Mark Berndt is a software developer from South Africa who recently relocated to Dublin to work with Zartis.com. After getting his work permit and visa for Ireland he explains what he had to do to visit friends in other parts of Europe.

It all starts with a picture you found on the internet. A dream is born, a desire is formed, I wanted to go and see the city of Amsterdam. Now if you are privileged to have a EU passport, you just get on a plane and go. But this insanity does not comprehend to us, we like to pay exorbitant fees before arriving at the destination, it makes us feel wanted. And luckily, in this case, I knew what to do, I’ve had a Schengen visa before.

Pay for everything up front, have a job, have proof of sufficient funds, deforrest another tree with the additional 35 pages of documentation and you’re good to go. And I live in Europe now, easy game.

Well, online says the next appointment is in 3 months time. OK. And a basic requirement is that you have 3 months permission to remain in the country you reside. Wait, I’ve been here 6 months, in 3 months time I do not have permission to remain for another 3 months. Oh, wait, this is now a problem. This is a “sorry try again in 6 months time” problem. This is not my type of problem.

Queue the GNIB card, the card many will say is “an annoyance”. But when your passport is more useful as kindle to a flame than as a travel document, this “annoyance” is expedited. The fact that a GNIB card does not allow you to remain in the country for the duration of your work, firstly is mildly suspicious and secondly is well, stupid.

I may not be an economist or politician to understand the above but I am handy with a keyboard, so I did my research. There are 26 states in the Schengen area. Each with slightly different requirements, and run by the country in question. So I came up with two countries. France is quick to get an appointment and Estonia is least likely to reject you. Obviously, this is subject to change and is not performed by compelling research but it was place to start. I am mostly not a suspicious character so I went with France.

With the French embassy I got an appointment in a month’s time. Not an ideal waiting period, but in a country of Europeans (with no need for this service), it’s the best you’re going to get.

Now, it all seems straight forward. Well, it could be. And maybe for you it may be, I hope so. It also largely will depend on the embassy you are at. For me, however, I got sent away 3 times during my appointment for additional unmentioned documentation. Luckily, they work on a try again immediately policy. Unfortunately, you don’t just stroll back into an embassy. Barry at the door needs to get frisky with you each time.

The additional items were

  • A copy of every page of your passport that has a stamp. Another tree mindlessly wasted.

  • Very recent bank statements – under 14 days old.

  • And, I’m not joking about this one. They take a photo of the photo you bring them, yes the mighty French empire cannot afford a camera in the booth. So if your face is too far away from the photo, the photo will not be adequate.

Lengthy Schengen visas are uncommon, but do happen. I have heard of 2 years visas being issued. But I’ve never had more luck than a couple of days. I do want to try other countries to see if they give better results, and they very likely might.

On a good note, I found acquiring a UK visa in Ireland was trivial. They outright do not accept the GNIB. Due to this I had a 2 years UK visa approved in roughly a day. It was not the cheapest, but freely being able to enter a country for 2 years is, for us, insanity.