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Frequently Asked Questions

Here you can find some frequently asked questions and answers related to Schengen visa rules, visa application process and required documents.

Please click on the question you would like to know about or click “Ctrl+F” and type in the key word of your question. You will then receive an answer with relevant questions.

If you still have other questions, you can also directly contact us.

1.General information

  1. Which countries belong to the Schengen area?

    The Schengen area covers 26 countries ("Schengen States") without border controls between them. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

  2. Which countries are EU countries?

    The following is the list of countries that are currently members of the European Union:

    Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

  3. Who needs to apply for a Schengen visa?

    Chinese Passport holders

    All Chinese nationals must have a valid visa to enter the Schengen Area, regardless of the duration of their stay and no matter what kind of travel document they have, except if they have a valid residence permit which enables them to stay in the Schengen Area.

    Nationals of other countries

    Citizens of some countries are exempt from the requirement for a visa to enter the Schengen Area for a short stay, for details please check here.

  4. What is the difference between a Schengen visa, a multiple entry visa, a national visa and an airport transit

    Schengen visa (short stay up to 90 days)

    For citizens of certain countries (see FAQ 1.3) a Schengen visa (Type C) issued by one of the member countries is required for transit through or intended stay in the Schengen area. A maximum of 90 days in any 180 days period is allowed, the indicated duration of stay and the numbers of entries allowed are written on the visa sticker.

    A short stay Schengen visa also allows you travel via Germany or via the Schengen area for a maximum of five days before your departure for your final travel destination outside the Schengen area. This visa gives you the right to leave the international airport zone (example: change of terminals if this is related to the entry into Schengen area or change of airports). You might also need this short stay Schengen visa if your connecting flight is a Schengen-internal flight. Proceeding to a connecting flight with destination in Schengen means you cross border control and enter Schengen and thus might need a visa (example: flight from Beijing via Frankfurt and Madrid to final destination in Buenos Aires).

    A short stay Schengen visa can be issued for either single entry (for one single continuous visit) or multiple entries into the Schengen area (for multiple visits/regular travels). The stay can be continuous or divided into several periods for up to 90 days within any 180 days period within the length of the visa’s validity.

    A multiple entry visa with validity between six months and five years can be applied for frequent or regular travels due to employment or family reasons. It is a multiple entry long term visa for frequent short stays not longer than 90 days within any 180 days period.

    National visa (long stay more than 90 days)

    If you wish to stay longer than 90 days you will need a national long stay visa (Type D) or a residence permits. National Visas (Type D) allow the visa holder to enter and stay in Germany continuously more than 90 days. National visas also allow visa holders to transit in other Schengen countries.

    Any stay longer than 90 days falls under national jurisdiction and is not part of the Schengen Agreement. Applications for national visas can only be lodged at the German missions in China

    Airport transit visa

    An AIRPORT TRANSIT visa is required depending upon the country of your citizenship and whether you have residence permits or visas of certain countries and your flight booking involves a transit time at a German airport below 24 hours to connect to your final destination.

    Chinese citizens do not need an airport transit visa for a stay in the international transit area of a German airport. Only if leaving the international transit zone for change of terminals or departure airport, or connecting flight destination is within the Schengen area, Chinese citizens will enter the Schengen area and thus need a short stay Schengen visa.

  5. How to read the visa sticker?

    DURATION OF STAY…XXX……DAYS indicates the number of days you may stay in the Schengen area. The days should be counted from the date you enter the Schengen area (the entry stamp) to the date you exit the Schengen area (the exit stamp), i.e. both days included.

    The period of time between “FROM XX…UNTILXX” is usually longer than the number of days printed in the “DURATION OF STAY” field. The difference in period is meant to give you flexibility to plan your entry into and exit from the Schengen area, but your stay in the Schengen area cannot exceed the exact number of days in the “DURATION OF STAY …DAYS” field. No matter how many days you have stayed in the Schengen area, you must leave no later than the date printed in the “UNTIL” field.”

