After a successful and memorable Busan and Seoul trip last March, I posted a step-by-step South Korean tourist visa application in my other blog. Following the trip, many of my friends have sent me text messages or even asked me personally about getting a tourist visa for South Korea. I am reposting my experience as well as the tips that worked best for me so that other people might use it as they start planning for their own Seoul Searching trip.
First, my trip was completely, right off the bat, unexpected. Only my sister was supposed to go but her travel buddy had an unexpected family tragedy. Prior to the trip, I have been researching her Korea trip for the last four months, realizing that it won’t cost me anything to apply for a 59D visa (single entry). After finding that I have enough in my bank account to risk getting a bank certificate, I decided that I won’t lose anything should I take a chance an apply for a 59D.
First, allow me to address a misconception. No one knows how much money you should have in your bank in order to get approved. To be honest with you, I have less than PHP50,000 in the bank (more on the lower five figures). There are other factors that the consul consider other than your bank account. It can either be your tenure at your current job, your stability or connection in the Philippines or maybe even the money in your bank account. So for those with less money in the bank but is willing to risk it…I say go for it. Applying for a visa is free. No one really knows if you’ll get approved or not.
“Winging it” and “risking it” turned out positive for me. Valentine’s Day 2011 was made extra memorable not because of any undying declarations of love, but because I realized that I am indeed going to Seoul in three weeks time.
As my way of giving back to the unnamed faces whose post in the internet who helped me get through the visa application process, I am sharing what I knew based from my experience and the many researches that I did early this year.
Process explained below is for TOURIST VISA (59D), SINGLE ENTRY.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
1. Make sure all your documents are complete. This includes the following:
– Application form (downloaded file from the South Korean embassy) which you print using A4 paper. On the application form, attach your most recent passport-sized photo (white background). Please have your photo taken on a really good photography shop.
– Photocopy of the first page (the information page) of your passport.
– Certificate of employment from your current employer indicating your tenure in the company, salary and position. It’s important that in your company letterhead, the company’s complete address and telephone number is indicated. For the love of God, do not even ATTEMPT to submit a fake employment certificate. I heard that someone from the embassy really calls our employers to verify. Please do not do anything stupid which will affect the reputation of other Filipino travelers.
– Bank certificate. The certificate usually indicates how much you have in the bank as of date of request. This is easy to request. In BPI for example, you can get your bank certificate for as less than an hour. You will just have to pay PHP100 (USD2) to facilitate your request. For BDO account holders, my friend told me that you will get your bank certificate the next day.
– Income Tax Return (ITR) Form 2306 – this is a non-negotiable requirement. If you don’t have your current ITR, try submitting your old ITR either from the year before. In fact, I used an ITR issued to me by my former company. I stayed for less than six months in that company hence my contribution rate was minuscule. I was most worried about this document, but apparently the one I submitted qualified.
2. As soon as you have all your documents in order, you are ready to take the next step! Go directly to the South Korean Embassy located in McKinley Hill in Taguig. If you are based in Manila and can spare a few hours of your time, you do not need to have your applications coursed through a travel agency. Coursing your visa application through a travel agency will just cost you money. If you don’t have anything else to do, do it yourself. The application process is easy and very fool-proof. The embassy accepts visa applications from 9AM to 12NN from Monday to Friday. Please bring valid ID so that you can go past the kind guards manning the gate.
3. Submit all your documents. As soon as you enter the Visa Application area, you will see a receptionist stationed near the door. She will ask you if you have a visa in any of the OECD countries (like Japan, USA, Australia, Shengen, etc) — she will ask you this in order to identify which window will accept your application. If you are a first time traveler or don’t have visa from any of the countries indicated in the list, you will be referred to Window 1. She will give you a stub indicating your number.
My sister and I was assigned to Window 1 — while waiting for our number to be called, we arranged our documents and made sure they are neat and presentable. We also arranged them based on the order indicated in the embassy website. Make sure that your documents are neat and presentable. It never hurts to give a good impression to the consul.
When your number is called, approach the assigned window and give your papers to the Consul. He may or he may not ask you questions about your trip. Don’t get nervous and answer him as truthfully as possible. Tell him you are going to Seoul so that you can make Lee MinHo realize that he is meant to be your better half. Or that you are there on a mission to stalk Super Junior. RULE OF THUMB: Please do not lie.
4. After submitting your documents, the consul will hand you a piece of paper which will indicate when you can pick-up your passport. Whatever happens, do not lose that paper. Guard it with your life.
Indicated is the date and time when you can come back to get your passport. Do not lose the paper since that is the only requirement in getting your passport.
After you have the paper, you can now go home and hyperventilate in the safety of your room. You have done your share, let the universe (and fate) take over.
PICKING UP THE PASSPORT
First, a word of caution –just because you submitted the documents does not mean that you are automatically granted a visa. No one knows what will get you approved or denied, except the Consul. You can pick-up your passport on the date indicated on the piece of paper (2PM to 4PM ONLY).
Leave your ID at the guard, pass by the receptionist and get a number and wait for your number to be called. The consul will hand you your passport, and you may check if you have been granted a visa before leaving the embassy grounds.
If your passport does not contain anything but a stamp indicating “APPLICATION RECEIVED” and you are handed a piece of paper with procedures for reapplication printed, it means your application was denied. You will have to wait another six months before you can plot your KPOP staking campaign once again.
REMEMBER — These are based on my personal experience only, and should not be taken as hard facts. For a more comprehensive process, go to the embassy website.
So what did I learn?
1.It pays to do your research.
2. Always be nice to people. You will never know when you will be left wanting for their help and assistance.
3. Do not lie. Be honest always.
4. If in doubt, do not be afraid to ask for directions.
I hope this post will be of help to you. It may look daunting at first, but I am the perfect example that it is not impossible.