How I Got A Schengen Visa In A Week
Abi Patel shares how he was able to get a Portuguese Schengen visa in under a week and join his friends for an unforgettable road trip through Portugal
Hi, my name is Sarah, and since I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was travel the world (and I mean all of it).
At the age of 14, my parents bought me this enormous world map for my birthday.
You see, my parents knew I was obsessed with discovering what was out there. I used to bore them with questions about different countries, their cultures, what it's like there and just traveling in general.
So, when I got that gigantic world map for my birthday, all I would do was stare at it endlessly, dreaming about what all those lines and shapes contained within them. Since then, I started planning my ultimate world adventure...
As the years went by, my parents used to ask me what I wanted for my Birthday, Christmas, and so on. My answer would always be the same "Help me make my dreams a reality," I said. But, of course, what I was actually asking for, was that they would save money for my travel adventure one day - but in a cute and innocent way.
I should mention that I was fortunate enough to travel to numerous Schengen Countries during this time. This allowed me to apply for a multiple-entry visa (it's important for later).
Once I turned 21, I had a relatively large amount of savings, but I knew to create the ultimate experience, I had to save a little bit more! So even while studying, I took 2 jobs. One at the university and one as a waitress.
After graduating at 23, I had what I believed was enough money to create the ultimate travel experience without sparing any expense...
Once I decided to finally start my ultimate trip, I headed back to my parent's home, where I grew up. I distinctly remember rushing through our hallway, up the stairs, and straight into my old room.
There I stood and gazed at that enormous world map my parents got me way back then.
Everything was still there! The pictures I used to cut out of magazines, little sticky notes of what I wanted to see in each country, and of course, the classic red string that stretched from one colorful pin to the next.
After examining my huge map, I decided I would use it as a guideline for where I'd be traveling first, second, and so on. I mean, little me had the same dream as big me.
My first destination would be Greece, specifically Athens, sacred to Athena, the goddess of wisdom... high pitched excited noises
Deciding which country to visit first made the whole experience so surreal! I was officially taking the first step to this dream I had created ever since I was a little girl. Finally, after so many years, the opportunity has arrived!
So I started writing down the second country I would visit, then the third, and the fourth, and so on, until I had a nice long list. For those who want to know, my list included the following:
These were the first 12 countries I chose. I didn't want to get too ahead of myself. However, I noticed that many of the countries I wanted to visit were in Europe, specifically the Schengen Area. Also, I know that my Schengen Visa would only allow me to stay in the Schengen Zone for a maximum of 90 days per 180-day period. "90 days! That's not enough time!" I yelled. That meant that I would only be able to visit each Schengen Member State (Greece, Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland) for a total amount of 12 days per country. For me, this seemed like an impossible task.
I needed at least 25 days for Greece, 15 days for Italy, 12 days in France, 20 days in Portugal, 20 days in Spain, 20 days in Austria, and another 20 days in Switzerland. So if you added the number of days I wanted to spend in the Schengen Zone, you get a total of 132 days! And that was me trying to cut my trip short. Of course, I would never be able to do it with 1 Schengen Visa... or would I?
This is actually the reason why I decided to share my story...
The thing is, I've been researching visas since the day I could read and understand big words! Furthermore, I understood the basic concept of the 90/180-day rule applied to the Schengen Visa. Back then, I was a determined little lady. So, I knew I could think of something...
First, let explain how the Schengen Visa works. So, when you apply for a Schengen Visa, no matter the Schengen Member State, your visa will be valid for 90 days per 180 days. This means that you may only spend 90 days within the Schengen Area, no more than that. If you overstay, you risk deportation or getting yourself banned from the Schengen Zone.
It's worth noting that some countries are covered by a Schengen Visa waiver. Citizens from these countries don't need to apply for a visitor visa or any type of visa, as long as the purpose of their visit is for tourism. However, the 90-day limit still applies to these countries. So, for example, US citizens enjoy visa-free travel, but they can't overstay the 90 day period. The same 90 day per 6 month period applies.
It's possible to extend your Schengen Visa an additional period of time beyond the 90-day Schengen limit. However, if your intended trip exceeds 90 days, you'll need to apply for some sort of long-stay visa like a temporary residence permit.
Non-EU citizens who don't enjoy visa-free travel (like me) need to apply for a Schengen Visa to visit the following EU countries that form part of the Schengen Area:
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.
Please check out our Schengen Visa Guide for detailed information on the Schengen Visa application process.
Ok, now you know the basics. Now you need to understand how the 90/180-day rule works. Many people think that the 90 days is counted continuously, even after you leave the Schengen Area. Meaning if you visit Spain for 30 days and leave, the counter still ticks on until it reaches 90 days. So effectively, that means your visa wouldn't be valid anymore.
Well, that's not exactly how it works. On the first day you enter any Schengen Member State, your 90 days start. Then, as soon as you leave on your last day in the Schengen Area, your counter stops.
1. You travel to Spain for 10 days. Your 90 days start on the date of entry.
2. You then travel from Spain to Portugal for 15 days.
3. After Portugal, you travel back to your home country.
4. Once you leave, the counter stops.
You have now spent a total of 25 days in the Schengen Area out of the 90 days you're allowed to visit. Meaning you still have 65 days left.
But wait, there's more...
You now only know the first part of the rule, the 90 days. Now you need to understand the 180 day part of the rule. Here is where things get a little confusing. The 180 days are counted backward from the date you arrive and depart from the Schengen Area. Meaning, each time you enter or leave a Schengen Country, a new 180 day period will be calculated.
My plan was to spend 132 days in the Schengen Area within 1 year. How I did this was to divide my year into a few sections. Difficult, but not impossible...
