was a very short course.
However, a Schengen tourist visa requires a certain amount of bank balance statements and a few more requisites. Plus the purpose of my travel was not sightseeing or visiting friends. It was to study in Europe, albeit for a short term.
That’s why I decided to apply for a Schengen study visa. And understand that what I received is a Schengen Short-term visa that allows you to be in the Schengen zone for 90 days.Now, if your study or training course lasts longer than 90 days, you should apply for a Long-Stay Schegnen Study Visa.
For instance, here is an article from a fellow non-native English teacher who applied for a long-stay Spain Student Visa to do the TEFL certification in Spain.
What are Schengen Student Visa Requirements?
Here are all the documents required when applying for a Schengen Student Visa.
1. Invitation Letter from Institute/University
This is without doubt the most important document for your Europe Study Visa.
You need an invitation letter from your institute or university stating that they want to admit you to the respective course.
I in fact paid the full course fee and requested them a letter stating they had received the full fee of the course. Then, the IH Budapest sent me this letter as soon as you confirmed my admission by paying the deposit amount.
2. Accommodation Confirmation
This is the evidence of where you are staying during your time in the Schengen zone. There are different ways to do this.
You need to have a contract with a homeowner in the Schengen state where you will be studying. This contract would specify the address and other information details about the place, you, and, the landlord.
Usually, it would be in the local language of the country where you will be staying.
You can get a dormitory contract signed between you and an official of a dormitory in the country where you will be studying.
Alternatively, you could also book an Airbnb or get fake bookings from booking.com or from your travel agent if you don’t want to confirm your actual stay in the beginning and plan your stay once you get there.
Letter of Invitation
In my case, my institute had booked accommodation for me. This was not paid for but the institute claimed that the booking was confirmed. This accommodation was booked for me for one month.
However, I wanted some extra time in Europe to travel around after I had finished the course.
Since it is important to show to the embassy accommodation confirmation for the entire period of your stay I requested my institute to furnish an accommodation letter which said that the accommodation was booked for two months instead of one.
My institute was happy to do this for me.A letter written by a resident in the country you are applying to study. In this letter, they will confirm that you will be staying at their home during the period you will be studying. However, this option often involves lots of extra documentation.
3. Travel Itinerary for Schengen Study Visa
I have never fretted much about this one. A lot of friends worry too much about this and I am like: Thank God there are refundable tickets.
The fact is that when you apply for a Schengen Visa or any other visa, most countries don’t expect you to have actual flight tickets or train tickets, or bus tickets.
What they are really trying to establish is whether you are clear about your itinerary.
As I see it, there are 2 ways to go about it.
Buy Fully Refundable Tickets
You could buy fully refundable tickets. Fully refundable tickets are usually more expensive. KLM usually offers a 100% refund if you are not able to board the flight due to visa issues. Check the refund conditions for this.
There are some third-party agents who offer this also. You need to keep on digging.
Rent a Ticket
You can buy dummy tickets from various websites. Although there are many websites that provide these services, for what it is worth, we recommend Visa Reservation.
You could also ask a travel agent to furnish the same for you. These dummy tickets show booking if the booking number is put on the website to check. At the same time, while you wait for your actual visa, you could ask your travel agent to hold bookings for you.
This means that they would block a particular seat for you at the current price and you won’t have to fret over flight fares increasing many-fold till you get the visa!
Learn more about getting a flight reservation from India for Schengen visa.
4. Schengen Visa Travel Insurance from India
You would need to buy travel medical insurance that would cover the entire period of your stay in the Schengen area. You can choose any of the list of approved travel insurance companies for a Schengen visa in India.
Safety Wing is one of the best travel insurance providers and it covers all kinds of hospitalizations including COVID-related ones, trip interruption, stolen/lost luggage, and in case you lose Indian passport.
It is pretty cheap and can be extended when you are outside of India.
The insurance should have medical coverage of at least Euro 30,000, and it must cover medical evacuation/ repatriation.
5. Bank Balance for Schengen Visa
The embassy requests to see a recent bank statement for the last three months. It’s safe to have an amount of about 4000 euros- or above. It’s advisable to use an older account instead of a newer one here.
If you are not employed or don’t have a source of income, you could use the bank statements of your guardian (parent/husband/wife).
In this case, you would also require a letter from the concerned person stating that they are financing your travels abroad and take full responsibility in case of exigencies that you might encounter on your trip.
If your trip is being sponsored by someone else except for the legal guardians you might be also advised to get a no-objection letter from your legal guardians or parents.
Also if you don’t have so much liquid cash in your account a statement of your fixed deposits or even property papers could do the trick. Basically, try to show as much as you can.
My mother was the guarantor for me and provided all the required documents such as bank statements, a letter, and income tax reports for the last 3 years.
And you need to get this statement from the bank and it has to be signed and stamped. You will have to provide the originals for this. So don’t show up with the printout of your bank statements from the online portal.
The amount can vary depending on the country where you will study.
For example, students in Italy should have at least €448 per month and also obtain a residency permit.
Getting a visa to study in Germany requires you to show at least €853 per month, and You will have to pay a processing fee of €75 via a bank transfer to study in Germany too.
6. Employment proof
Your employment status in India will factor in here.
If you are employed, you need to show:
- No objection letter from your employer
- Salary slips for the last 3 months
- An employment contract or offer letter
- Leave permission from your employer( better if stamped and signed)
- ITR (Income Tax Return) for the last two years
If you are a student:
- A NOC from your school/university.
If you are a student you would need this letter from your HOD.
