Please read carefully in order to understand my questions and sorry if I typed too much.

I applied for a Schengen visa (short stay) through Belgium embassy in Lima, Peru (my home country) on May 5th, well in advance since I plan to travel starting August.

My application was accepted - it was really a pain to prepare all those documents - however, that day the interviewer was a little bit curious about my itinerary, asked me some questions before processing my application which I answered without problems (probably the itinerary was somehow "peculiar" or different from others).

Just to know, this is the first time I am planning to travel Europe (I already travelled to other countries) and first time applying to this visa so, since the embassy says to provide an itinerary or any other document that explains the purpose of the trip and nothing else, I just did the following (assuming was fine): printed the booked tours that I bought (all are refundable) and then printed schedules, entry fee and description from the places I wish to visit in other city like museums, nature reserves, parks and other places from its official tourism website (no reservation was needed). Then I also added a letter explaining the purpose of the trip.

To be more clear, I am planning to do the following:

  • Take a couple of days to just rest, explore the city and feel better because of jet lag.
  • Take a tour around Brussels which includes Grand Place, parliament and other relevant places in one day.
  • Take a full-day tour to Luxembourg and visit relevant places.
  • Take a full-day tour to The Netherlands and visit relevant places.
  • Return Brussels and move to Hasselt to go shopping, visit museums, Japanese garden plus other places.

Please don't judge me because I am not going France or I didn't plan to visit most interesting places/monuments, I just want something more "quiet" and spend money but in a way I can handle. So, my stay in Europe will be just for 13 days (6 days in Brussels, 7 days in Hasselt) and I think is a "good" starting point since I am a first-time traveller that likes cities and only wants to feel a little bit "relaxed".

My question regarding my itinerary could be:

1. Is that a good one for a starting point? I think everybody is free to do whatever they want but I don't know if what I planned is valid at all since it also caught the attention of the embassy interviewer and one of her questions was if I know someone else in Belgium (I don't have any friends there, I am just trying to do something different, I argued).

Now that my application was lodged (it was admissible) I was told to call the embassy one week later to know the status of it, probably a decision could be ready and, when I did it, they told me that my application was forwarded to Brussels for consultation. It seems that somehow the consul did that with my application in May 8th and was received by the "Home Affairs FPS – Immigration Office" (https://dofi.ibz.be) in May 11th for a final decision and, when that happened, I asked why the procedure was like that and they told me that it depends on the consul, they even don't know.

Then, after doing some research I found some useful information on internet which said that some embassies do that with their visa applications (including short stay ones) sometimes because they want to investigate more and I also found that it could be a common pattern too (specially from Belgium embassy - sorry for not providing the sources).

So, until today June 3rd I am still waiting for my visa application to be reviewed, I can track the visa application through the website specified above but nothing else, even Belgium embassy in Lima can't say something regarding this and everything is just a matter of time but for god sake! A month will pass in some more days and that's too much for a short stay visa decision and, when I did such things before in embassies from other countries, the decision was taken immediately or in some more days but nothing like this (from what I have read, it seems that you can get a Schengen visa in 7, 15 days which is acceptable but also up to 30 or 60, can vary but that's too much from my point of view).

My questions regarding the visa application could be:

2. Did anybody experience the same before? (waiting too much time for processing a visa application and going through the "Home Affairs FPS – Immigration Office"). Are they so strict when deciding positive/negative?

3. If they want to investigate more about me and supposing that's the reason why they moved my visa application to Brussels, what else could they expect or want to know? I provided everything they want, I also work since many years (around 5 continuously in two different jobs as software engineer) have a car, money, credit cards, etc.

4. How do they will review my visa application? all my documents are in Spanish (my native language) and everything is like that because embassy never required to translate them to English, French or Dutch and I assume they received the documents as they are.

5. When the visa application processing time takes longer, did anybody knows if the embassy can return your passport back? I can't stand what a person could do if he needs to travel during the waiting time for example - I think this could be valid since the times are not reasonable because we are not talking about just few days (in some cases).

After all that it seems to me like Belgium embassy in Lima was too lazy to review my application and sent it to Brussels just to delay the process since my trip was planned for a later time (I don't know, I am just speculating). I am also a little bit frustrated since I don't know if I will be allowed to travel or not and I already have holidays assigned at work plus a refundable flying ticket already bought! Hopefully my country won't require Schengen visa anymore by the end of this year (I know latin-americans sometimes are not looked in a "good" way but people like me only want to travel, not work or become a risk).

