Schengen Visa Application in the UK

First off, this should not be taken as official information, and is more or less a personal account of our own experience of a Schengen Visa application in the UK (2023). This started with research into local Schengen embassies and consulates in Northern Ireland (found none) and so we ended up flying for the Schengen application in Edinburgh. Our visa appointment was on a Monday so we travelled in on Sunday and back out again Tuesday.

The original application is for the EU Family Member Visa at a consulate in Edinburgh but failing to provide full documentation (marriage certificate translation wasn’t legalized) we were rushed to the outsourcing offices to apply for a Schengen tourist visa instead. After 17-days the passport is returned with a single entry 15-day tourist visa and what was originally inspired by cheap package holidays to the med cost us roughly £3,000 for a 6-day holiday with all the planning/preparation.

Anyway, for more up-to-date and official information on applying for a Schengen Visa in the UK you are best to contact the Schengen state in which you wish to apply. To get an idea of the processes and experiences involved we aim to share them all below.

Introduction to the Schengen Visa

We’ve been in a bit of a weird position since moving to Northern Ireland where Fanfan (Thai national) is a resident of the UK as the spouse of a European citizen due to my dual citizenship of both the UK and Ireland. This residency (BRP) was through what was known as the EU Settlement Scheme which was a post-Brexit scheme where she was given pre-settled status having been living in the UK before 31 December 2020.

Can You Travel to Europe with UK Residency (BRP)?

However, while she is recognised as a European Citizen by the UK Government, this is not the same when visiting Europe or even Ireland where she is not considered a resident. This is because she lives in Northern Ireland, in the UK, which is no longer part of the EU since Brexit. So to visit independent European countries or the Schengen region she will need to apply for visas before travelling.

Without a visa for European countries or the Schengen travel zone, we were more or less limited in short-haul travel options and had to fly outside Europe for our holidays. For this, the nearest country with visa-free entry and convenient flights was Turkey which we covered on a 10-day road trip from Istanbul. We then considered Morocco but the only convenient flights were through Malaga Airport (in Spain).

Can I Travel to Ireland with UK Residency (BRP)?

The Ireland short-stay visa waiver programme allows citizens (of certain countries) with UK visas to visit Ireland without needing an Irish visa. However this is only for short-stay visa holders and does not include non-EU citizens living in the UK with UK residency. This means applying for a visa for travel to and from Ireland which scuppered our usual travels through Dublin airport when on short-stay tourist visas.

Otherwise we were limited to travel within the UK which is no problem for citizens with UK residency status in Northern Ireland. While a passport or residency permit is not necessary for travel between Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales, it is best to bring it for flights and sea crossings, just in case. But we had pretty much exhausted all local travel including road trips in Scotland, England, Wales, and have covered Ireland (video below) extensively on previous short-term UK visas.

Schengen Visa Application in Northern Ireland

I have no definitive answer here (would be interested in other’s experiences) but we had no luck when messaging various consular generals etc. over the space of 2-3 years so again things may have changed. But the usual response was to contact the embassy in London or the Consulates in Edinburgh. So I had no luck applying for a Schengen Visa in Northern Ireland.

With no luck locally in Northern Ireland, we tried the embassies in Dublin but the usual response was that they only process Schengen Visas for residents of Ireland, not Northern Ireland, and to contact our local embassies in the UK. Another option we found was applying by mail if she already had biometrics taken, which she had, but again no luck with this at any embassy. In case circumstances have changed I’ve included some of the local embassy contacts in Northern Ireland below.

List of European Embassies/Consulates in Northern Ireland

Note, there is only one Embassy for each Schengen country in the UK which is likely found in London. Then there would be a Consulate General normally found in Edinburgh. Each maybe responsible for different regions of the UK. Then there are a number of Honorary Consuls scattered around the country. The roles of these Honorary Consuls are generally limited and they often work on an appointment-only basis with no set office opening hours. They will likely forward you to the correct Embassy or Consulate for Schengen Visa Applications.

