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I have a business meeting in Portugal requested by my employer, I got a visa invitation letter from the Organization's headquarter in Switzerland indicating that I'll be attending work-related meetings in Portugal.

The VFS Global agent refused to apply for a business visa whatsoever and informed me that since the HQ is in a different country we can't process this as Business visa.

Is that correct? Should I email the embassy with my reference number and explain?

EDIT: They processed my application as Tourism visa...

EDIT 2: I applied to Portugal, since my entire stay is there.

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The VFS response is bizarre, because of course businesses that are even entirely outside the Schengen area may have business activities inside the Schengen area without having a business partner inside the Schengen area. But in the end, there is no separate category of Schengen visa depending on the purpose of the travel. There is only the type C "short stay" visa.

If the visa is granted after you describe the purpose and circumstances of your trip accurately, and you undertake the trip as described in your application, then all should be well, regardless of whether they process the application as a "business" application, a "tourist" application, or anything else.


Prompted by a comment from jcaron (who is, I should point out for the casual reader, a user with high reputation who certainly knows a good deal about these things), I dug a little deeper.

The requirement to have a letter from a business or company based in Portugal is reflected on VFS's page for applications to Portuguese authorities submitted in the United States (punctuation corrected, hyperlinks not reproduced, and bullets added for clarity):

Applicants who intend to travel for business purposes, i.e. visiting a business/company to have meetings, to make business deals, to recruit, to train or other work related activities can apply for a Business visa.

Every Business visa application has to be confirmed by an invitation letter from a business/company based in Portugal, if not, applicant will have to apply as a Tourist.

In regards to conference/seminar/workshop the following applicants can also apply for a Business visa:

  • Students going to attend a conference/seminar/workshop related to their studies
  • Applicants/Employees going to attend a conference/seminar/workshop organized by their company or another company directly related to their company
  • Applicants going to be actively involved in a conference/seminar/workshop

Employer/student letter needs to confirm clearly the purpose of attending the conference/seminar/workshop, if not, applicant will need to apply for a Tourist visa.

Now consider a company with offices in (for example) Asia and North America that wants to have a meeting somewhere in between. They book accommodations and a conference room at a hotel in Portugal. The only company based in Portugal is the company operating the hotel, but this company is not "directly related" to any of the companies participating in the meeting.

In most jurisdictions, the people attending the conference would need business visas because they are visiting for commercial or professional reasons. But according to the instructions from VFS, the application must be handled as a tourist application because no Portuguese business is directly involved.

What does the Schengen visa code say about this? The word "business" appears in three places in the current consolidated version of the code. First, it appears once in the model "harmonized application form" in Annex I as one of the multiple-choice options to indicate the "purpose(s) of the journey" in question 23. The remaining occurrences are in Annex II, the "non-exhaustive list of supporting documents," item A(1):

A. DOCUMENTATION RELATING TO THE PURPOSE OF THE JOURNEY

  1. for business trips:

    (a) an invitation from a firm or an authority to attend meetings, conferences or events connected with trade, industry or work;

    (b) other documents which show the existence of trade relations or relations for work purposes;

    (c) entry tickets for fairs and congresses, if appropriate;

    (d) documents proving the business activities of the company;

    (e) documents proving the applicant’s employment status in the company;

Nothing here says that the company has to be active in the destination country or even in the Schengen area. On the other hand, that requirement could be inferred from item (a) and possibly item (b).

But surely none of this is meant to exclude the possibility of foreign companies arranging to have business meetings on the territory of any Schengen country. Many jurisdictions designate "business visitor visas" for people who are engaging in business activities while visiting. It seems that Portugal has chosen to define them as applying to people who are visiting Portuguese businesses.

But none of this should distract from the fact that Schengen short-stay (type C) visas are not inherently categorized for a specific purpose. Everything under discussion here is specified in an annex of the Schengen Visa Code, not in an article of the code itself. Note how the application form allows multiple designations for the "purpose(s)" of the journey under item 23, and focus on the provisions in the main body of the code, at article 14.

Article 14 is part of chapter II, which specifies the application itself. The evaluation of an application is covered in chapter III, the relevant bit for our purposes being 21(3)(b):

  1. While checking whether the applicant fulfils the entry conditions, the consulate or the central authorities shall verify:

    ...

    (b) the applicant’s justification for the purpose and conditions of the intended stay, and that he has sufficient means of subsistence, both for the duration of the intended stay and for the return to his country of origin or residence, or for the transit to a third country into which he is certain to be admitted, or is in a position to acquire such means lawfully;

This means that you must have a legitimate purpose for visiting, which you do have, and that you must provide documents showing this legitimate purpose, which you have submitted. The fact that Portugal's instructions for submitting the application require you to submit it as a "tourism" application is not central to the legal requirements of the code, and should not result in refusal of the application.

Please come back to let us know what happens.

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  • If the application says “tourism” while OP is coming for business it does not describe the purpose and circumstances of the trip accurately… also the supporting documentation would probably be quite different in the two cases. That’s really a weird decision, but I’m actually puzzled that VFS have any say in this.
    – jcaron
    Oct 9, 2022 at 21:56
  • @jcaron the application states that the applicant plans to attend business meetings in Portugal and includes documents from the two business entities attesting to this. The purpose and circumstances of the visit are indeed well documented, and VFS's insistance on processing the application as a tourist application is irrelevant if the visa is granted. Now if the consulate refuses or rejects the application because VFS entered it in the wrong category, that is another matter. The categories affect only the type of documentation needed to support the application, not the visa itself.
    – phoog
    Oct 10, 2022 at 6:42
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    @jcaron "I’m actually puzzled that VFS have any say in this": if you look at VFS's page for Portugal applications from the US, it says "Every Business visa application has to be confirmed by an invitation letter from a business/company based in Portugal, if not, applicant will have to apply as a Tourist." This appears to be a requirement imposed by the consulate. In that light, surely this won't be the first time that business trips relating to non-Portuguese businesses are conducted using a "tourist" visa.
    – phoog
    Oct 10, 2022 at 6:49
  • Wow. Thank you for the edited reply. I have looked on the Egyptian website for VFS many times and couldn't find such information. I will definitely update when I get my passport back.
    – John Maged
    Oct 10, 2022 at 11:55

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