Saturday, August 25, 2012

The road to Lisbon..

Lisbon, 23rd of August 2012.
Getting a student visa to the Europe for a Sri Lankan (or any other 3rd country citizen) needs a considerable effort. Since I got selected to follow my masters at Portugal, I started the visa application process on time. I am blogging the entire procedure here, due to the number of requests I received from my friends. This will be particularly useful for Sri Lankan students applying for their higher studies in the Europe, specifically, Portugal.

1. Getting the documents ready.
You will be required to send the academic transcript and the degree certificate, either a scanned copy of them, or a photocopy that is certified by your university, by post, to the university that you are applying. At this point, you should take more certified copies (say, 3), and not just one, as these will be required again for the visa application process.

Apply for the police clearance certificate on time, as it may take any time from two weeks to two months. It is advisable to have the certified copies of the birth certificate and its official translation in English, as well, though not required generally. 

2. Attesting the documents.
Once all the above documents are in hand, you have to attest them at the consular section of the Ministry of External Affairs. You can reach it by any bus that goes to Fort/Colombo/Pettah from south, by getting down at the halt that follows World Trade Center. It is close to the Cargills. Reach the 5th floor, before 8 a.m. to avoid the queue. You can get it done in 2 hours, but if you reach there around 10 a.m. you will see a very long queue making you stay for 5 hours. 

You can even send a direct family member of yours for this, along with the document proof that they are your relation. Matching surnames in the identity cards or a birth certificate would be perfect. You can even send someone else with a power of attorney (POA). Make sure to take a document proof (the national identity card is sufficient) of yourself, in any case. Once documents are checked, you will be given a token. Batches of 50, will be sent to the 3rd floor, after a waiting period. Pay attention to the announcement, which is in Sinhala. In the 3rd floor, the numbers are displayed. Once your number is displayed, you can submit your documents to the respective counter to attest. Make sure to have the original documents with you, as you will be required to show them to get the copies attested. You have to pay 500 LKR, for each copy that you are attesting.

Once submitted the documents, come back to the 5th floor with your receipt, and again wait till your number is shown at the display. Read carefully, as the display shows the numbers in a random order. Once your number is shown, you can collect your documents from the front desk. This facility closes at the 3 p.m.

3. Documents for the Schengen visa
You will require insurance letter covering your stay, the accommodation letter from the place of stay in Lisbon, financial proof, along with the admission letters from your university/universities in the Europe. Make sure to start on accommodation hunting on time, as this may take some time. Your university should be able to provide more options. If you are receiving a scholarship, that should be a sufficient proof of finance.

4. Travel Itinerary
For visa purposes, you will also require a travel itinerary. This is often issued free (or for a very minimal charge) by the travel agents, in a good hope that you will finally buy the flight tickets through them. Jetwings is my regular travel agent. Once your visa is finalized, you can buy the tickets. A few facilities are provided by your credit card provider, if you pay the flight ticket using your credit card. For example, when bought using an HSBC credit card, your journey will be insured. You may also be able to get a letter stating this for the visa purposes, from the bank. However, a service charge of 2.5% is included into your bill for most of the credit cards, as banks charge the travel agents with the same. If you want to avoid paying this additional amount, you will prefer to pay just by cash.

5. Visit to New Delhi
Since Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal do not have a Portuguese Embassy, the nationals of these countries should go to the Embassy in New Delhi to attend the interview. You may be exempted from facing the interview and send a travel agent or a family member as a POA, if you have been to a country in the Schengen region in a Schengen visa in the last 24 months, and returned to your country on time. However, you should confirm this from the embassy, and I don't recommend this, as it is better to be safer, and attending the interview will surely increase your chance of getting the visa on time, as you are the best person to explain your intention of applying for a study visa.

6. Indian Visa
Sri Lankans require a visa to go India as well. You may go New Delhi in tourist visa, and apply for the visa. For the Indian Tourist Visa is issued in 3 working days from the application. It requires only the location of stay in India. Hence it is not that of a difficult procedure. However, the Schengen student visa may take from 2 weeks to a month. So if you are not ready to stay for a month, you can attend the interview, and come back to Sri Lanka (this is what I did). In that case, you will have to go to New Delhi again to get the visa endorsed to your passport. You will be notified by email and phone, from the Embassy of Portugal, once your visa is issued.

Update as of 2015 June: The Indian visa application process has been simplified recently, with just online application to many nationalities including Sri Lankans.

