What If I'm Applying To a Schengen Country I'm Not Going To

Written By: Laliq Schuman
Fact Checked By: Richard Nathan

Jun 21, 2022

10 min read

Over the past few years, I've frequently been traveling to and from the Schengen Area. So much so that my friends and colleagues consider me somewhat of a Schengen expert, especially when it comes to Schengen Visas.

One question I always get asked:

"Can I apply for my Schengen Visa at one Embassy and travel to a totally different Schengen Country?"

As someone who has done this before, I can tell you that the answer is definitely yes; yes, you can.

In this post, I'll share everything I've learned, how I do it, and why you would want to do the same.

Let's get started…


What Is A Schengen Visa, And Is It Valid For Every Country?

Let's start with the basics.

A Schengen Visa is a travel document that allows you to cross the borders of the Schengen Area. Simply put, it's a short-stay visa that allows you to enter a Schengen Country for tourism, short business trips, and other short-term purposes.

Be mindful that the Schengen Visa only allows you to visit the Schengen Zone for a maximum of 90 days within every 180 day period (this is known as the 90/180 day Schengen rule).

A neat thing about the Schengen Visa is that it can be used to enter any one of the 26 Schengen Member States.

Yup, that's right. You can visit 26 Schengen Countries with one type of visa. Cool, right?

Your Schengen Visa will be valid for the following countries:

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


What Does It Mean To Apply To Another Schengen Country?

Basically, all this means is that you'd be applying for your Schengen Visa at a different Embassy than that of your original destination.

Here's an example:

A while back, I wanted to travel to Portugal. Instead of applying for my Schengen Visa at a Portugal Embassy or Consulate, I applied for my visa at the Estonia Embassy.

Quick note: I'll be sticking to this example for the rest of the post.

Next, I'll explain why I applied at the Estonia Embassy instead.


Reasons For Applying At A Different Schengen Embassy

Applying for Portugal Schengen Visa at an Estonia Embassy might seem pointless. However, I'll list a few reasons why you would want to do this:

Faster Visa Processing Times

Some embassies process visa applications faster than others; this is just a fact. This is mainly due to the low demand for Schengen Visa applications at these embassies.

Think about it.

Countries like Italy, Spain, and France are popular tourist destinations. Therefore, embassies of these countries receive more visa applications. On the other hand, countries like Estonia, Lithuania, etc., receive fewer visa applications.

Interesting fact: In 2019 (before COVID-19), France issued around 3,2 million Schengen Visas, whereas Luxembourg only issued around 11 thousand visas.

The Schengen States that have fewer applicants include (statistics from 2020):

  • Malta (27,701*)
  • Slovenia (23,504*)
  • Slovakia (21,685*)
  • Iceland (18,020*)
  • Luxembourg(11,251*)

*Schengen Visa applications submitted

High Approval Rate At Certain Embassies

Let's take Estonia, for example. In 2019 they reported that only 1.4% of applicants were rejected. The same can be said about Lithuania. Their rejection rate was 1.3% in 2019. So applying for a visa for any of these Schengen countries will ensure that you get approved (as long as you meet the Schengen Visa requirements).

More Available Appointment Slots

Scheduling an appointment for your Schengen visa can be a tedious process as you won't always find a suitable appointment slot. However, certain countries have lots of appointment slots available.

Estonia, for example, is one of the Schengen Countries with the least visa applications. Therefore, they have more appointment slots available.

In many countries, you're required to make an appointment several months in advance. This could prove to be a problem, especially if your trip is imminent.

No Embassy Available

In certain countries, there aren't any Schengen Embassies available. Therefore, you will need to apply at a different Schengen Embassy that has jurisdiction over the country you plan to visit. This won't be a problem if you're a US citizen or US Green Card Holder.


How Do I Apply For My Schengen Visa At A Different Schengen Embassy?

It's pretty simple, really. You follow the exact Schengen Visa application steps as you would when applying for any other Schengen Visa.

  • Gather the required documents
  • Fill in your Schengen Visa application form
  • Schedule your Schengen Visa appointment
  • Attend your Schengen Visa appointment
  • Wait for your visa to be processed
  • Collect your new Schengen Visa

The key part here is to ensure that the required documents you submit support the purpose of your trip to "Estonia" and not your intended destination (Portugal, in my case).

