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.