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Web site of Consulate General of France in San Francisco has detailed information about what forms and documents are required to apply for a short-term Schengen tourist visa. However, there isn't a single word there about "cover letter" of any kind. Yet, many sources on the Net mention a cover letter that should supposedly be included with the application. So, what is the deal with that cover letter? Is it really required?

I understand that cover letter should definitely be included into the mailing for those who apply for Schengen visa over the mail. But what about those who apply for their very first Schengen visa, and therefore have to do it in person? Is cover letter really needed or not?

In my case it is San Francisco Consulate specifically.

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    I've had a few Schengen Visas over the years and all have been in person. I've never given nor been asked for a cover letter but instead I always include a detailed itinerary. – Rodney Hawkins Jul 16 '17 at 9:45
  • @Rodney Hawkins: By "detailed itinerary" do you mean the itinerary that airline gave you? Or do you actually include a full schedule of where you are planning to be each and every day of your vacation? – AnT Jul 16 '17 at 9:47
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    I include a spreadsheet that shows Transportion (flights, rail with times and reference to supporting documentation), Accomodation (hotel name and reference to supporting documentation) and Budget for that particular day (rough estimate you plan to spend for that day). Just allows them to see your plans without having to deduce it themselves from the mountain of supporting documentation. – Rodney Hawkins Jul 16 '17 at 9:52
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There are no rules stating that a cover letter should be included in a visa application; it's an entirely optional step and in the vast majority of cases a cover letter is not provided.

Also, there are no guidelines for what a cover letter should say or what its purpose is. Accordingly, this answer provides ideas and suggestions only.

Header and subject

Your own name, address, mobile number, email address, and application date.

The appropriate consulate should be identified...

Visa Section
Consulate General of France in St Petersburg
12, avenue Nevsky, 5th floor
191186 St. Petersburg
Russia

The subject of the letter should identify the applicant...

Subject: John Marley Jones, Canadian national, DOB 4 April 1990

There is no need for a salutation if you don't know the visa officer, and under the subject is the attachment list...

Attachments (for a Schengen) should be listed in descending order of priority

  • Canadian passport #112234545 expiry 13 April 2025
  • Photograph(s)
  • Invitation from World Finance Inc, dated 1 June 2017
  • Itinerary, 5 August 2017 to 20 August 2017
  • Flight booking, British Air, 5 August 2017 and 20 August 2017
  • Accommodation booking, Marriott Rive Gauche, dated 13 June 2017
  • Six (6) Bank statements, HSBC, covering 1 Jan 2017 - 1 July 2017
  • Employment contract, Bristol Chemistry, dated 5 June 2014
  • Tenancy contract, marriage license, etc etc (more attachments go here)

Sponsor identification

This is best presented as a table...

Name/Nationality   Relationship     Address              Telephone
Mary Jones         Aunt             123 Green Street     07739 49959
French                              Paris 33445

Thomas Smith       Friend           83 Red Street        9399497 945
(Algerian)                          Paris 394958

Body of the letter

This is optional text which summarises the application and provides any additional explanations in support of the application. A well composed cover letter can have an immeasurably beneficial effect for an applicant, but providing text is not without risk. Consider these points...

  • A cover letter can introduce contradictions and ambiguities that can have an adverse effect on the outcome.
  • Long-winded and pointless digressions may be deemed as incoherent and have an adverse effect on the outcome.
  • Meaningless attestations can be interpreted as the applicant does not understand the visa process and hence elevate the risk.
  • Similarly, effusively maudlin apologies and excuses can backfire by highlighting lack of planning, lack of foresight, lack of understanding the rules.

I like to devote a paragraph to the premise and any grounding occasions for the application and may devote another paragraph to highlight any special change in circumstances that have occurred between the current and previous applications. If the applicant does not have an adverse history, the second paragraph can highlight the performance history. If there is no performance history, I will devote the paragraph to professional positions occupied by the applicant's close family (police, magistrate, teacher, medical practitioner, and so on).

If the text goes on for more than two or three paragraphs, or takes more than a half-page, something may be wrong with your understanding of what's needed and a professional should be consulted.

As far as style goes, spelling, punctuation, and composition can have a favourable effect or can further contribute to a conclusion that the letter is incoherent.


Sometimes I have faxed a 'transmittal letter' to the national agency, this is a different communication and not to be confused with an application cover letter.

Finally, note that visa applications are submitted to a third-party contractor, either a VFS or VAC. It has been widely and credibly reported that VFS personnel in South Asia are removing evidence from an applicant's bundle to the detriment of the applicant (hence the enumeration of evidence in the cover letter). Of course you should take steps to avoid this possibility, but if you think evidence has been removed, you can post your cover letter only directly to the consulate with an explanation of why you think your evidence has been tampered with.

Your question is...

But what about those who apply for their very first Schengen visa, and therefore have to do it in person? Is cover letter really needed or not?

As explained, the whole concept of cover letters is an option that may or may not benefit the applicant. But consider that a first application is no different than any other application and your interviewer may not be the decision-maker. If nothing else, a cover letter can help you organise and present your answers in a way that shows preparation and a professional approach.


NOTES:

We cannot approve your cover letter here at TSE and please do not ask us to do so. Cover letters contain highly personal information which makes them meaningless when they are redacted. Also, questions about whether or not a given cover letter passes muster are seeking an opinion poll (which are off-topic here).

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A cover letter is not a formal requirement and no application will be rejected because you did not include one. But it's an opportunity to put the evidence in context and present your application in the best possible light. So if there is anything complicated, unusual or surprising about your plans or your situation, a cover letter can be very helpful.

Applying in person does not mean that writing a letter is useless as the person making the decision isn't usually the person you will meet during your appointment. Sometimes, you will even talk to a local employee of the consulate or an employee of a third-party visa processing application whereas the decision-maker is always a French civil servant.

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