Schengen Visa Application in the UK?

After 2 or so years of planning and then cancelling travel plans, having been unable to get a Schengen visa locally, we decided to just book a holiday and then fly across to Edinburgh to apply at one of the Schengen consulates. I won’t say which country/member state as all procedures should be the same, and it is best to contact embassies/consulates directly for direction.

So, in this instance, Edinburgh was the designated consulate for residents of Northern Ireland, but other Schengen Visa Application in the UK may be required to travel to the embassies in London etc. This was also for an EU Family Member Visa which, in this instance, takes place at the Embassy itself while normal short stay/tourist/visitor visas are often processed by outsourced companies like VFS Global, BLS etc.

An appointment is then scheduled at the Edinburgh consulate to submit visa application forms, documents and biometric data… We then booked flights and a 2-night stay to give time to complete the application in Edinburgh arriving on a Sunday for application on the Monday morning (11:00AM). In total, we spent around £1000 on this short stay in Edinburgh which already is a fair chunk of our holiday budget.

The EU Family Member Visa (Schengen)

Aka EU Relative Visa. The Schengen Family member Visa is a visa which allows the holder to travel as a tourist to or through the Schengen countries within its validity. The visa for family members of a Union citizen entitles the holder to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. It also allows transit through the territory and airports. Of course there are various family relationships but in our case Fanfan is my spouse.

List of Required Documents for EU Family Member Visa?

At the time we were asked for (simplified):

  1. Valid Passport.
  2. Completed and signed Schengen visa application form.
  3. Recent passport colour photograph.
  4. For non-British citizens: UK residence permit.
  5. Evidence of travelling with the EU family member (e.g. flight tickets, accommodation)
  6. Original and photocopy of passport or National ID card of the EU/EEA National.
  7. Original and copy of proof of residence (bank statements, household bills).
  8. For Spouses: Recent original and copy of marriage certificate. If the marriage is not registered in a European Union country, it must be translated into (language of EU state) or English by a sworn translator and apostilled or legalised.

EU Family Member Visa Application

So we were asked to bring these original documents to the arranged appointment in Edinburgh as well as photocopies of each. A pre-paid special delivery envelope up to 500g must also be provided and photographs or screenshots of documents are not accepted nor is the use of tape or staples etc. Although rules may obviously vary between embassies.

We then flew into Edinburgh on a Sunday ready for the Monday morning appointment (11:00AM). And by 11:30AM we found ourselves waiting outside the embassy, in the rain, for an Uber to take us to the visa outsourcing offices near the docks in Leith. While we did have a translated copy of the marriage certificate it was not “apostilled or legalised” and we therefore failed the requirements for the EU Family Member Visa.

Schengen Tourist Visa Application

After failing the requirements for the EU Family Visa we were fortunate enough to be fast-tracked to the outsourcing offices by the embassy where we would instead apply for a tourist visa (normally an appointment is needed). These offices, both VFS and BLS, are found at the Leith docks area (directions here) and it costs us around £8-10 by Uber to/from city centre areas. Fortunately the application form is the same so few edits are needed but the required documents vary for the Schengen tourist visa application in the UK.

List of Required Documents for Schengen Tourist Visa?

I’ll not go into this in much detail (check with the embassy etc to be sure) but these are the general documents required for a Schengen Tourist Visa Application in the UK:

  1. Valid Passport.
  2. Completed Schengen visa application form.
  3. Recent passport colour photograph
  4. Round trip reservation or itinerary
  5. Travel insurance policy
  6. Proof of accommodation
  7. Proof of financial means

What if I Don’t have the Required Documents?

We originally prepared for the EU Family Visa which requires different documents to the Tourist Visa. It was also midday so we had no time to find or to print the additional documents. Fortunately we were allowed to continue with the Schengen Tourist Visa application and were asked to forward the missing documents to a given email before 09:00AM the next working day.