    If anything special need to be paid attention, for example work permitted, it will be written at the end in the remarks

2.Application procedure

Currently, Short stay German Schengen visa applications are submitted through the German Visa Application Center. Some visa types must be submitted directly to the Embassy or Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany (see KNOW YOUR VISA TYPE).

You will need to apply for your visa at the German Visa Application Centre or the German Embassy or Consulate in the territorial area where you live.

  1. Where to apply for my Schengen visa?

    ONLY DESTINATION - You must lodge the application for a Schengen visa at the Consulate of the country that you intend to visit. If Germany is your only destination in Schengen, please apply at the German Foreign Mission/the German Visa Application Centre.

    MAIN DESTINATION - If you intend to visit more than one Schengen State, lodge your application at the Consulate of the country of your main travel purpose or where you will spend the longest period. If you plan to spend 4 days in Germany and 2 days in a neighboring Schengen country, Germany is your main destination. Also, if you attend a trade fair in Germany and add several days tourism afterwards, the trade fair is your main travel purpose and thus the Schengen visa should be applied for at the German Foreign Mission/the German Visa Application Centre.

    If you intend to visit several Schengen States and the stays will be of equal length, there is more than one destination in Schengen and obviously not main destination in Schengen, you must apply at the Consulate of the country whose external borders you will cross first when entering the Schengen area (FIRST ENTRY IF NO MAIN DESTINATION).

    As a general rule, you must apply for a Schengen visa at the Consulate competent for your residency.

  2. How do I decide when to submit my application?

    You may submit your visa application not earlier than 6 months and not later than 15 days before your intended date of arrival to Schengen Area. An early lodging of your application is recommended.

  3. Can someone else apply for a visa on behalf of applicant?

    Personal appearance is mandatory for all visa application unless you are exempted from biometric data collection.

    If you are exempted from biometric data collection, an authorized person can submit application on behalf of applicant. The authorised person has to provide a signed letter of authorization (please click here to download) as well as the original and copy of his /her ID card. The authorized person cannot be a minor.

  4. Can I submit my application by an authorized person?

    Please note the following points if you are applying through an authorized person:

    1. The representative must bring the authorization form (please click here to download) hand signed by the applicant. This authorization letter must meet below requirements, otherwise the application will not be accepted by VFS visa application centre.

      • It has to be provided as an original, no copies or faxes are accepted.
      • The letter cannot be shared with other applicants,each applicant has one separate authorization letter.
      • The letter must be fully filled out. No subsequent alterations are allowed.
      • The applicant’s signature on the letter should be identical with the applicant’s signature in the passport and application form.
      • Minor above 12 have to provide fingerprints, if represented, authorization letter is to be signed by legal guardian. Authorized person is only allowed to sign in the below documents during their appointment in the visa application centre:

      • Consent forms
      • Application visa checklist.(visa application form should be signed by the applicant)
    2. Applicant’s picture must fully comply with the strict regulations (Please refer to the photo requirements for in various types of visas.

      • If applicant’s submitted photo does not meet the requirements, photo can not either collected in the visa application centre, the submission of visa application might be returned by the German mission without being processed, whereas full fees apply
    3. When the application is submitted at counter, it is not possible to complete missing or non-compliant supporting documents.

      The authorized person is strongly advised to clarify with the applicant beforehand if the applicant wants to submit the application or withdraw, should the documents be incomplete. According to the rule of diplomatic missions, the use of mobile phones is not permitted in the visa centre. The authorized person cannot contact the applicant during the appointment inside the visa centre.

      The authorized person bears the sole responsibility for the decision about the application’s submission.

  5. What should minors pay attention to when they submit their applications? Do they need to submit special documents?

    Children under the age of 18 are minors. They benefit from a special legal protection and have limited rights and obligations. Therefore the following points must be considered during the visa application process:

    1. Application submission by minors

      Fingerprints: Children under the age of 12 are exempt from biometric data collection; their application can be filed by a parent or an authorized person (authorization letter signed by parent).