Let's take a look at what documents need to change.


What Documents Need To Change When Applying At A Different Schengen Embassy?

Let's take Estonia and Portugal as an example.

As I briefly mentioned, the key part here is to include relevant documents that prove the purpose of travel to Estonia and not Portugal. Therefore, the following documents are the ones that will change:

Quick note: These do not include all the Schengen Visa required documents you need to submit. Other documents include a valid passport, visa photos, etc.

The Schengen Visa Application Form

Within your Schengen Visa application form, you must state that you'll be traveling to Estonia and not Portugal. Your visa application will most likely be denied if you enter your destination as Portugal.

Proof Of Accommodation

When traveling to Estonia, embassy authorities will want to know where you plan to stay when visiting the country. Providing proof of accommodation in Portugal will not suffice. You'll need to provide suitable evidence that you have booked accommodation within Estonia.

"Do I need to spend money on this booked accommodation?"

No, you don't.

You can get a refundable hotel or Airbnb reservation at plenty of establishments. However, the easiest way you can get proof of accommodation is through Atlys's handy hotel itinerary tool (and it's absolutely free).

Your Return Flight Ticket

Another document required for the Schengen Visa application is a booked flight itinerary. The main purpose of your return flight ticket (or flight itinerary) is to show authorities that you plan to travel back to your home country after your trip.

Keep in mind that you'll need to submit a flight itinerary indicating flights to Estonia and not Portugal. You can get your booked flight itinerary using Atlys's flight itinerary tool (for free).

Your Cover Letter

A Schengen cover letter is submitted to help support the reason for the purpose of your trip. Within your cover letter, details relevant to your trip to Estonia. Here are a few things you should include:

  • Your personal details
  • Where you plan to stay in Estonia
  • What you plan to do in Estonia (an agenda)
  • Flight details
  • How you plan to finance your trip (be sure to attach bank statements that prove you have the financial means to support yourself in Estonia)

Remember:

Because you're applying at an Estonian Embassy, your cover letter should support the purpose of your trip to Estonia and not Portugal.


What To Expect During Your Schengen Visa Appointment

Now that you know about the documents let's talk about your Schengen Visa appointment.

As you know, you'll need to schedule a Schengen Visa appointment for your "Estonia Visa." At your appointment, you'll attend an in-person interview with an Embassy official. Here you'll answer some simple questions about your trip to Estonia. If embassy authorities ask if you plan to travel to any other Schengen Country, simply say no.

Don't be nervous! Remember, you can use your documents to support your answers.

The main purpose of the Schengen Visa interview is for embassy authorities to collect your biometric information (which consists of your fingerprints and a digital photograph).

After completing your Schengen Visa interview, your visa will be processed within 10 - 15 business days. After it's been processed, you can head back to the embassy to collect your new Schengen Visa.

Quick tip: Some countries don't require a Schengen Visa interview. For example, Switzerland does not require you to attend an interview if you've been to the Schengen Area before. So, if you're nervous about your interview, simply apply for a Switzerland Schengen Visa.


What Happens When I Get My Visa? Can I Use It?

First of all, celebrate! You just received your Schengen Visa. Next, use it to travel to any Schengen Country you like - simple.

Is Immigration Going To Be Breathing Down My Neck?

To keep it plain and simple, no.

If you're concerned about what will happen at immigration, don't be. Your Schengen Visa is valid and can be used to enter any one of the Schengen Countries. And in any case, immigration authorities will simply check that you have a visa to enter the Schengen Area.

If you're still nervous, let me quote the European Union External Action's official website:

"As a general rule, you may cross any Schengen border with a visa issued by any Schengen country." - European Union External Action


Do I Need To Change My Flights After Receiving My Schengen Visa?

No, you don't have to change the date or destination of any of your flights. Once you have your visa, you are free to travel to any Schengen country you would like to visit. In addition, many airlines offer a dummy ticket in which you can then just confirm your flight and pay in full.

You do you!


To Summarize

Ok, so back to the initial question at hand:

"Can I apply for my Schengen Visa at one Embassy and travel to a totally different Schengen Country?"

Yes, you can.

After reading through this post, you should have a clear understanding of how this process works and what to expect.


There you go. I have spread my wisdom much like you need to spread your wings and fly to the nearest embassy to get started on your traveling journey!

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