I’ve always wanted to drive. I don’t like the idea of me at the back of the car with a driver on the wheels because I want to be the one driving. So imagine how excited I was when finally I enrolled myself to a driving school 3 years ago, even if I was pregnant with Lia. Learning to drive manual wasn’t easy. It came to a point when I was about to accept the fact that my driving will be limited to short distances. But because Gary was becoming too busy to drive for me and my need to go to places was increasing, not to mention the need to bring/fetch the kids to/from school, I made an extra effort to really learn how to be a good driver. And (I think) I became one.

Driving an automatic was a piece of cake. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to last long. Now I drive a manual (SUV) again.

I find freedom in driving. I prefer city driving, though, than long drive perhaps because of the trauma I had from the accident. The idea of driving to bring my loved ones to where they ought to go (even Gary for meetings) and fetch them excites me.

Maybe its the joy of being the one in control of the wheels while singing my favorite song on the radio that makes all the effort seems effortless.

As the line from Eraserhead’s famous song Overdrive goes… ‘magda-drive ako hanggang… buwan!’

Family applying for Schengen visa at France Embassy

After getting a UK visa last year, we decided to try our luck with Schengen visa this year. Thanks to internet, we were able to prepare all the documents needed plus plus. Plus plus because we submitted some documents that turned out to be ‘useless’ in the application. The ‘interviewer’ at the France embassy gave back our land titles, business documents (other than the SEC certification, business permit and filed income tax) and credit card billings. This is because we were not able to find a site that guided us 100% with the application, so I thought of enumerating all the things that really matter for families with business wanting to get a schengen visa;

1. Application form with two (2) recent colored passport size photographs.
2. Letter to the Embassy expressing your desire to go to one (or more) countries included in the Schengen area.
3. Valid passport with at least 6 months validity. Photocopy the front page and all the visas acquired. Bring the old passport/s, if any.
4. Confirmed hotel bookings. In my case, I secured booking from booking.com because they offer free cancellation on most of the hotels that they feature.
5. Plane Itinerary. It doesn’t have to be booked yet. You can ask for a trusted travel agency to provide you one.
5. Detailed Itinerary. This includes the hotel and means of transportation from the time you leave your point of origin until you come back.
6. NSO certified birth certificates and marriage contract.
7. Travel Insurance good for the whole travel period plus additional 15 days with minimum medical coverage of 30,000 euros.
8. Source of funds and means of supporting the whole family throughout the travel. (In our case we don’t have relatives there or anyone to accomodate us)
8.1 Personal account – bank certificates (secured from the bank) and 3-month bank transactions (photocopy of passbook will do)
8.2 Company account – bank certificates and 3-month bank transactions
8.3 Last year’s tax return (in our case we submitted tax return of our business)
8.4 SEC certification if your business is a corporation
8.5 Business Permit
9. Proof of return for the children; enrolment form, excuse letter, report card
10. Payment: 60 euros for adult, 35 for children. Children below 6 are free of charge. You can pay in peso but you should bring exact amount.

France embassy will only get photocopies of your documents. (But just bring along all the original just in case they would ask for it). Be sure to have the numbers 1-7 for all the members of the family because each should submit his/her own application. As for the number 8, parents usually have them on file. Obviously, children attending school should have number 9.

I thought that we will just literally submit documents but there is an informal interview asking for the places we plan to visit, if we have travelled outside Asia, what our business is all about and so on.

Call France embassy to get an appointment. In our case we were given one month after our call. Lesson learned, don’t wait for your documents to be complete before making a call. We ended up postponing out vacation one month after.

After submission of documents/interview, you have to wait for at least 10 days for them to review your documents. They will give you a date as to when you have to go back to get your visa or otherwise. In our case, we were so blessed to be granted with tourist visa good for 45 days with 30 day duration.