How to apply for a Schengen visa for Hungary and some general Schengen visa tips
A Schengen visa is required to travel to Hungary. It is one of the most onerous visas to apply for, along with USA and UK visas.
General points about Schengen visas
- The Schengen Visa is a short stay visa that allows a person to travel to any member countries of the Schengen Area, for stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.
- The Schengen Area is a group of 27 European countries that have abolished passport and other types of border controls at their mutual borders.
- The Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.
- There are different types of Schengen Visas depending on the purpose of your travel.
- The Schengen visa can be issued for short stays (up to 90 days within a 180-day period) or for multiple entries. This is usually at the discretion of the embassy. The validity and duration of stay will be mentioned on the visa sticker affixed to your passport.
- A single-entry Schengen visa will allow you to visit multiple Schengen countries as long as you do not leave the Schengen area. If you plan to leave the area and return, then apply for a multiple-entry visa.
- If you plan to visit multiple Schengen countries, you should apply for the visa at the embassy or consulate of the country that is your primary destination or where you will be spending the most time. If it's not clear which country is your primary destination, you'd typically apply to the country you will enter first. We travelled to Hungary, Austria and Slovakia. Hungary was our first destination therefore we applied via the Hungarian embassy.
- The process typically includes filling out an application form, providing prescribed documentation, attending an interview, and paying a fee.
How to apply for a Schengen visa for Hungary
- The TLS Contact Centre processes Schengen visas for the Hungarian embassy in South Africa. They have branches in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, and also process visas for United Kingdom.
- You have to register an account on their website and complete an application form before you can make an appointment.
- Then get the extensive list of documents together as per their requirements. See the list of required documents for a tourist visa here.
- At the appointment, the TLS staff went through our documents with us to see that all the required documents were there. (If documents are missing, you will be required to make another appointment.)
- Our biometrics were taken and we were also asked to sign documents and make payments totalling R2009 each (based on Euro amount). Only debit or credit card payments are accepted, not cash.
- We were told to bring passport copies and my sons unabridged birth certificate with when collecting our passports.
- Processing time is around 2 weeks. We received emails and SMSes 8 days later to say that our passports were ready for collection. It did not say whether the visas were approved or not.
- When we went in to collect the passports, we were asked for passport copies (remember to make copies before you hand in your passport), visa application receipts and my son’s unabridged birth certificate. We were then handed individual envelopes containing our passports. Fortunately, the visas were inside.
Budapest Nyugati Railway Station
General tips when applying for a Schengen visa
- Keep all documents in the prescribed order when attending the appointment.
- It is not necessary to book actual flights and hotels as your visa could be declined. For flights, you can get a flight reservation from a travel agent or book a dummy flight online. In South Africa, Rennies Travel will provide you with a complimentary flight reservation the first time you require one, thereafter they charge a reasonable service fee. Another travel agency wanted to charge me R1000 per person!
- If you are going to more than one city/country, you will need to indicate how you will be travelling to the other cities/countries.
- For hotels, you can make cancellable bookings on Booking.com.
- If you are travelling with a school-going child, you will need a letter from the school to confirm that they are registered there.
- Also take a sample itinerary with. You can always change it later.
- Insurance must cover assistance in the Schengen area with a coverage minimum of 30.000 €. Check with your medical aid and credit card company if they provide free medical travel insurance We get it with Discovery Medical Aid and our ABSA British Airways credit card.
- You may be called in for an interview with the embassy if they require further information. We weren’t called in for this visa, but my husband was called in when we applied for the Schengen visa for Spain.
- If you are travelling together as a family or group to Hungary, then you need to submit all the applications on the same login in order to have your appointments together as they only take 2 appointments a day. I didn’t because I was experiencing a system error and it was a nightmare to get them to give me an appointment on the same day thereafter because they did not respond to emails on their general email address. When I finally got through to someone on the phone, they said they couldn’t help me and asked me to contact the embassy. The embassy responded swiftly and asked them to assist me. Someone from TLS then contacted me and eventually, after going back and forth, they agreed to let me come on the same day.