If you are an international student who is currently living in the United Kingdom and you haven’t already visited Europe, you are probably looking forward to traveling there at some point during your stay in the UK. However, despite Britain’s proximity to the continent, the most popular European countries only allow nationals of certain states to enter without a visa. What this means is that, if you are an international student in the UK who is looking to enter France, Germany, Italy, or any of the 26-countries that comprise the Schengen-area, you will likely have to apply for a Schengen visa—unless you are from a country that has visa-free access to the Schengen area. A Schengen visa is therefore a great option for international students in the UK who are looking to take advantage of Britain’s short distance to Europe and travel to the continent often. However, because UK citizens do not currently require Schengen visas to enter the zone, you may be wondering, “Who can apply for a Schengen visa in the UK?” Or more specifically, “Can an international student apply for a Schengen visa?” Happily, foreign students in the UK are able to apply for Schengen visas. Today’s blog will therefore provide an overview of the application process for a Schengen visa from the perspective of an international student in the UK. Along the way, you will learn about the visa requirements for international students and other critical international student advice and guidance regarding Schengen visas.  

Steps to apply for a Schengen visa as an international student in the UK

“Who can apply for a Schengen visa in the UK?” Note: If you are a non-UK student without residency in the country, make sure that you have the right to return to the UK after leaving it for the Schengen area. While most UK Student visas allow holders to return to Britain after leaving it, depending on what type of UK visa you are on, you may not be allowed to return to the country after exiting. For international student advice and guidance on this issue, contact us here

  • 1. Find out if you need a Schengen visa to travel to Europe 
    • “Can an international student apply for Schengen visa?” Of course they can! If you are an international student in the UK who is not from the EU/Schengen area, you may need a visa in order to visit one of the countries in the zone. 
    • If you are planning a trip to Europe, check whether you are from a country that has visa-free access to the Schengen area. If your country does not enjoy visa-free access to the zone, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa (click here for a list of countries whose nationals require a Schengen visa in order to enter the area). 
  • 2. Find out when you should apply 
    • International students should apply for their Schengen visas a minimum of three weeks prior to when they are looking to return to the Schengen area (as Schengen visa processing times tend to be two weeks). 
  • 3. Find out what “type” of Schengen visa you need 
    • As an international student, you will need to consider the types of Schengen visas for student visa holders that you should apply for. The type of visa you select should be the one that most accurately describes your reason for traveling. For example, foreign students in the UK who are traveling to the Schengen area for educational purposes should apply for an “Educational Schengen visa”; those who want to go to the Schengen area for tourism would apply for a “Schengen tourist visa;” those who have relatives in the zone they are traveling to visit should pursue a “Visiting Family and Friends” Schengen visa. 
    • There are over 10 different types of Schengen visas for a student that you can apply for—for a full list, click here.
  • 4. Find out what “entry category” of Schengen visa you need
    • As an international student living in the UK, you may want the flexibility of being able to travel in and out of the Schengen area on a regular basis. However, whether you are able to do this is dependent on what kind of “entry category” Schengen visa you acquire: single, double, or multiple. 
    • For example, because a Schengen visa is valid for 90 days, an international student living in the UK could potentially travel to the Schengen area on the weekends, until he or she accumulates 90 days in the zone. However, this is only possible with a multiple-entry Schengen visa, which allows you unlimited entries, exits, and re-entries into the Schengen area. 
    • In contrast, a single entry Schengen visa only allows you one entry to the Schengen area—if you exit the zone after entering it, you would not be allowed to return (which would make a single-entry Schengen visa a bad option for international students who are looking to spend weekends in the Schengen area). A single entry Schengen would be a good option for an international-student who is just looking to go to the Schengen area once—either on vacation or for a medical procedure, for example). 
    • Finally, a double entry Schengen visa allows you two entries to the Schengen area, meaning that a holder of a double-entry Schengen visa could enter, exit, and re-enter the zone one last time. In the event that a double-entry holder left the zone after their second entry and then tried to re-enter it, they wouldn’t be allowed to return to the zone, even if they still had time left on their visa. 
  • 5. Determine where to apply 
    • International students should identify their main destination in the Schengen area: this will be the country through which they will apply for their visa. 
    • Your primary destination is the Schengen country where you believe you will spend the most time on your trip (relative to other Schengen countries, which you might visit for a shorter amount of time). 
    • If you are just visiting one or two countries, it’s relatively easy to determine your primary destination; if you are planning on touring multiple countries, it can be more difficult. In the event that you are visiting multiple countries and you are spending a relatively equal amount of time in each place (say, two days in each—Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Italy)—your primary destination will be the country where you first entered the Schengen area. To continue the above example, if you are spending the same amount of time in all of the preceding places, your primary destination will be the place where you first entered the Schengen area. For example, if you are flying directly from London, Heathrow into Paris, Charles de Gaulle, you would apply for a French Schengen visa (as France would be your Schengen area country-of-entry). 
  • 6. Determine where in the UK to apply 
    • Once you know your primary destination in the Schengen area, you can apply for your visa from the embassy, consulate, or visa-center affiliated with the Schengen country you are applying through. 
    • Country embassies are located in the capital, which means that if you are applying through an embassy, it will be located in London.
    • If you are applying through a country consulate or visa application center, you will find both in major cities throughout the UK—alternatively, most embassies have a consular section which handles visa issues. 
  • 7. Gather your required documents
    • Visa requirements for international students include the submission of the below basic required documents: 
      • Passport
      • Two passport photos
      • Basic application form 
      • Proof of accommodation 
      • Proof that you can afford your travel expenses 
      • Proof that you have obtained travel medical insurance 
      • Visa payment (Schengen visa fees for UK residents are 80 EUR for most applicants). 
      • Biometric information (photos and fingerprints) 
    • In addition to the above, you must also submit the following supplemental materials, which depend on the type of visa you selected. 
    • For example, if you are a UK student who is traveling to the Schengen area to see a relative (i.e. you are traveling on a “Visiting Family or Friends” Schengen visa), you will likely need to supply a letter from the person you will stay with, inviting you to come visit them.  
  • 8. Access your Schengen visa application
    • Most foreign students can apply for their Schengen visa using the basic application form (accessible here). 
    • Some applicants, depending on what country they are applying to, will be asked to apply through a country specific online portal, such as France’s online portal.
  • 9. Schedule your Schengen visa appointment 
    • Schengen visa appointments—where you will be interviewed and have your biometric information taken—are required for the majority of applicants—if you apply through a visa portal like the above, you will likely be able to schedule it online. 
    • If you are not applying online, you can contact us to help you and see whether you need to make an appointment. 
  • 10. Attend your Schengen visa appointment 
    • Your Schengen visa appointment is where you will submit your complete application, have your fingerprints and photos taken, pay your Schengen visa fee, and attend a visa interview.  
    • Schengen visa fees for UK residents are 80 EUR for most applicants, although if you are a student you may be able to pay less, or even enjoy an exemption from fees. For more complete information on Schengen visas fees, click here.
    • If you have already had your biometrics collected on a previous Schengen visa application, then you will not have to submit to their collection again (unless five years have passed since that occasion). 
  • 11. Await your decision 
    • You will likely receive a decision on your application within two weeks (or anywhere from 21-60 days). 
    • If you are approved for a Schengen visa, you will receive an email informing you of how to pick up your visa (and passport). If you are rejected for a visa you have the right to an appeal. To find out how, click here.