7. Stay at New Delhi 
I have discussed my first stay at New Delhi in A culturally rich summer at Delhi.. It was a summer. But when I went again (20th - 22nd August, 2012) to endorse the Portuguese visa, the falls had begun, and it was raining cats and dogs. The road that connects Panchsheel Marg to the rear entrance of Portuguese Embassy even started to flood. Portuguese Embassy is located in 4, Panchsheel Marg in Chanakyapuri. But you should go through the rear entrance for the consular section for the visa purposes. Go early to the Embassy, at 9 a.m., to both interview, and to submit your passport again to get the visa endorsed, unless specified otherwise. Passport collection time is usually the same day around 4 p.m. But  to be safer, I had one additional day stay at New Delhi.

8. High Commission of Sri Lanka, New Delhi
It is located in Kautilya Marg, in Chanakyapuri, pretty much closer to the Embassy of Portugal. You have to attest your Degree certificates and Police Clearance Certificate again here. It costs 2100 INR for each document. The staff are very friendly, and you may feel free to seek their assistance, if required.

9. Scheduling the interview at VFS
You have to schedule the interview by submitting all the documents from the VFS, which is located in Nehru Place. The Visa fees (which is usually 6000+ INR) is exempted for the students who receive a Portuguese Scholarship. In that case, you will just have to pay the VFS fees, which was just 607 INR. You can schedule the interview after one working day. For example, if you submit the documents on Thursday, you can have your interview at the Embassy on the coming Monday.

10. Transit Visa
However, you can't go to India in tourist visa more than once within two months. If your travel day is closer, you should just apply for an Indian transit visa instead. In this way, you can stay up to 3 days in New Delhi, on your way Lisbon. A transit visa usually takes 5 - 6 working days to process, and also a confirmed travel plan. Buying the tickets for your journey to Lisbon, with a transit at New Delhi up to 3 days, at this moment, is perfect. Make sure to apply early. It is valid for a month, and you can use it for any 3 days. Mostly given is a double entry transit visa (assuming you will go via Delhi, and also will return through the same route). Once you have endorsed your visa from the Portugal Embassy, you can travel to Lisbon, from New Delhi. Since this is a transit visa, you can't return to Sri Lanka, by definition. You are just transiting at New Delhi on your way to Lisbon.

11. Traveling
The travel luggage allowance for the economy class is usually 30 kg checked in luggage + 7 kg hand luggage. It costs around 700 LKR/kg for any additional luggage to travel New Delhi from Colombo using Sri Lankan airlines. Similarly, each airline has its own rate, considering the distance, the location, and the weight or number of extra items. It is better to avoid paying that much of money, as you can of course buy the same from Lisbon for the money. You can take your coat, laptop in its laptop case, camera, a book, and travel documents out of the hand luggage, as they are excluded from the allowed 7kg allowance. In this way, you can take more weight in your hand luggage. If you are sure to exceed this limit, it is cheaper to buy additional weight online before your journey, than paying at the airport.

12. Lisbon
Unlike many other airports, Lisbon International Airport is centrally located in the Lisbon city. That means, within a few minutes, you will be able to reach your apartment by a cab, or using the red metro line. The airport staff are very friendly. Lisbon gives a hope for a wonderful stay. 

Disclaimer: This blog post is based solely on my personal experience, and I have no affiliation with any of the formal bodies mentioned above. This information is blogged in my personal blog "Llovizna" in a good hope that this will be useful for others. If something is not clear, missing, or incorrect, please comment below, or send me a message, so that I can fix it. You will be able to find these information from the respective entities, and are encouraged to do so. I hope reading this post was still useful.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Ragavan,
    Glad you found it useful. I will go through this post once more and include any missing information. :)

    Regards,
    Pradeeban.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not related to the content on the post, but I didn't know you went for higher studies. Best Wishes on that!!

    Now on the content, this is a good source for anybody applying for EU visa, as most of the other EU countries AFAIK have a very similar procedure.

    Ruwan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Ruwan Aiya,
    Thanks a lot for your wishes and comment. I went last month, and our course begins the second week of September.

    Regards,
    Pradeeban.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Issuance of Tourist, Business and Transit visas. Sri Lanka offered On-Arrival visas to nationals of 81 countries who wished to visit sri lanka visa as bona-fide tourists.

    ReplyDelete

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