Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to Apply for a Korean Visa for Filipino Tourists in the Philippines

Let me share a journal entry I did last December 2014.

Wishes indeed do come true. Although I’m not a member of KPop or Koreanovela hysteria that is still felt here in the Philippines since Winter Sonata days, South Korea has become a popular travel destination for Filipinos including myself. For me, it was the uniqueness of their culture. From kimchi to KPop to hanbok,  it all screams KOREA! It also helps that there are a lot more cheap flights available all year round with increasing number of budget airlines even though  South Korea have kind of tightened up their visa requirements recently.

 I visited Seoul in November-December, 2015. My nephew's wife was sent to Seoul on a business trip and she invited her husband and I  to tag along. It was November 4, 2015, but the tentative dates were by the end of November. In such short notice, I didn't even think twice. I thought, this is it, let's go! Imagine the scramble I took to apply for a Korean visa. With the APEC summit looming ahead, I immediately went to my bank to have my bank certificate and personal statement be processed. I also went to my company's HR to have me sent a copy of my ITR and a certificate of employment. We applied November 16 a day before the APEC summit and were asked to go back by November 25. The target date was November 28. Imagine that!! I know there are a lot of guides out there, but I just want to share my personal experience.  So here it is, your guide on How to apply Korean Tourist Visa in the Philippines. :)

Let me tell you that I was so nervous about this at first. I could not decide whether to purchase a ticket even before being granted a visa and take a gamble or to just wait until my visa gets approved. The plane tickets and accommodations  rates are getting more expensive each day into the target date. Yes, I decided not to risk it and just wait until I get approved before purchasing a ticket. I do not have the time to worry about the possibility of my application getting rejected. Making it worse, it’s my first time to apply for a visa directly at any embassy. All I have was a Hong Kong stamp on my passport back in 2013. Images of sweaty,  long, snaking lines and persistent travel agents flashed through my mind, making me the dread the whole thing even more. To my surprise and relief, the application process for a South Korea tourist visa turned out to be one of the quickest and least painful queue that I’ve ever had to endure. It was so organized that I must have spent no more than 60 minutes there total. I bet it took me much longer just to go to the embassy and back! Imagine if we can have the same to our government agencies (think: NBI)!  There’s nothing to worry about provided that all your documents are in order and complete. Single-entry tourists visa are good for 3 months from their date of issue, so I suggest applying 1-2 months before your trip. :)

To apply South Korean tourist visa in the Philippines is very easy and straight forward. That is, if you have the funds to show and complete requirements. I've even read that is even easier if you are have travelled to an OECD member countries for the last 5 years as you are no longer required to submit an ITR. For a list of OECD countries, you can check it out here.

Since it is my first time to apply for a visa, I'll only be tackling Tourist Visa Requirements for Filipino Employees. So if you are applying as otherwise, this post would not be helpful for you.

Tourist Visa Requirements for Filipino Employees

1. Application Form (You can download it from here.)
2. 1piece of Passport size colored picture (II don't think they have a rule on what color should the back ground is but I chose the ever classic white background. LOL)
3. Original Passport (Should be valid for more than 6 months. Attach your photo on the form with a glue. Never tape or staple your photo as the embassy won't accept this. Luckily, the embassy provides glue.)
4. Photocopy of Passport Bio-page (Page 2)
5. Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years (If applicable, and Korean Visas will not be counted)
6. Original Certificate of Employment
   (must include applicant's position, date hired, compensation, office address, HR landline number(cell-phone number is not allowed), HR e-mail address. This is important I believe. Miss one and it's goodbye visa!)
7. Original Personal Bank Certificate
   (Must include account type, current balance, account opening date, average daily balance (ADB). I also believe that this is very important. They actually call your emplyer to verify)
8. Bank Statement
   (Original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months)
9. ITR(Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 Copy
10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (If applicable only)

Being the obssesive-compulsive that I am, I even made a hard copy of this list so I can literally check it off.

Where to Apply Korean Tourist Visa in the Philippines?

Address : 122 Upper McKinley Road
McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio
Taguig city 1634, Philippines

There's no need to schedule an appointment. Just walk in and hope for the best. :)
Monday-Friday 08:30-12:00nn only

I personally took a taxi from Eastwood City to get there. Just inform the driver to pass along C5. Its right after the SM Aura Mall.  Those who are coming via EDSA, I must warn you, don't. But if you must allot at least two hours of travel time and expect more because of the eternal traffic. For those who are driving themselves there, I highly recommend that you go early since parking is pretty limited.

As you get to the Korean Embassy, you will be asked to log on their visitor's monitoring form at the entrance and to leave an ID to get your gate pass. You then head inside and follow the path towards the visa office, and get a number from the front desk nearest to the door.

There are three windows for visa application, Windows 1 and 2 are for those who are first-time traveler (those without a visa from any of the OECD countries) and Window 3 is dedicated for all those with visas issued by any of the OECD. countries.

As mentioned, the wait was short, maybe because we got there early and I made sure to have all my documents needed ready. Heck, I double, even triple check my documents while waiting and this includes going through the form again making sure I didn't leave any blanks.

As soon as your number flashes on the screen above the window or when you hear your number being called, head over and hand all documents to the embassy staff. He/she will check if you got everything complete and you will be handed a white claim card that contains the date of your passport's release.

Whew, that was fast!

How long is it to Apply Korean Tourist Visa in the Philippines?

First Time Applicants: 5 working days
Frequent Travelers: 3-4 working days

How much is the visa fee of Korean Tourist Visa?

59 days (or less) stay in Korea — GRATIS (free)
60 to 90 days stay in Korea — PHP1,800.00

We were asked to go back November 25, 2016. Imagine the agony I have to endure thinking whether I will be granted one or not. When the day finally came, I just head over to the same window and was given back my passport.

WOOOOOOT! Imagine my joy! I was very very very over the top happy, I could have cartwheeled  my way out of the embassy. Korea it was! Will do a separate article of my Korea trip last December as I only had the time now.

Unfortunately, this post would not have a really happy ending. It turned out, my nephew got denied. I will do a separate article about that although there's little to say as the embassy does not disclose the specific reason why you got denied They just provide you a paper with a check on the vague reason you got rejected. More on that in a few. :)

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