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I've applied for a Schengen visa (short stay) through the Belgian embassy in Lima, Peru in May 5th and with a lot of time 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 consular officer was a little bit curious about my itinerary (probably it was somehow "peculiar") and asked me some questions that I answered without problems about the friends I have in Belgium.

So, since the embassy requires to provide an itinerary or any other document that explains the purpose of the trip I just did the following assuming was fine: printed the booked tours that I bought (all were refundable) and added a letter explaining the purpose of the trip because it was more focused on visiting people.


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

  • Take a tour in Brussels which includes Grand Place, parliament and other relevant places in one day.
  • Take a full-day tour to Luxembourg.
  • Take a full-day tour to The Netherlands.
  • Go to Hasselt and visit friends.

Itinerary question:

1. Is it a fair enough one? I ask this because I am pretty sure that I got the consular officer attention for not visiting France or a more popular place for example.


On the other hand, when accepting my application I was told to call the embassy after one week to know the status of it, probably a decision have been made so, 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 just asked if that's the normal procedure and they told me that it depends on the consul, they don't even know.

Then, after doing some research I found out some useful info saying that some embassies do that with their visa applications (including short stay ones) sometimes because they want to investigate more and it's also a common pattern (especially from Belgium).

However, until today (June 3rd) I am still waiting for my visa application to be reviewed, I can track it online but nothing else, even the Belgian embassy in Lima can't say something about it 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 just a short stay visa decision and, when I've applied for other visas in other embassies, the decisions were 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 within 7 to 15 days - which is acceptable - but it can take up to 30 or 60 days in the worse case and that's too much in my opinion).


Visa application questions:

2. Did anybody experience the same before? (waiting too long for a visa decision)

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 would they like to know? I provided everything they needed.

4. How does the "Home Affairs FPS – Immigration Office" could review my visa application if all my documents are in Spanish? (plus I don't think the embassy will take the time to translate documents)

5. When the visa application processing time takes longer, did anybody knows if the embassy can return your passport back?


Overall I think the Belgian embassy in Lima was too lazy to review my application or doubted about my itinerary and sent it to Brussels just to delay the process since my trip was planned for a later time (but I am just assuming). 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 visas anymore in the near future.


Update:

At the end I cancelled my Belgian visa application since it took more than 30 days (I felt so good doing that in their face but I needed to write a letter explaining reasons) then applied through France where they gave me the visa in just one day but asked me about my previous visa application so I told them how slow the Belgian embassy was and of course I changed plans in order to spend more days in France but at the end I really had good vacations - even more days than expected - and visited France, Belgium and Netherlands so all were good news.

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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
  • 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
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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.

  • 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 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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