Sunday, August 5

Securing of a Europe (Schengen) Visa from France Embassy in the Philippines: Amazing 2018 France Adventure #1

My travel to France this year brought me to so many adventures months even before I left for the trip. My decision to join Transpyrenea 2018 brought me to so many experiences. 

Months after the acceptance of my application of interest to join the race (Transpyrenea) mid last year, the ballot for UTMB opened. My thought, after my DNS in 2013 and was rejected for a lottery last year, this year could give me an assured slot for next year if not accepted this year. But alas, I was accepted to the lottery this year. Now I have two big races on the beginning and end of the same month of August this year Transpyrenea and UTMB. Since then, it has been a puzzle to me how will I do it, how will I leave from work, how will I train for it out of my very busy work schedule.

Making arrangements for the trip itself, the preparation of the mandatory gears, complying to the medical requirements,  among others,  I have to squeeze in to my daily busy life at work. It took me a while to decide to book for a ticket and to process my visa. Until we got a news that Transpyrenea will not push through as a race this year but there will be group of registered runners who will do it as an unofficial race self supported and self navigating following the same route. I decided to push through but a week after the date they started.

Now the visa part. I cant leave from work, I only had limited time to prepare all documents, fast forward I only had on the day of my original date of departure had my visa figured out and launched following the online visa application.

So here I go. With so little time left I had no choice but process my Schengen visa. Though I had already purchased my ticket, I do not know if I can really fly on my intended day of departure.

Being selected to participate in Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) or any European race does not assure any runner of a Schengen visa. One still has to prepare all the necessary documents and submit it to the Embassy of the European country where you are going, for UTMB or Transpyrenea,  in France Embassy in the Philippines. 

List of requirements are found at the  website for France Embassy Below are what I prepared, in addition to what were stated in the website and I prepared 2 copies of each:

- Back and forth plane ticket
- Travel insurance for the duration of the travel
- Proof of income
*Bank Certificate and Bank Statement for the past 3 months - in my own experience this does not have to be too big, mine did not reach a P100,000.00 pesos when I applied. A lesser amount is okey for as long you can show that you got a regular income, there is a cash flow into your account every month, your bank account did not have a big amount of cash all of a sudden in one time.
*Employment Certificate, Memo of Promotion from work, letter of salary increase, employment contracts
*Income Tax Return (ITR 2316)
- Proof of Accommodation ( Email confirmation of the payment and other exchange of emails)
- Detailed Itinerary of Travel
- Letter addressed to the Embassy stating about your travel, why you want to join the race, why is the race  important to you, tell them it is your dream race, assure them that you will return to the Philippines, etc.
- Letter from the race organizer, include the very first communication that you got through email, including the payments for the race that you made.
- List of participants showing your name, if available
- Photocopy of your previous race certificates (so it is important to collect all race certificates that you can get)
- Photo copy of your bibs or race numbers
- Photo copy of your birth certificate
- Passport valid to travel for 6 months
- Passport size photo ID with white back ground
- Photo copy of all the visa issued to your passport on your past travels. You may include the travel stamps stamped in your passport (though mine they did not ask for it, but I guess this will also show what countries you have been to)

With all the documents ready, go online at France Embassy Website Open the submit application tab. Make an account, fill up the necessary fields.Go out of this site.

Go to visa.france website and make an account using the same email address. Choose an appointment date.

Print all the documents, filled up application form and confirmation of date of appointment.

Be at Mega Plaza an hour before your appointment time. They accept appointment as early as 7:00am which is convenient for working runner like me. Look for the line of the country you are applying for, in my case France.

To avoid hassle, do not bring any bag, ladies bag for that matter. Visa applicants are the only one allowed inside and can only bring all the necessary documents, wallet, ball pen and cellphone. If one is bringing a bag, you can leave it in a locker for P75.00 no time limit. Bu the thing is, hassle, the line is long, it can cause delay.

Have all your documents photocopied most especially all the visa on your passport. There is a photocopier machine inside, you will only pay P45.00 no matter how many number of pages you will need a copy, in my case 9 pages, but then again, there is a long line, another delay. Hassle.

Bring enough money. Though the website says fee is only 65.00euro, there might be additional charges, in my case finger printing and service charges summing up to P5, 300.00. There are ATM machines at the ground floor of the building, but then again, you will still go out which causes another delay.

They process pretty fast. Granting all requirements with duplicate copy of each, in less than 2 hours application will already be launched and accepted. No interview with the Consul, only agents at the counter that accepts the papers. And yes they release the result of the vise in 48hours. I finally filed my visa in a Wednesday. My ticket was scheduled on a Monday, 8:00am. They take note of that on my application papers. They released my multiple entry 40-day visa in the afternoon of Friday. Isn't that fast?

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