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    Hi, you have two separate questions here one about the itinerary and one about the visa. I would remove the itinerary question and associated text, you can leave in that they questioned it in the interview but just say you plan to tour a few cities in Belgium and The Netherlands to give some context. Ask the itinerary question separately if you want but it may be a bit broad and opinion based (asking 'Is it physically possible' would be OK, asking if it's a 'good' itinerary would get closed). I think questions 2 to 5 are basically close enough to be left together, the mods may disagree. – SpaceDog Jun 4 '15 at 6:20
  • @SpaceDog sorry about that, just tried to explain all in detail and ask the questions when possible. You may be right regarding itinerary question but I also had other ones which made this topic valid - I believe. – Oscar Jara Jun 4 '15 at 13:47
  • I took the itinerary question to be solely about its acceptability for the visa application, not whether it's a good itinerary in general… – Relaxed Jun 4 '15 at 13:49
  • Yes and thats what I was expecting since everything is focused on the application, thank you again. – Oscar Jara Jun 4 '15 at 13:55

Your itinerary sounds reasonable to me. Your interview is already in the past so there isn't a whole lot you can do for this application but in general, when dealing with consular officials or border guards, just be genuine, never lie but don't apologise and try not to be too nervous.

Some details might indeed suggest that there are some special concerns about your application but on the other hand, if it was clearly inappropriate, they could also refuse it in a couple of weeks. That means that it is still entirely possible you will get a visa in the end.

I don't have detailed statistics by country or by consulate at hand but if that's any help, note that the refusal rate for South America is slightly north of 5%, much better than for applications from Africa for example (and that's taking into account the fact that South America mostly means Colombia/Ecuador/Bolivia/Peru as the nationals from many other countries don't even need a visa). So, without knowing anything else about the particulars, it would seem your odds are quite good.

One month is long but it's in line with the information found on the official website. In particular, for Schengen visas, they write that it can take up to 60 days in the worse case:

Toutefois, vous devrez attendre plus longtemps lorsque le consulat transmet votre demande de visa à l’Office des étrangers pour un examen plus approfondi (60 jours maximum).

The level of friendliness and professionalism varies from consulate to consulate. It's indeed annoying to have your passport taken away for so long and some consulates only require you to bring it back at the end of the process but that does not mean that all of them have to offer a reasonable solution and sometimes they don't really care. Some countries even issue a second passport to frequent travellers to help them deal with this and other related issues.

As to what they might be investigating I don't really know but I am guessing they could check their databases for red flags about you, your travel agency, or your employer, check if your hotel booking is genuine, look up population registers for relatives in Belgium, etc. Or they simply want a senior case-worker to have a look at the application.

In this context, the line of questioning about “knowing anyone in Belgium” should be pretty standard. The concern would be that you are claiming to go for tourism but really intend to settle illegally. If they turn up any clue that that might be the case or that you lied about this, they would then definitely refuse the application.

Beyond that, and I hope I won't offend anyone by saying this, but I have many friends who live there or have to deal with all this professionally and Belgium does not have a reputation for good governance and efficient administration (compared to its neighbours at least). So it's entirely possible that your application is slowly making its way through the bureaucracy, maybe waiting for some senior Spanish-speaking case-worker to come back from holiday and get around to looking at a pile of applications for the summer or something like that.

  • Hey, good explanation and thanks for sharing what you know about this and take the time, appreciate that. Hope the waiting time worth it otherwise I will think about changing my holiday and flying dates until my country don't require visa anymore. It seems that everything indicates that the agreement will be signed in some more days but the biometric passports required to travel there will be available in November by our government (and they already delayed this) so I asume in December or starting next year we will be free to go, hopefully. – Oscar Jara Jun 4 '15 at 13:40
  • I was forgetting something that came to my mind. Assuming they deny my visa application this time, if I travel in future, is it a bad indicator when I attempt to enter the Schengen area when my country don't require a visa anymore? thanks again. – Oscar Jara Jun 4 '15 at 13:43
  • @OscarJara It won't really matter. Unlike say in the US, there is no form where you have to disclose it and no situation in which applying for a visa is mandatory even though your country is part of the visa waiver program. So once Peru is in, you are in. The most that could happen is that border guards ask you about it during the landing interview and then look at your case a little more carefully. – Relaxed Jun 4 '15 at 13:46
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    At the end I cancelled my Belgium visa application since it took more than 30 days (I felt so good doing that in their face) and applied through France, they gave me the visa in just one day (but they asked about my previous application and I told them how slow Belgium embassy was) and of course I changed plans but at the end I had really good vacations, even more days that the ones expected and visited France, Belgium and just spent one day in The Netherlands for my returning flight - hopefully in December no visa will be needed with our new passports so all were good news. – Oscar Jara Sep 17 '15 at 13:59

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