One thing I don’t like about traveling is the logistics involved. All that planning! Which hotel should I book? Which airline should I use? How much money should I bring? And dun dun dun dun, how do I friggin’ get a visa?! It’s such a daunting task that sometimes, I wish I could just magically transport myself to another country without having to go through all the hassle. But such is a traveler’s life, and if a girl wants to travel, a girl’s gotta get that visa.
THE GIRL GOT THE VISA!
I recently just applied for a Korean Tourist Visa and I was given one. It was kind of a relief because I had already purchased a round-trip ticket and booked a hotel for 7 days (which is not advisable, by the way). I am amazed by how fast and easy the process was. I think I spent a total of just about an hour and a half in the Korean embassy to submit my application, and to claim it 3 business days after. The commute from Quezon City to McKinley took longer. Pfft.
Here are the steps I took to apply for my tourist visa: (Note: I am an employee. There are additional requirements for applicants who are business owners)
STEP 1: PREPARE YOUR DOCUMENTS
This, I think, is the most difficult part (and it’s not even that hard!). The good news is, once you’re done with the first step, it’s going to be pretty much a walk in the park. For tourist visa applicants who are employees, the following documents are required:
1. The application form. (You can download it here.)
Fill out the form legibly using block letters. I used black ink on my application. Put N/A on blank spaces or for questions that are not applicable to you.
2. 1 passport-sized colored picture
I had mine taken in a photo studio. The usual passport requirements apply: visible ears, no earrings, no smiling with teeth, and use shirt with collar. The picture should have a white background.
There’s a box in the application form where you need to attach your picture. You can do it beforehand using glue or paste or you can do it at the embassy as paste is provided for the applicants on the writing desks there.
3. Original passport (must be at least 6 months valid)
Do not forget to bring your passport! It’s very important as you will need to leave yours at the embassy so that they can affix your visa once your application is approved.
4. Photocopy of passport bio-page
The bio-page is the page where all your details are. It’s the one with your picture on it. (But you already know that. Moving on!)
5. Original and photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past five years (Korean visas not counted)
OEC… The what now? OECD stands for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. If you have been to any of the member countries, you need to provide the original and photocopy of your visa/s and arrival stamps. Here is a list of the member countries:
6. Original certificate of employment
If it takes a long time for your company HR to provide COE, I suggest that you request for one way ahead of your travel date. Your COE must include your position in the company, date hired, compensation, office address, HR landline number, and HR email address.
7. Original personal bank certificate
The bank certificate is proof that you have means to travel and you can pay for your expenses. You can get this from your bank for a small fee. My bank is UnionBank and I paid PHP150 for my bank certificate. The process took less than 30 minutes. The certificate must include your account type, current balance, account opening date, ADB (average daily balance).
There is no known set amount for the required current balance in your account. I personally do not have a lot of money in the bank account I used for my application. It’s my payroll bank account and I think it’s the best one to use as the bank statement will show that I get paid a certain amount regularly as an employee.
8. Bank statement (original or certified true copy)
There are a number of ways to get your bank statement. You can go to your bank and request for one (I did this and paid PHP50 for it at UnionBank), or you may already have it if you get your statement every month via mail, or you can print it out from your bank’s online banking facility. If you’re going for the third option, you may need to have it certified as a true copy. You are required to submit your bank statement for the last three months.
9. ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 Copy
If you’re a frequent traveler and had been to any of the OECD countries listed above in the last 5 years, you are exempted from submitting an ITR. I personally did not submit one as I had already been to Australia which is an OECD member. Yay!
If you haven’t been to any OECD country or are a first-time traveler, you may request an ITR copy from your company HR.
10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (if applicable)
If you are a professional and have a PRC card or an IBP card, you need to submit a copy as well.
11. Additional requirements
If you have been invited by a Korean:
- Invitation letter
- Photocopy of invitor’s passport of identification card (authentication not required)
If invited by company in Korea:
- Invitation letter
- Photocopy of Korean Company Business Permit
TIP: I suggest holding off booking hotels and tickets as visa approval is never guaranteed. I know it’s quite tempting to buy tickets before getting a visa thinking it might help your case (especially when there’s a sale going on!). I did so and printed copies of both for submission, but they returned them to me and only took the requirements listed above.
STEP 2: SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION
Now that you have your documents, it’s time to head over to the Korean Embassy to submit your application at the following address:
McKinley Town Center, 122 Upper McKinley Rd, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila
The location is quite easy to spot. On both times I went there, my Uber driver didn’t have problems getting to the place. Although, if you’re coming from the north, allot a couple of commute hours (or more, if you’re going on a Friday) to account for the time you’ll spend stuck in the horrendous Manila traffic.
The windows are open from 9am to 11am, but they are accepting applicants as early as 8:30am (or earlier, I got there at 8:30am and there was already a queue for the initial screening and issuing of queue number).
Check your application just to make sure everything is in order. Even though the line was long, it was moving quite fast and before I knew it, it was my turn. I handed over my papers for initial screening, the officer took a look at my documents (this is where the officer returned my ticket and hotel booking printouts), and stapled them before handing them back to me. He then gave me a number and directed me to Window 3. (First time travelers or applicants who have not been to any OECD countries are directed to Windows 1 and 2). After a few minutes, my number was called and I submitted my application.
If you’re staying in Korea for 59 days or less, the visa is free. For 60-90 days stay, the fee is PHP1800.
I was given a claim stub which had the details as to when I should go back to claim my passport (being issued a claim stub does not guarantee that your passport will be returned with a visa). As I had already been to an OECD country, I was given 3 working days to wait before returning. For first time travelers or applicants who have not been to any OECD countries, the wait is 5 working days.
STEP 3: CLAIM YOUR PASSPORT
Once the waiting is over (finally!), it’s time to return to the Korean Embassy to pick up your passport. Claiming times are from 1:30pm to 4pm. I got there at 1pm and people were already queuing. I lined up as well and was given a number to claim my passport at Window 3. After a few minutes, my number was called, I got my passport, checked to see if it had a visa, saw it, smiled, did a celebratory dance (in my head, of course), and went home.
I am so excited for this trip as I had always wanted to visit Korea. I was a K-pop fangirl years ago (way before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon). And now, I’m finally going and I’m spending my birthday there. Yay!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a visa expert nor a travel agent. I am merely a person who loves to travel and I’m just sharing my visa application experience to those who want to know more information about the process. Going through the same steps as I did does not guarantee the approval of your visa application.