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Preamble. I am a Russian engineer and I have had a Thai boyfriend for 9 years now. I live in Russia because there is no good job for me in Thailand (and I find Thai climate too hot for a permanent life). My friend lives in Thailand because Russia is too much risk for a Thai gay boy (to say nothing about climate) and he has to raise two nieces left by his sister who died.

During all these years, I had at least two holidays a year with my boyfriend and as we both love traveling, we've seen most of Asia (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Macao, Hong Kong, Korea), some Russia (before there started all this anti-gay hysteria) and once we even got as far as South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile).

The point. Now, my boyfriend is asking me to go to Europe. My saying that Europe is not worth seeing makes no effect, he is eager to go. Obviously, he's seeing too much prettified travelogues on TV.

Traveling to the EU is different because we've never traveled anywhere where my friend would need a visa, and now he does. I have been to Schengen zone only twice in last years because I used every occasion to go to Asia; still, getting a Schengen visa for someone of my occupation and income in the country where I live is a process fairly easy and predictable.

However, I don't know the first thing about how to arrange a visa for my Thai friend. There is no way for us to legalize our union, so legally we are strangers to each other. From the point of view of income, my boyfriend relies on his average-sized rice farm (raising about 10000 USD a year). It is always I who foots the bill when it comes to traveling.

I am quite ready to spend some sum on the scale of 6000 or 7000 USD for a good 3-week trip, but the EU requires a huge amount of expenses (hotel bookings, airline tickets) to be carried before visa application, as prerequisites, and if you get refused all this money is essentially confiscated and cannot be recovered because sane air fares and hotel prices are almost always non-refundable. That's what makes me reluctant.

So, the question. What's the right course of action? How to procure a Schengen visa for my Thai boyfriend, or at least arrange the application in such a way that even if it is refused, nothing is forfeited except the officially-declared visa fee?

Disclaimer. I have no particular scruples against bribing or similar things.

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    With respect to refundable airfares and hotels, it is always possible to book refundable, wait for the visa, cancel the refundable, and book cheaper non-refundable flights + rooms if the visa was successful. – waiwai933 Jul 16 '15 at 20:48
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    @waiwai933 Visa applications cannot be lodged earlier than 3 months before the trip. Optimistically, you get an answer 2½ months before you plan to travel, and that's too late to get any decent price for anything. – Che Jul 16 '15 at 20:53
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    I think there is way too much information in your question, you really only need to supply what passports you have, where you want to go, and for how long. Your relationship shouldn't really matter, "friends" travel together all the time. Also it doesn't look too difficult to get a tourist visa for a Thai citizen: thaiembassy.com/thailand/schengen-visa.php and siam-legal.com/foreign-visas/schengen-visa-thailand.php – EdmundYeung99 Jul 16 '15 at 21:05
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    Two things working in his favor are his ties to Thailand (farm, neices) and his travel history. In my experience, hotel bookings are generally cancelable up to a couple of weeks before or even the night before, so you mostly need to worry about airfare. For that, you can make a reservation and then only purchase the ticket after being granted the visa. I don't know how long a travel agent can hold a reservation without payment, however. – phoog Jul 16 '15 at 21:07
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    @Che you could submit other documents to support the travel history in lieu of a passport, such as receipts for accommodation or meals. – phoog Jul 16 '15 at 21:41
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Based upon what you wrote, you are a Russian national who wants to get a Schengen visa and simultaneously sponsor a Thai national who is not a family member (de facto or otherwise) of yours. You have a favourable history of performance in Schengen. Your partner has some travel experience but is unable to prove it.

The gay issue is not really a big deal and Russians can get Schengens at the drop of a hat. The big issue will be establishing a premise for your partner's visit when there's no 'durable relationship' tying you together (for example, cohabitation, monthly remittances, shared expenses, joint bank accounts, and so on). So while there may be legal barriers to forming a civil partnership, nothing prevents a committed lifestyle together. Consular officers will be looking for signs they define as indicators for a "committed lifestyle". Are your bank accounts held jointly for example? (if so, that's a good thing)

To add some extra complexity, you propose to "double down the bet" by gaming the hotel/air booking systems or by having all your evidence based upon cancellable bookings. They will interpret this evidence as reduced quality and much worse, it may undermine your claim to a committed relationship (that's a bad thing). But just to take things a step further, even the highest quality, non refundable, prepaid bookings will not save an application where the premise is failed.

How to procure a Schengen visa for my Thai boyfriend, or at least arrange the application in such a way that even if it is refused, nothing is forfeited except the officially-declared visa fee?

This question has been answered largely in comments.

  1. Have your partner collect the bookings needed to support the application making sure that all of them are fully cancellable (or gamed);
  2. Have your partner include his financial evidence along with an authenticated copy of yours;
  3. Put together any evidence you have supporting the claim to a de facto relationship;
  4. Submit the application to a Schengen issuing post in Thailand. Assuming you apply to the Netherlands, you would apply via their facilitator, VFS.

When the decision is reached, your stated objective will be the result: you have lost the application fee. Implicitly however, your partner's credibility will be stained going forward (that's a bad thing), and your claim to a de facto relationship will be weakened (that's also a bad thing).

I enjoyed the hint that you are open to bribery. It tells me that you are devoted and ready to take on some extra expense in order to enjoy a holiday in Europe with your partner. So where does that leave us? For about 1/3 - 1/2 the price of dealing with the snakeheads, you can instruct a blue-blooded, accredited law firm with a practice area in Schengen to represent your partner's application.

What's the right course of action?

If you are doubtful about how to best assure your partner's successful application, you can arrange a consultation with a solicitor. Select a law firm with impeccable credentials in European migration and let them sort it out.

  • I always understood that you were not meant to pay for hotels or flights until after your visa was approved. – Michael Hampton Jul 16 '15 at 23:49
  • I also understood what @MichaelHampton says to be true. The German site I consulted earlier, for example, said the same (I do not remember which site it was, exactly), and I've seen that advice repeatedly. But given Che's comments, and my experience several years ago of having a reservation that had to be paid for in one week, I wonder whether this guidance isn't naive or outdated (the people writing the guidance obviously have never applied for Schengen visas, so have probably not tried recently to keep a reservation for tickets or accommodation open for several weeks without paying). – phoog Jul 17 '15 at 1:42
  • @phoog, I am doubtful that the application would reach the stage where the decision-maker wanted to examine confirmations. But can you please convert your comment into an answer? Maybe fleshed out a bit more? – Gayot Fow Jul 17 '15 at 2:21
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    @MichaelHampton I never said there is the requirement to pay for hotels to get the visa (though I know of an occurrence when a Schengen embassy required to do so; from what I heard, it seems as if Central European countries like it this way). But we don't need to just get a visa; we want to do the trip in the first place, which means we need hotel bookings for their own sake not just for the visa. And yet again, for example, in Lapland there are lots of prepaid options which are 50% cheaper than pay-at-hotel ones. – Che Jul 17 '15 at 8:09
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    @GayotFow: I'm a bit confused by your comment, but anyway - I was just trying to point out that it's an unrealistic assumption that people in an international LDR would have joint bank accounts. (After all, it's already an unrealistic assumption that all couples physically living together go through the hassle and join their bank accounts.) As such, I found it questionable to imply joint bank accounts are a sign of a "committed lifestyle together", rather than just plainly stating that joint bank accounts are one of the factors a consular officer may be looking for. – O. R. Mapper Jul 17 '15 at 13:59

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