If you are going during a break for example a summer vacation you need a letter from the university/college/department stating the institute will remain shut during your travels.
- Proof of enrollment such as an ID card
If you are self-employed:
- A copy of your business license in India- CIN certificate/ LLP certificate/GST certificate/Udhyog Aadhar memorandum/Import Export certificate, depending on your company
- Company bank statements for the last six months
- ITR for the last two years
- Rental income from properties in case you have them
- Pension statements for the last 6 months
7. Schengen Visa Photo Requirements
2 recent passport-size pictures with a whole-face capture with a light background, adhering to the specifications mentioned on VFS global.
7. Evidence of Language Proficiency
This might not be a requirement for every country in the Schengen zone, but for Hungary it sure is.
The embassy also asks for proof of proficiency in English or Hungarian. For Hungarian, you will be interviewed by someone from the embassy in the language to judge your level of proficiency.
For English, the VFS center insists on an IELTS score. In my case, I got a medium of instruction certificate from my university stating that the medium of instruction for my course was English. My degree is also in English.
I phoned and wrote to the Embassy of Hungary to ask them if I could use this certificate instead of an IELTS score since this was a very expensive exam to take and it didn’t make sense in my case to take this exam for a two-month visa in Hungary.
I mailed to all the email addresses mentioned on the website of the embassy of Hungary and I got a response from one stating that this medium of instruction certificate would work.
I took a printout of this conversation and included this in my file.
I also got a letter from my institute in Hungary stating that they had interviewed me to judge my level of English and felt that my proficiency in English was suitable to take the course with them.
8. Schengen Study Visa Cover Letter
You need a letter addressed to the Embassy of Hungary explaining your travel plans. My agent advised me to mention my previous international travels as well.
This could demonstrate to show that I was already well traveled and that I have a clean traveling record which basically means I am not gonna try to settle down in Europe since I have not done such a thing before.
The person studying your application is really only trying to judge if you are trying to immigrate to the country by entering on a study visa.
9. Hungary Schengen Student Visa Application Form
You need to fill out the visa application form that you can download from the VFS website or the embassy website.
If you are not sure about your plans too much apply for multiple entries instead of a single entry so that you can go in and out of the Schengen area easily.
10. Educational Certificates
You need to submit a copy of your degree and transcripts. The transcripts will need to be apostilled. You will take the originals to the VFS submission center for reference and a copy of each for submission.
You don’t need Police verification for short-term Schengen study visas. However, if it is a long-term study visa, you surely will need a police clearance certificate from India.
How to Apply for Schengen Student Visa?
You can apply for a Schengen Study Visa directly at the consulate/embassy of the country where you will study or at a visa application center through an official agency such as VFS.
In India, for most Schengen countries, you can apply for Schengen Visa only through VFS. Here is how it went for me.
Step 1: Register on VFS
So to apply for the Schengen visa from India, the first thing I did was to register myself VFS Global as a new user.
After that, I booked an appointment by logging in and opting for Start New Booking.
After this, you would need to choose a date and time and confirm your appointment.
Once it’s confirmed, you will receive an email from VFS with an appointment letter. If you don’t receive an email, you can email it to yourself using the “Email your appointment” option.
Make sure to print the appointment letter and carry it with you when you go to the VFS center.
Step 2: Show up at VFS
Here is what happens at VFS Visa Application Centers.
- Carry all documents with you and the appointment letter. Sms can work too.
- Be there at least 15 minutes before your appointment time.
- There are different counters for different countries. Find the one where you will be going and get a token for that.
- Go to the counter where they will check your documents. Hope you didn’t miss something.
Don’t panic if you did. If it can not be fixed right there by taking a printout or something, you would need to book a new appointment.
- Provide Biometric fingerprint data. And they will click a picture of you there as well.
- Pay the visa fees.
Most VFS centers only accept cash. So carry cash with you. In some places, they do accept cards.
Step 3: Attend Schengen Visa Interview
Once you apply, you can track your application on VFS. You might need to go for an interview at the embassy/consulate as well. Note that Hungary has an embassy in Delhi and a consulate in Mumbai.
Depending on where you live, your application will be processed either by the consulate or the embassy.
Hungary Consulate in Mumbai
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Telangana, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Hungary Embassy in Delhi
Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, West-Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Andaman, and Nicobar Islands, Sikkim, Chandigarh, Ladakh
But in my case, I didn’t have to go through an interview.
Step 4: Collect Your Passport
You will have a tracking number for when you feel restless along this whole visa process.
I went to the VFS center with the acknowledgment slip and received my passport with the visa stickers. You can also opt for the courier service to send your passport to your home address.
Schengen Study Visa: FAQS
1.Can I work while I study with Schengen Visa?
With the Student Schengen Visa, you, unfortunately, can not work legally.
Some long-stay Study Visas permit students to work for a limited number of hours per week.
In my opinion, it is better to stick to just studying so that you don’t break any laws and don’t get thrown under the immigration bus.
2. How Long Does it Take to Get Student Visa in Schengen Zone?
For me, it took less than 2 weeks.
The actual processing time can vary depending on where you live and the country where you will study.
3. How Long is the Schengen Student Visa Valid?
The Validity of a Student Schengen Visa is a maximum of up to 90 days within a six-month period.
I got it for 2 months, based on the letter from my institute and accommodation.
4. Can I Extend Schengen Study Visa?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is that in some very specific cases, you can, for example
- humanitarian reasons
- some kind of unforeseeable circumstances
You cannot extend your Schengen student visa for the purpose of continuing your studies.
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