Travelling to Europe

I often get questions about the process of travelling from Jamaica to Europe. To some the question might seem ridiculous because their answer would simply be, just buy a ticket and go. Well, I am here to say that it’s a very relevant question that I don’t see a lot of travel bloggers addressing. Yes we know, Paris is beautiful, it’s the city of love, blah blah blah, we see the pictures –  but let’s get real, how do we get there? Let me tell you, I totally understand the struggle. The first time I was planning a trip to Europe I had a lot of questions, especially about the visa process because travelling on a Jamaican passport anywhere outside of the Caribbean or U.S. can appear to be an intimidating experience, but I can assure you it’s not.

When planning your fantastic trip to Europe, my first advice is to NOT BOOK, and I repeat, DO NOT BOOK anything until you get that visa. Yes, I know the ticket you are seeing is dirt cheap-you need to buy it now now now or you’ll lose it-but my advice remains DO NOT BOOK until you have secured your visa.

When travelling to Europe on a Jamaican passport you will first need to obtain a Schengen visa. This visa will allow you to travel to countries that are a part of the European Union. So if you are planning on country hopping throughout Europe (which I highly recommend) you only need to get one visa. Please note that this does not apply to the United Kingdom. You will still need to get a UK visa to enter the UK on a Jamaican passport. So if the UK is included as a destination for your European trip then you need both a UK visa and a Schengen visa.

I know a lot of Jamaicans have experience applying for a United States visa or know someone that has and may feel that that knowledge is sufficient for all visa applications, but trust me the process of applying for a Schengen visa is quite different. No need to worry though, I am here to walk you through the process based on my recent experience and give you some tips. Please remember that this is based on my experience and with that I cannot guarantee that this will be the same for you.

The first thing you need to know when applying for a Schengen visa is that, the country you plan to visit first (your “point of entry”) is the country whose embassy you should get your Schengen visa from. This means that if you want to do a European tour and visit, let’s say Paris then Rome and thereafter Barcelona, you will need to get the Schengen visa from the French embassy since Paris will be your first stop. Once you’ve gotten the visa- and sticking to our Paris-Rome-Barcelona trip- you will not need to get a different Schengen visa to travel to Italy and then Spain.

It is also important to note that the embassy of the country you are planning on visiting first may not necessarily be the one processing your Schengen visa application. For example, when I applied for a Schengen visa to visit Greece (my first point of entry), I had to go through the Spanish embassy in Jamaica to process my application. Tricky right?! My advice to you is that when you decide on the country that will be your first point of entry, you should call or email the consulate in Jamaica and find out which embassy you should apply to.

Now let’s talk about the requirements:

  1. Fee
    • The visa processing fee for adults and children 12 years and older is JMD$8,101.00.
    • The fee for children between 6 and 12 years is JMD$4,726.00
    • The fee is non-refundable
    • You are required to pay in cash and walk with the exact amount. Don’t expect to get change.
  1. Schengen visa application form
    • The form is self explanatory and reasonably easy to complete without assistance.
    • It must be dated and signed by the applicant.
    • Link to form
  1. One passport size photo
    • You don’t need to worry about the dimension for the picture as no specific requirements are given for that. Just ensure that it is passport size.
  1. Valid Passport
    • Ensure that you have at least 6 months from the time you plan to travel before your passport expires.
    • Where the passport has been issued less than one year prior to the Schengen Visa application submission, you must also present the previous passport.
  1. Photocopy of passport data page
    • This is the page in your passport with your photograph
  1. Letter from the bank
    • It must be recent
    • Clearly states the account balance for the last three months
    • Indicates the individual monthly balances
    • Gives the date of the last deposit, and the currency.
    • There is information provided as to the minimum amount that should be in your account, however I do not think you should let this requirement stop you from applying.
  1. Travel itinerary
    • Must indicate the name of passenger (it is not necessary to purchase the airline ticket prior to the submission of the visa application)
    • At this point you are probably wondering ‘how am I going to get an itinerary which has my name on it without purchasing the ticket?” – well you can. What I recommend you do is to go on the website that you plan to purchase the ticket from, for example com, select your flights and proceed to filling in all your information as if you are going to purchase the ticket. Now here’s the trick, before you enter your credit card information and click ‘confirm & book’, you simply right click and print the webpage. This way you get the itinerary and your personal information is also be there. Problem solved!
    • However, if you do accidentally purchase the ticket, you can simply print out the itinerary and cancel the booking. Most online booking websites have 24 hour cancellation policies.
  1. Hotel reservation
    • You must include the address of hotel and the number of days reserved in the name of applicant or if staying at someone’s home in the Schengen destination state, an original letter of invitation processed by the National Police or relevant Authorities must be submitted.
    • If you plan on staying at a hotel, just like with the flight itinerary, you’re probably wondering how can you make hotel reservations with your personal information online without actually ‘booking’ or paying for the room. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way around actually booking the hotel as yet, but I can make a suggestion and tell you what I did. For my trip to Santorini, I found a really cheap hotel on Expedia with a free cancellation window and booked it. I also selected the option to pay at the hotel that way I didn’t have to provide any credit card information. Thereafter I printed out my itinerary and submitted it with my visa application. As soon as I got my visa, I cancelled that booking and started searching for the ideal hotel that I wanted to stay at.
  1. Travelling on the invitation of a company
    • A letter of invitation issued by the company in the country of destination stating the purpose of travel, the length of stay, place of abode and specifying who is covering the cost of the trip must be submitted.
  1. Travel Health Insurance
    • The original and a photocopy of the Travel Health Insurance in the name of the applicant must be provided
    • It must provide a minimum coverage of thirty thousand (30,000) Euros for emergency medical treatment.
    • There should be additional coverage for repatriation of mortal remains.
    • The insurance company should have at least an office in a Schengen State and should cover all costs (the insured should not have to make any up-front payments).
    • The company that is generally accepted by all Schengen visa issuing embassy is AXA Assistance.
    • Unlike with the flight itinerary and hotel reservation, this is one you cannot get around. You have to buy the policy. The bright side though is that the policy is fairly reasonable. I was in Europe for 14 days and the policy cost me 36 euros – so it wasn’t too bad.

Those are what I think are the most important requirements and documents, but of course other documents etc. may be requested if necessary and it really all depends on the purpose of your trip and so on. Also, note that your biometric details are required and so you will need to make an appointment provide that and to submit your documents. Unlike with the US Embassy and visa applications your appointment will not necessarily include an interview -but of course this depends on the circumstances of your trip and may be requested. Generally though checks will simply be made on the appointment date to ensure that you have submitted all the required documents and if anything is missing you will be told and given an opportunity to provide it. Once that’s done they will process your biometric details, which include taking a photo of you and taking your fingerprints.

After submitting my documents, my visa was processed within two days. They call to indicate that I should come by the embassy to collect it.

Also note that the amount of time that you get on the visa generally depends on the amount of time that you have presented on your travel itinerary.

I know this post was long, but I do hope it was helpful to you guys. If you have questions about my experience please feel free to contact me. However, please ensure that you also check with the relevant embassy to get more detailed information and to ensure that there are no changes to their requirements.

Until my next post…chao!

 

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2 Comments

  1. Candice
    November 18, 2017 / 1:47 am

    This is really helpful and detailed. Appreciate the tips. Thanks Shannon and keep them coming 🙂

    • Shannon Johnson
      November 22, 2017 / 4:47 am

      Thank you love.