      Starting from their 12th birthday, minors must provide fingerprints.

      Signature on the application form: For applicants under the age of 18, the application form must be signed by at least one parent.

      Signature in the passport: According to ICAO standards passports of minors have to be signed by the passport holder beginning with their 10th birthday. Parents or any other person(s) are not allowed to sign a minor’s passport. In this case, the passport cannot be used to apply for a German Schengen visa.

    2. Special documents for minors:

      a) Birth certificate

      The birth certificate must be in notarial form (公证书) and legalized by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Foreign Office of the provincial government. The notarial certificate must contain a German or English translation. Neither a simple copy of a hospital certificate nor an entry into the hukou book is sufficient proof of parenthood for visa application purposes.

      The original notarial certificate will be returned to you together with the passport after completion of the visa application process and can be used again for future visa applications. The visa section only keeps the copy provided.

      b) Parental consent

      Parental consent for a family travel of a minor together with parents is given by complete application together or proper written proof that the minor is travelling together with his/her parents.

      If minors travel without parents a notarial certificate of parental consent legalized by the Chinese Ministry Of Foreign Affairs or by the Foreign Office of the provincial government, should be provided along with a translation in German or English. This document must be signed in person by both not-accompanying parents in front of the notary public.

      If only one parent accompanies the child the parental consent must be signed by the not-accompanying parent.

      If one parent lives in Germany and the child travels for family visit, the parent living in Germany does not need to provide a parental consent, but send an original invitation letter, together with a copy of his/her valid German residence permit, along with a copy of the passport including the signature page.

      If the parent who lives in China is not accompanying the child to Germany a notarized and legalized parental consent signed by this non-accompanying parent should be submitted.

      If one parent lives abroad (outside Germany), this parent needs to certify the parental consent at the Chinese Diplomatic mission in his/her country of residence. The original certificate and one copy need to be submitted with translation in German or English.

      If the minor’s parents are divorced the divorce settlement or divorce decree with a German or English translation needs to be submitted in notarial and legalized form. The original notarial certificate will be returned to you together with the passport after completion of the visa application process and can be used again for future visa applications. The visa section only keeps the copy provided.

      If one parent is deceased, a certificate of death with a German or English translation needs to be submitted in notarial and legalized form. The original notarial certificate will be returned to you together with the passport after completion of the visa application process and can be used again for future visa applications. The visa section only keeps the copy provided.

  6. What is a long term multiple entries visa?

    For those travelers who intent to enter Germany/Schengen regularly due to occupational or family reasons, a long term multiple entries visa can be issued. It allows stays for max. 90 days within 180 days.

    Frequent business travelers (visa category business/trade fair) are encouraged by the German missions in China to apply for a Schengen visa with multiple entries and longer validity of one to five years.

    If you are travelling regularly for family reasons (visa category visit family), you may apply for a multiple entry visa, valid for one to five years, that allows you to travel regularly.

    When submitting your visa application, the travel health insurance only needs to cover the length of your first planned trip. However, you are obliged to have sufficient insurance for every further trip and to provide proof when entering the Schengen area.

    Please indicate your travel intentions clearly on the application form.

  7. How long does it take to process the visa application?

    Regular processing time of a Schengen visa application of Chinese nationals at a German mission in China is within a few working days only, provided the application material is complete. Although the German missions in China aim to process short stay Schengen visa within 48 hours an early lodging of your application is recommended.

    Your application is transferred from the visa application centre to the visa section either on the same day or the following workday. If the application is submitted in a visa application center of a city without German consular presence (Changsha, Jinan, Wuhan, Xi’an, Shenzhen, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Chongqing, Kunming) it might take 1 to 3 additional workday(s) one way on average due to the postal delivery of applications to the competent consular authority.

