• How to lessen visa application pains for exchange



    If you're reading this post, it would probably mean that you got a spot on exchange - Congrats! After getting your slot (either you're happy or in the "trying to accept reality" state), the next step is to figure out if you need a visa. 

    As we were headed to Poland, naturally all examples are related to the visa application for Poland. However as we got a Schengen visa, these tips are pretty universal in that sense.

    1. How do you know you need a visa? 




    Check with MFA! Through this link, you can see the duration of stay in a country where you wouldn't need a visa. However, to have a clearer picture regarding the type of visa/residence permit - Head to the country's embassy site.

    If you're lucky they will have a link for you, unfortunately, for Poland, they didn't. But its alright! A quick copy and paste of the Embassy name ("Nearest Mission") on google, will get you there.

     If you're heading to Poland, you definitely need a visa if you plan to spend more than 3 months. 

    Embassy of the Republic of Poland


    The embassy website would have a link to the "Visas section - About/Apply for a visa". For Poland, you can access the link through the shortcut at the side which explains what kind of visa to get for what kind of purpose. 

    Now, if you realise you do not need a visa, the following points would not be relevant to you. P/S: Some countries, e.g. Switzerland, you may not need a visa BUT you may need to get a residence permit (which is done in Switzerland itself) when you stay longer so read the website carefully! 

    2. How to apply for a visa? 

    Okay maybe first things first, what visa should we get? I know it gets confusing but usually its a short term national visa and for ours, we had to get the Student/Student Exchange National D Visa . On the embassy website, there are the steps of how to get the visa (read and follow them carefully!) which would involve you heading down to the embassy itself to get it settled. The embassy website would have a link to the "Visas section - About/Apply for a visa". For Poland, you can access the link through the shortcut at the side which explains what kind of visa to get for what kind of purpose.

    DO NOTE THAT NOT ALL VISAS ARE FREE !! Find out how much on the website as well. (For ours, we had to pay $96 sgd) 

    3. Warnings from us 

    a. Opening hours and days 

    Do take note of the opening hours and days of the consular affairs (aka visa) section of the embassy. This is because, for the Poland embassy, the consular affairs section of the embassy is closed earlier than the rest of the embassy (this applies for their hotline as well) - they are only open on Tues-Thurs 10am-1pm. If you miss it, you will not be able to get a clear understanding of the requirements from the other departments within the embassy.

    b. Go before appointment date/ Call them and clarify what is needed

    We would highly recommend that you CALL THEM or better yet, go down and talk to them beforehand. Above and beyond the checklist provided to you, there are further points that they may have not put in the checklist,be it major or minor (but they expect to see it).

     

    This was our student visa checklist provided by the website. And there were points that weren't stated clearly and had to be clarified (those in red + "your photo is not only full frontal etc but also CANNOT HAVE SMILE!!+ sgd payment = $96 sgd ) which were things we did not know beforehand! Until we went down to check with them properly. So double checking and fully understanding the requirements is highly recommended. 

    c. Visa processing time 

    Please take note of the time required for the processing of your visa. Of course best is to get your visa done very very early but then again, requirements like insurance coverage, accommodation would stall your visa application form submission. However, despite it all, check how long it would take for your visa to be processed. We have friends that because of their inability to receive their visa on time, they had to delay their flight dates - which is not what you want!

    The Polish visa takes 2 weeks.


    d. In Europe, a "." is like our ","

    We were not aware beforehand and thought "Oh, just 30 eurs coverage for the medical insurance will do!" But NO. It was only until we checked with them at the embassy, that we realised it was 30,000 EURS. Lol, imagine if we bought the wrong insurance plan! Thus highlighting point b.

    Sidetrack: NTUC Income basic overseas student plan does not cover 30,000 EURS overseas medical expenses so do check and call your insurance agent to find out! 


    4.  Our own experience at the Embassy of Poland 

    For us, though we went down to go through each point with the Poland embassy itself, we realised they were lenient on some points as well (but that up to your own discretion!). 

    a. 2 weeks processing time 

    You could actually get it in less than 2 weeks. Talk to them and tell them your situation and they will try their best to help you and it is possible to get it done in a shorter time. 

    b. Accommodation 

    We had a polish friend of mine to endorsed our stay with her instead as it was very hard for us to find for accommodation within that short period of time and before getting our visa. And they accepted that endorsement. Else, an email correspondence with your airbnb host and duration of booking/ school dorms and hostels letter of confirmation was needed! 

    c. Return tickets 

    Though they stated they require a strict return ticket back to your home country from Poland itself, they actually compromised on that but they will warn you that you need to get out of the Schengen countries when your visa expires! For example, they accepted Divya's return ticket from London to Singapore without a Poland to London ticket, after some persuading.

    d. Visa end date 

    The lady assisting us was quite lenient giving an extension of the visa from the date you fly off from Schengen countries so you can probably worry less if there were delays in your flights or exams and you had to stay longer. 

    e. Flexibility of appointment 

    After completing your online application, they schedule you a timing and date for your appointment but you don't really need to follow that timing (but you still need to submit your online application!). In fact, you can go down anytime during their opening hours to submit your physical documents. You'd probably just have to wait if there's a queue.

    f. Online application 

    Please please please beware that if you take too long to fill in the application form, the page will not proceed forward and your appointment is NOT submitted. They will not entertain you if they do not have your submission. We saw a girl at the embassy who thought she submitted but in fact didn't and was in a rush to get her visa done as she was flying off soon. You do not want to go through that!

    The best way to note if the submission is successful is if you get to a confirmation page asking you if you would like to print your form out AND you receive an email with your application form attached within 24 hours. Else, do resubmit!


    g. Changes to the printed online application form 

    Once done with your online application form that you need to print thereafter for submission and you realised "oh shit, i filled in something wrongly!" Don't worry. You can make changes on your physical copy and submit to them and let them know.


    Hope this wordy guide helps you in your visa application and may your visa application go really smoothly *Fingers crossed!*

    Penned by Melrose

    Edited by Divya
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