Let's assume we use the 2021 calendar.
1. Suppose I travel to Greece on the 1st of January. I stay there for a total of 25 days.
2. After I visit Greece, I travel to Italy for 15 days. From there, I travel to another country outside the Schengen Area.
I have now spent a total of 40 days in the Schengen Area. As soon as I leave the Schengen Area, the 180 day period starts. Meaning, from the date I travel back to my home country, I still have 50 days left to spend in the Schengen Zone.
3. In April, I decided to travel back to France for 12 days.
4. After visiting France, I travel to Portugal for 20 days.
I have now effectively spent 32 days in the Schengen Area in section 2 of my year. If I were to calculate how many days I have left of my 90 days, I would count 180 days backward, starting the day I left Portugal.
So, if I count back 180 days, you'll notice that the 180 days include my previous trips to Italy and Greece. This means I have spent 72 days within the Schengen Area in the past 180-days (25 days in Greece, 15 days in Italy, 12 days in France, and 20 days in Portugal). So, I still have 18 days left to visit the Schengen Area.
For the next 3 months, I will travel outside the Schengen Area. So from the 3rd of May, I don't visit any Schengen Member State, and I travel to other countries like Japan, South Africa, and even my home country.
After 3 months of traveling, I decide to travel back to the Schengen Area to visit other countries.
5 On the 5th of August, I travel to Spain for 20 days.
6 After visiting Spain, I travel to another country outside the Schengen Area.
Once again, the 180-day counter starts the day I leave Spain on the 25th of August. So, if we count 180 days backward from the 25th of August, the date would be the 26th of February. If we think back, I visited Greece and Italy for 40 days in January. As we just calculated, January does not fall within the 180 days from the day I left Spain on the 25th of August.
So, I'll only be counting the days of sections 2 and 3 of year 1. Meaning, in the past 180 days, I only spent 52 days in the Schengen Area. Therefore, I still have 38 days I can use to visit the Schengen Area.
After visiting Spain, I travel back to my home country to visit my parents and tell them about all the memories I've made and things I've seen.
7. On the 1st of December, I plan to visit Austria for 20 days.
8. After I've visited Austria, I plan to end my adventure in Switzerland. There I'll spend another 20 days.
As before, the 180-day counter will start from the day I leave Switzerland. So, on the 10th of January 2022, I will return to my home country after a year of travel. So if we count 180 days backward from the 10th of January, the date would be the 14th of July 2021. This means my visit to France and Portugal (in April) does not fall under the 180-day period.
If I then count the days I spent in the Schengen Area from the 14th of July onwards, we see that we only count sections 3 and 4 of year 1. Meaning, I've only spent 60 days in the Schengen Area from the 14th of July.
I know this might seem confusing, but this is how I spent 132 days within the Schengen Area.
I only used the 2021 calendar for your convenience. You can apply the same logic to any calendar.
These steps I mentioned above might seem extremely confusing, but it's worth mentioning that there are online stay calculators that can do this for you. Here's one from the European Commission..
After I had made all my calculations and decided the order in which I had to travel. I started applying for my visas. I decided to use an extremely underrated app called Atlys. I won't bore you with the details, but I will say this. While I budgeted $1400 (7 visas) for all the Schengen Visas I required, Atlys helped me get everything done in just one visa. And here's how they do it...
On Atlys, I was able to enter my entire travel itinerary. You see, their system is optimized to find the most efficient visa route. With my first visa application, they generated all my future itineraries (with hotels, flights) and attached them to my visa application. They also auto-requested a muti-entry visa since I was planning on coming home in the middle of my trip. Then using the handy appointment tool of Atlys, they applied to a country that had the shortest processing times. When the Embassy saw my application at my visa appointment, it was clear that I had everything booked and they realized that there was no point in me applying for 7 separate visas. They gave me a 5 year multiple entry Schengen Visa I could use for all my travels (this is because I was fortunate enough to frequent travel to the Schengen Area before). In the end, Atlys did all the heavy lifting for me, even something as simple as Schengen Visa photos.
The only other thing I had to do was to ensure that I had copies of all my supporting documents with me. Should border authorities ask for anything, I would have everything with me.
And that's how I made the most of my Schengen Visa. As for how my incredible adventure, that's a story for another day. All I can say is that it was the best experience I have ever had! So, to anyone who has a travel dream like me, never give up on it and just do it!
I've been receiving many questions asking "How do I count my 90 days Schengen Visa?" I understand why, as this can be a difficult concept to grasp. Within this post you'll find an in-depth explanation on how I counted my 90 days when I visited the Schengen Area. Nonetheless, I'll briefly guide you on how you can count your 90 days.
When visiting the Schengen Area, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Here are the key points you need to remember:
When counting your 90 days, ask yourself this:
"In the past 180 days (from the entry/exit date), how much time have I spent in the Schengen Area?"
Once you have your answer, minus it with 90 days. You now know the total days you have left to spend in the Schengen Area.
The next time you want to calculate the 90 days, do the exact same thing as before. Count 180 days backwards from your last exit date to determine how many days you've spent within the Schengen Area.
Alternatively, you can use a Schengen calculator to determine your 90 days within the Schengen Area. The European Union's official website has a free to use Schengen calculator available. I should mention that this Schengen calculator is not very easy to use and can be confusing at first glance. I recommend you double check the fields and information you provide within the Schengen calculator. Be mindful that you'll have an easier time understanding the 90 day rule if you can grasp the fundamental concept thereof.
In the end, the 90 day Schengen rule is not as complicated as you might think. Spend some time understanding the rule, and afterwards, you. won't need a Schengen calculator to determine the length of your trip.