    The Visa Code stipulates a processing time of 15 calendar days. That period may be extended up to a maximum of 45 calendar days in individual cases, notably when further scrutiny of the application is needed or in cases of representation where the authorities of the represented Member State are consulted.

  8. How to make postal applications ?

    Applicants whose biometric data (photo and fingerprints) were taken for a Schengen visa application within the past 59 months can send the applications directly to the German Visa Application Centre within his/her jurisdiction. Please refer to the Contact Us page for addresses of the application centres.

    If you submit your visa application by Post, the Visa application form, 2 recent passport photos of applicant (please make sure photo specifications are followed), along with the supporting documents and original passport should be packed in a strong envelope to ensure safe delivery. The application will not be accepted from the courier personnel, in case envelope received is in torn or damaged condition.

    Applicants should ensure that the payment slip for visa fee, service fee and courier fee is included in the applications.

    For payment instruction on visa fee, service fee and courier fee, please click here for details.

    Please note that the postal applications will be forwarded to the Embassy/Consulates only after the correct amount of visa fee, service fee and courier fee have been received; in some cases it may take few days.

    Therefore, please plan your postal submission in advance and transfer the correct amount or choose alternative way for submission in urgent cases, to avoid your trip to Germany being delayed.

    The following details should be mentioned on a cover letter in the envelope:

    • Number of applications in the envelope
    • Applicant’s name
    • Applicant’s Chinese return address within mainland China
    • Applicant’s contact telephone numbers
    • If you require an invoice, please submit invoice information together with your visa application documents.

    Important note for visa applicants:

    • To make a valid application, applicants must lodge a complete and signed application form for the short term business visa, pay the appropriate fee.
    • All supporting documents and information should be submitted together with the application.
    • To avoid possible delays, you should include all relevant information and additional documentation in support of your application at the time of lodgment (Documents required see the checklist available under the relevant visa category).
    • If you do not provide all the specified documentation at the time you lodge your application a decision may be made on the basis of the available information.
  9. How to make an appointment for large groups (Business/Cultural exchange etc.) and ADS groups?

    If your group size is under 15 people, please register and book an appointment on our website https://www.vfsglobal.cn/Germany/China/English/index.html.

    If your group size is over 15 people or if you are travelling as ADS group, please make an offline appointment with your respective German Visa Centre by sending an email to our group email address. Please indicate in the email - name of Institution or Travel Agent, name of contact person and contact number, total number of group, departure date, scheduled appointment date. Please bring all the required documents one day before the appointment date for pre-check at respective Visa Application Centre, any questions during the pre-check, we will contact the person in charge accordingly. On the day of appointment, please bring all the group members to our Visa Center at the confirmed time and pay the total fee as well as enroll fingerprints.

    Please contact to call center have more details and get email address of relevant German Visa Application Centers in China for group appointment booking. 

    Helpline: 020-2829 2270

    Consulting mailbox: info.germancn@vfshelpline.com

3. Documents

  1. What are the requirements for a passport?

    Before applying for a visa you must make sure that your passport is valid.

    1. Check the expiration date on your passport.

    • For a short stay visa (less than 90 days), the expiration date must be no earlier than 90 days after the date of your return from the Schengen area.

    2. Make sure your passport has two or more completely blank and unmarked visa pages.

    3. Make sure your passport has not been altered.

    • Check if the original laminated film (the transparent safety film that covers the passport photo) has been tampered with. If this is the case, you must ask a passport-issuing authority to re-tamper-proof your passport.
    • Make sure no pages or surfaces have been laminated (as this will invalidate your passport).
    • Check for scratching or alteration.

    4. If your passport was issued over 10 years ago, even if it is still valid at the time you submit your visa application, you must apply for a new passport from the authorities or the Embassy or Consulate of your country of origin, before being able to apply for a visa.

    It is advised that you do not apply for a visa on a passport issued for multiple persons (e.g. parent and children together).

  2. What are the requirements for travel insurance?

    It is a legal requirement of the Schengen States that applicants must be in possession of a travel medical insurance when applying for a Schengen visa.

