Being an Erasmus Mundus student, I am obliged to move from one university to another university in different countries for every semester during my study. Sounds fun? Yes, absolutely it is! However, it is also important to note that before studying in your new university, you will need to do these things; packing your belongings, flying to a new country with limited baggage, and most importantly, entering a new country legally. This experience has helped me develop an exceptional skill that any other programs do not offer: Applying for Visa! Applying for a visa in Indonesia might be complicated, but applying for a visa during your stay abroad is even more complicated.
Visa C and D
“Wait, but don’t you just need one Schengen Visa for moving to other Schengen countries?” That is correct if you plan on staying in one country for less than three months. Short-stay visa (Visa C) enables you to stay and move to other Schengen countries within those three months, which is mostly used by travelers. Studying in a new country will require you to stay for at least five months. Thus, applying for a long-stay student visa (Visa D – Study) is mandatory so that you will be able to get your residence permit in a new country and stay there as a legal resident. Foreign students will not need to apply for Visa C, except when they are considering to travel to non-Schengen countries such as UK.
Preparing Your Documents
Prior to your departure from Indonesia, it is important to note the visa application requirement for future destination countries. As my program universities are located in Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Portugal, I need to check the visa application requirement for each of those countries and ensure that the documents needed are prepared. This will vary for every country, so you might need check the requirements with each respective embassy in the country you will be in at the application time.
In my case, since I will spend my second semester in Germany after studying in Spain for the first semester, I will need to apply German Visa D in Spain. I have checked that I have to apply the visa in Deutsche Botschaft (German Embassy) in Madrid and the requirements are available on this link. They are visa application form, passport photos, residence permit in Spain, passport, Bachelor degree certificate, admission letter from the university, financial statement (or scholarship letter), and health insurance. However, please note that the procedures will be mostly in either the local language (Spanish) or the language of the Embassy (German). *Personally, I completely do not understand why non-UK Europeans are so unwilling to provide legal documentations in English, even for international institutions like embassies.* If you are not capable in those languages, don’t worry! Google Translate will be your reliable partner in finding out the requirements. You could also send e-mail to the embassy officers and they are willing to help and answer your questions in English.
Visa application abroad might be complicated if you are not prepared with the documents. For instance, if you forget to bring certified copies of Bachelor Degree certificate along with you, you could not apply for the German visa abroad. Therefore, it is important to bring those documents along with you before your departure abroad and ensure that they are certified by authorized institutions as well, since most embassies will reject non-certified copies.
It is also important to check the institutions authorized by the Embassy to certify the copies. Some embassies, such as Spain and Italian Embassy require copies of your documents issued by the Directorate General of Higher Education (for private universities graduates), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Law and Human Rights. I was lucky that the German Embassy accepts legalized copies from the university, so that I could spare the complications of getting my copies certified properly.
Inability to provide the required documents certified properly will risk your visa application to rejection. Although it is still possible to ask your family or friends in Indonesia to provide you the documents and send it to you later, of course it will cost you more time and money. Why should you spend more money for those stuff, if you could prepare them before? Spend that money for something fun later, like traveling. Other countries might need different documents, such as birth certificate (Akte Kelahiran), family registers (Kartu Keluarga), police clearance report (Surat Keterangan Catatan Kepolisian), health certificate, etc. so please recheck all required documents directly with the respective Embassy.
Applying for Visa
After documents are prepared, now it is time for you to head to the Embassy! It is also better to check the possibility to apply for your visa in other closest cities. In my case, students going to Portugal for their second semester could apply for their visa in the Consulate General in Barcelona, while students going to Germany have to apply in the Embassy in Madrid. You will need to prepare as well money for the application fee. If you study in Germany through scholarship from Germany or European Union, the application for student visa under those scholarships is free of charge!
Before going to the Embassy for visa application, you will need to make an appointment. Propose your appointment date at least one week before through the Embassy official website, or by sending e-mail to the embassy officer. Date confirmation is important especially if you do not live in the capital so that you could plan your stay properly. If you tell the officers that you live outside of the capital, it might be possible for them to accelerate the process. When I applied for my German visa, I got it two days after the document was submitted. *Yes, Germans are that efficient.* Then, I switched my plan to stay longer in Madrid so that I did not have to go back to Madrid only for picking up the visa. Another cost saving opportunity!
To summarize, checking the documents is very important and do your research prior to your departure from Indonesia. Make an appointment before heading to the Embassy, bring along your required documents and their legalized copies, and spare yourself from extra cost!