The documents we missed include:

  • 1. 3-month bank statement
  • 2. Travel Insurance
  • 3. Proof of (self) employment
  • 4. Flight Booking with payment details

And now I wish I brought my laptop to Edinburgh.

So it was a bit of a rush now, back to the hotel in an Uber, via a nearby Aldi for alcohol. It had been a stressful day. Online we purchased some cheap travel insurance then phoned my parents back home to access the documents on my laptop. After about an hour I had the required documents attached and forwarded to the given email. Just in time for our pre-booked Johnnie Walker: Journey of Flavour experience.

Additional Fees for Schengen Tourist Visa Application

There were also additional fees when applying for the Schengen Visa at the outsourcing offices unlike through the embassy itself (at least as a family member of an EU citizen). So the additional fees start to rack up with service fee (£14+), a “premium” which I think was for our last minute appointment (£60), “courier” for return postage of the passport (£24+), SMS (£2), and this added an extra £100+ than planned.

How Long to Process the Schengen Visa?

Normally the processing time for a Schengen Visa Application in the UK is 15 calendar days. Our experience was slightly longer having put the application in on Monday 31st July and we received the passport back by mail on Thursday 17th August. So 17 days in our case.

However this delay may be due to a request for additional documents (8th August) which was made by email by the consulate in Edinburgh asking for the sponsor’s employment letter and payslips and a 3-month bank statement with the sponsor’s name on it (my previous 3-month statement didn’t have my name).

So within an hour or so, I forwarded my tax return/self-assessment for self-employment in the UK, as well as my savings account and a 3-month digital bank account. The pending status of the application must then have been lifted.

Schengen Visa Decision

We asked during the tourist application about our chances of receiving a 2-year multi-entry visa but were told it’s more likely to be 6-months. In the end we received 15-days single entry to cover the quick 6-day trip already planned to the med. Of course it was not the result we hoped for but it is very much our fault for having messed up the original documentation for the EU Family Member Visa.

What would normally be a cheap package holiday for local UK/EU nationals cost us around £3000 in total. We’ve penned a similar budget for Japan later this year. But there is also the stress and uncertainty, the documentation, the added time and travel, and it is scary in itself to hand over the passport and have it returned by Royal Mail. Losing that passport would bring a whole new set of problems.

Legalising the Marriage Certificate?

The embassy at the time confirmed that legalized documents were a common hiccup with the EU Family Member Visa and shared the various options which themselves take a lot of legwork. And while our marriage is recognised in the UK, it is normal that marriage certificates need to be legalised for international use (i.e. when travelling with a spouse to another country). We now need our marriage certificate to be “apostilled or legalised”.

I hoped to maybe just nip around to the local registrar’s offices or pop the documents in for a round trip in the post. But again it’s not quite that simple. Checking the website we find that “You cannot get documents issued outside the UK legalised using this service – get them legalised in the country they were issued”. So it is possible at the Thai Embassy in London (info here), at the same time, we are more likely to be in Thailand (Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand) than Edinburgh or London, and we have no desire to go through the stress like before.

Schengen Visa Application in Your Home Country

So what next? Thailand, I guess? This is actually our 4th Schengen Visa, the most recent being a 2-year multi-entry visa from the German Embassy in Thailand. But this expired during Covid. So while we technically live in Europe right now we actually feel further away than ever. As we could easily just apply for Schengen Visas in Bangkok and then hop on random flights to Europe. So we’ll just hold off for now.

Otherwise we do still have a tick-list or two to complete including eating every National dish of Europe. And aside from extensive travel in the UK/Ireland we have travelled together to France x 2, Spain x 2, Italy x 2, Switzerland x 2, Germany, Austria, San Marino, Vatican City, Andorra, Monaco, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech, Poland, Turkey. Next on the list were Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania although they’ll now have to wait. Otherwise it’s just a blip in our plans and there’s still lots of adventure to come.

What are the Schengen Countries?

The 27 Schengen countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland

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