    The travel medical insurance has to be valid for the whole Schengen area as well as for the entire duration of the intended stay, including flight times.

    If your travel dates might change on short notice, it is recommended to purchase a flexible insurance covering a minimum of for example 15 or 30 days after departure from China instead of fixed entry/exit dates.

    The insurance policy needs to show cover of repatriation in the case of illness and death as well as any costs for emergency medical assistance and/or in-and outpatient treatment in a hospital. The minimum cover must be EUR 30.000

    The insurance (Single or Group policy) can be signed by the traveler in the country of residence, in a third country or by the host in the destination country.

    Insurers with headquarters outside of the Schengen area should have an office in one of the Schengen states that is able to process insurance claims.

    In the case of people who are susceptible to illness or have obvious pre-existing conditions or who are, for example, aware of an existing pregnancy, greater insurance coverage is required. In cases where travel is to be taken for the purpose of medical treatment, the coverage of the treatment cost has to be separately verified.

    Original printed evidence of Travel Health insurance must be provided with the application for the Schengen visa. If necessary, separate proof of payment may be required (for example in the case of online insurance purchases). The visa section will keep a copy of the evidence of insurance in the file.

  3. What are the requirements for a business invitation?

    The letter must:

    • Be on official company paper
    • Include the full address, phone and fax numbers, email address and contact person within the company (in case of further inquiries)
    • Include a company stamp
    • Be dated
    • Include the original signature of the authorized representative (no digital signature), name and position
    • Include the purpose and duration of the visit
    • Include a detailed program of the visit – including locations to be visited
    • Detail the person or the entity who bears your travel and living costs
    • If applicable, confirmation of the German company that the travel and accommodation expenses will be paid by the German company following §§ 66-68 AufenthG
    • Be issued in English or German

    Important reminder:

    • Digital signatures are not accepted.
    • The signature must not be faked by a third person in China.
    • If your original invitation letter has not arrived by post on time, submit your business visa application with a scan copy and a print out of the email containing the scan (sender and sender details must be visible).
    • Do not apply for a tourism visa if you have not received your original invitation letter by post on time. An application submission with a wrong travel purpose might increase the risk of refusal.
    • If you are planning to visit an exhibition, you do not need to provide an invitation letter issued by the exhibition company. Apply for a business visa for an exhibition visit and ensure that your employer indicates in the employment certificate that you will visit the exhibition.
    • Invitation letters to international conferences are usually only issued electronically. Please ensure that the contact details of the organizer are available for further inquiries (email, phone number, homepage
  4. What are the requirements for bank statements?

    Please submit bank statements of your salary account or other current accounts with regular income during your visa application submission process.

    The bank statement should meet the following general requirements:

    • It must include all ingoing and outgoing payments for the previous three months before the visa application submission.
    • It must be stamped by the bank.
    • The applicant’s name must be clearly visible (without retroactive modifications).
    • It must offer an accurate reflection of account activity; the excerpt must not be manipulated.

    The bank statement serves to prove your regular employment situation, the means of subsistence in China and the financing of your stay abroad.

    The format of the bank statements can vary depending on the issuing bank; all formats are accepted. Excerpts of credit card statements and fixed-term deposit accounts cannot replace the bank statement; they can however be submitted as additional documents.

    The above mentioned requirements apply for private and business accounts. In case of business accounts, the name of the employer (company name) needs to be visible on the bank statement issued by the bank

  5. What is a Formal Obligation Letter (Verpflichtungerklärung)? How to get it?

    A “Verpflichtungserklärung” is a formal obligation if you cannot proof regular income and you are going to Germany and planning to stay for a period of less than 3 months with friends or relatives with permanent residence in Germany.

    A "Verpflichtungserklärung” form, this formal letter of guarantee / formal obligation must be obtained by your host in Germany. Your host may obtain this document in person from their local municipal administration / Ausländerbehörde.

