Even though one Schengen visa allows you to freely travel within all Schengen countries, and the visa rules and procedures are the same for all Schengen countries, in order to balance the work load and the traffic, certain rules have been established regarding which country’s embassy/consulate you need to apply at for a Schengen visa.
Regarding applying for a Schengen visa, the Schengen countries have strict and clear rules. Therefore, it is very important to apply at the appropriate Schengen embassy/consulate to avoid getting your application rejected and/or delayed.
Generally, you need to apply for the Schengen visa in the country and in the jurisdiction where you permanently reside. It is not based on your citizenship (in case it is different than your permanent residence country). In many large countries, there are multiple consulates in addition to the embassy for a given Schengen country. In that case, you need to apply to the embassy/consulate that has the jurisdiction for your home address.
Some consulates may be willing to accept your Schengen visa application even if you don’t permanently reside in their jurisdiction, provided you are able to justify why you can’t apply for the Schengen visa in your place of residence.
What Are the Criteria Regarding Where to Apply?
The following criteria would determine where you can apply for Schengen visa:
- The number of countries you will be visiting
- The number of days you will be spending in each of those countries
- In case you will be visiting more than one Schengen country, the country where you will enter first.
How to Determine Your Designated Schengen Embassy/Consulate
When determining where to apply, you should keep the following rules in mind:
- If you are visiting one Schengen country, you will need to apply at the embassy/consulate of that country.
- If you intend to visit several Schengen countries, you must apply for a visa at the embassy/consulate of the country which is your main destination. To determine your main destination, find out the country within the Schengen area where you are going to spend the greatest number of nights.
- If you intend to visit several Schengen countries, and if you don’t have a main destination or if you are going to spend an equal number of nights in multiple Schengen countries, you must apply for a visa at the embassy/consulate of the country which is your first port of entry.
- If you are applying for the visas with limited territorial validity, you need to apply to the concerned embassy/consulate.
- If no consulate exists in your country of residence for your Schengen destination, you need to apply at the honorary consulate that represents the other country, which is a consulate authorized to issue visas on behalf of another country.
You are not required to enter the Schengen area through the country that issued your visa. Your main destination may be different than your first destination.
In some countries, the Schengen embassy or the consulate handles the visa applications themselves. In many other countries, they have outsourced the application process to a VAC – Visa Application Center.
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Visa Application Center (VAC)
A Visa Application Center (VAC) is an exclusive third-party service provider to whom the Schengen embassy/consulate has authorized some of the visa application process steps. Once the VAC receives your application, they will check for accuracy, and if complete, they will forward it to the appropriate Schengen embassy/consulate.
- Even though some Schengen countries may generally be easier than others to apply for Schengen visa, you must follow the rules as described above.
- If your itinerary is flexible where you can change it so that you can become eligible to apply at the easier Schengen consulate, you can do that.
- If you apply at the wrong Schengen embassy/consulate, your application most likely will be rejected, and you will be asked to apply at the correct one. As the application fees are non-refundable, you will have to pay the fees again and complete the application all over again, which would be more time for you.