    For the visa application you will have to hand in the original and a copy of the “Verpflichtungserklärung”, you will receive the original back with your passport. Please keep it with you during your stay in Europe.

  6. What are the requirements for the employment certificate / company certificate?

    Please submit your employer’s certificate or your own company’s certificate which should:

    • Be written on official company paper;
    • Be written in Chinese with a German or English translation if issued by a Chinese company; Be written in German or English if issued by an International company;
    • Include the current address, telephone number, fax number, homepage, email address and contact name of the person within the company;
    • Be stamped by the company;
    • Include the date of issue;
    • Be signed by the responsible authority within the company (no digital signature). The certificate must not be signed by a third person;
    • Include the name and position of the signing officer;
    • Confirm the approval of leave or absence;
    • Clearly state the purpose and duration of the visit;
    • Include the name of the city and fair being visited if applicable;
    • Include confirmation of position after the return;
    • Include information about financing of travel and accommodation costs (financed by the employer, the inviting company or self-financing)

    Company owners must provide a confirmation letter issued by the HR department which fulfills the above mentioned criteria.

    The signature of the responsible authority must be original and the letter should not be signed by a third person on behalf of the responsible officer as this could lead to visa refusal.

    It is important that the purpose of travel is correctly included in the employment certificate:

    Applicants travelling for business purposes on behalf of their employer should state the purpose of travel as “business visit”;

    Applicants travelling to attend a fair or exhibition should indicate the name of the fair and the city in which it is being held as well as the duration of the visit

4. Biometric data capture

  1. I have already provided my biometric information. If I want to apply for a new Schengen visa, do I still need to provide my fingerprints?

    Biometric data already collected for a Schengen visa is valid for 59 months from the date the biometric data capture was done. If you have already provided your biometric data for a previous successful Schengen visa application with one Schengen country, then you do not need to come in person to submit them again if you apply for a new Schengen visa, even with a different Schengen country. You will only have to provide the visa sticker number and photocopy of the Schengen visa as a proof during the new visa application procedure. Your fingerprint scans can be copied for your follow-up application from the central VIS database. The VIS is a common database to all Schengen countries, please refer to question 1.1 to identify which countries are Schengen countries. After expiry of 59 months, you have to provide fingerprint scans again.

  2. My previous application for a Schengen visa was refused. Do I still need to provide my biometric data when I want to apply next time?

    In case your previous visa application has been refused, you don’t necessarily have to submit the biometric data again. If you have marked “Yes” in field no. 27 of the Schengen application form, you are responsible that your fingerprint scans have already been successfully collected previously during the last 59 months. The visa section will try to copy your previously submitted finger scans from the Schengen VIS-database for your new application. However, if the copy of your fingerprint scans is technically not possible, you will be required to go to the German visa section and submit the biometric data again.

  3. Under what circumstances are the applicants exempted from providing their biometric data?

    There are 3 cases of exemption:

    • Children strictly under the age of 12;
    • Applicants who are physically unable to submit their fingerprints for scan (hand/finger/arm amputated). However, if it is possible to scan at least one fingertip, then applicants have to go through the biometric step. In the case of a temporary inability to provide the fingerprints (plaster, bandage, etc.), the applicant still has to come in person and have the most possible fingerprints scanned. As only a part of the fingerprints have been collected, the applicant will have to come in person to allow the fingerprints scan again the next time applying for a visa;
    • Applicants who are applying for a new Schengen visa and have already submitted their biometric data during a past successful Schengen visa application. Applicants in this case will have to provide the visa sticker number and a photocopy of the previous visa.
  4. I have once obtained a UK, US and a national visa. By that time I also provided my biometric data. Can I be exempted when I apply for a Schengen visa?

    VIS is a system for the exchange of visa data between Schengen countries. If fingerprints have been previously provided for a visa application to the US or UK, the fingerprints cannot be used for the Schengen visa application. Fingerprints which have been provided for a national visa application can neither be used for a Schengen visa application.