Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Step-by-step guide to Korean visa application in the Philippines

So you've booked tickets to Korea from the Cebu Pacific sale -- we did, and we got roundtrip tickets for around P5.5+k each. That's actually just the beginning of your journey. I'd like to share with you what comes next and it's not booking a hotel. It's applying for a Korean visa. You can do so two ways: by yourself or through a travel agency. I suggest doing it yourself since it's free and I will elaborate further why else later on.

Official Korean Embassy website First things first. When you Google "Korean Embassy Philippines" you will get a whole lot of links that all look like they could be the official page. Anyway, this is the url of the official Korean Embassy Philippines page - http://embassy_philippines.mofat.go.kr/english/as/embassy_philippines/main/index.jsp and my screen cap above shows what it looks like.

Download the Korean visa application formClick on the Visa Application Form in order to download a printable PDF version of the form.

Korean visa application formThis is what the visa application looks like. It's two pages in length, the second page is a guide on how to answer the form. Print out as many as you need. Since there are four of us applying, I printed out eight copies in case I make a mistake filling them out. Follow instructions on the second page of the PDF file closely because not doing so will piss off the person receiving your document in the Korean Embassy and you'll be asked to do it again. Then, depending on what type of application you're submitting (as an employee, businessman, housewife, student, etc.), gather all the required documents for submission. There are two types of tourist visa application -- regular and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development):

  • Regular application means you do it the normal way, that means submitting COMPLETE requirements as specified in the Korean Embassy website. Processing for this is five (5) working days.
  • OECD application simply means that you have an existing valid (not expired!) visa to any OECD member country (except Korea) and you have actually traveled there within the last five (5) years. OECD applications require less documents. Processing time is also faster at three (3) working days. OECD member countries include Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, and United Kingdom. For a complete list of OECD member countries, click HERE.
Before I proceed, take note that if you are enlisting a travel agency to apply for you, you will be asked for ALL the requirements of regular application even if you qualify for the OECD application. This is because travel agencies do applications by batches and they do not want to take chances that you may have something missing which will cause them multiple trips to the embassy. Minimum processing time for travel agencies is also about 7-10 working days since they don't have routes to the Korean embassy on a daily basis. You will also pay a few hundred pesos as a service fee to the agency. The Korean visa is completely free of charge if you're staying for 59 days or less.

Here's something I cut and pasted from the Korean Embassy Website:

Updated Visa Requirements for Tourists

Basic Requirements:

  1. Application form
  2. Original Passport (6 Mons. Valid) and photocopy of passport first page
  3. Copy of valid (not expired!) visas and arrival stamps to all OECD member countries within the past 5 years
  4. Passport-sized photo
Short-term Visas(C-3) for Tourists:

Single Entry for visitors who plan to stay in Korea less than 59 days.

Required Documents:

  1. Employment Certificate or Business Registration issued by SEC or DTI.
  2. Personal Bank Certificate
  3. Individual ITR of Form 2316 Copy (the previous year).
For applicants who are not capable to submit the indicated requirements above, the applicants could have an alternative such as Real Estate registration or Country Club Membership or Pension Certificate from official agencies.

For applicants with valid visa or who have been to any OECD Nations (except Korea) within the last five (5) years, applicants are only required to submit only an Employment Certificate or Business Registration issued by SEC or DTI. No need to submit an ITR if you qualify for OECD application.

If applicants are students, applicants are required to submit their School Certificate, Birth Certificate and Parents’ Documents (employment certificate / SEC / DTI Permit, Bank Certificate, and ITR). If applicant is a housewife, an NSO copy of Marriage Certificate in addition to the husband's documents (employment certificate / SEC / DTI Permit, Bank Certificate, and ITR) are needed.

If the travel is an incentive tour supported by one of the top listed corporations in the Philippine Stock Exchange Market, applicants could submit only a guarantee letter from the company.

Okay, let's say you've secured all the requirements. Just go to the Korean Embassy on any working day from 9-11am and submit your applications. If applying as a family, only one member actually needs to go.


Embassy of the Republic of Korea
122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center,
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City 1634

There's an area outside the embassy where you can park for a limited time. It's marked as a tow-away zone but people park there anyway. It's best to have a driver or companion who will watch the car while you're inside.

Let's fast-forward to the day you're going to the embassy:

  1. Even if they say they start at 9am, they actually start accepting applications earlier. I got there at 9am but the people ahead of me said they were there by 8am and the windows actually started accommodating applicants by 8:30am.
  2. There are two (2) windows for regular applications and one (1) window dedicated to OECD applications. Go to the reception area upon entry and tell them if you're OECD so they can give you the appropriate number for your turn at the correct window.
  3. When your number is flashed on top of the window, proceed and submit your application and requirements. If something is amiss, you will be informed by the person in the window right away. One of my friends applied and failed to present an ITR, he was told to come back when his requirements are complete. OECD applications take about 30 minutes. Regular applications take longer.
  4. After your application and requirements are received, you will be given a claim stub for your passport(s). You will have to come back on the designated date and time printed on it. That would be 2-4pm of a working day. In our case, we had OECD applications so when we applied on a Friday we were told to come back Wednesday the next week.
  5. Only when you actually claim your passport will you know if you've been approved or denied. If you're approved, you'll be handed just your passport. If you've been denied, you will be given a paper with your passport stating the reason for denial.
Okay, here's where I try to be helpful. I've surfed a lot of forums which tackle Korean visa applications, talked to friends who've applied, and talked to travel agencies. I've even talked to people at the embassy while waiting for my turn. Here are some tips and info I've picked up along the way:
  • The amount of money in your bank certificate doesn't matter THAT much. I know of people in their 20's who have regular jobs and around P20,000 - P80,000 in the bank who have been approved.
  • The key is in the consistency of your documents. If you show them an ITR with low wages and then present a Bank Certificate with millions indicated, it won't be very consistent and it's one of the things that can get you denied.
  • Make sure your TIN number is correct. A woman in front of me (who works for HP Philippines) at the embassy was put on pending status because according to the consul, her TIN was not valid. She was asked to check her TIN number with the BIR again and resubmit it to the embassy.
  • Dress decently. They actually have a sign there that says "Please wear decent clothes.".
  • Make sure your application form is filled up correctly. Refer to the second page of the PDF file that you download from the Korean embassy website for specific instructions.
  • Make sure your passport is valid for more than six (6) months.
  • Do not submit more than what is asked. More documents mean more chances for confusion. If you're married, the simplest way to apply would be to do so as a housewife so you need only submit one set of papers (your husband's).
  • Don't be vague in the application form. Do not put "travel" as your purpose of travel in Korea because that is just vague and stupid -- and I know of people who've been denied just because they were vague. Put "vacation" or "holiday" or even "sightseeing" and "shopping".
  • Although passport claiming time is 2-4pm, they actually start at around 1:30pm. It takes around 30 minutes or less since the line moves really fast.
  • A previous visit to Korea does not guarantee visa approval, neither does a valid visa from an OECD country. A friend of a friend was denied even if she possessed a valid US visa.
  • Do not make Korea your first out-of-the-country trip. I read in the forum that it's difficult to get approved if you have no previous travels abroad.
  • Apply on your own. It's faster, it's free, and if any problems with regards to your application should arise, you will be informed about it firsthand. Also, I heard from a few travel agencies that a lot of "TNT" come from tour groups so the embassy is perceived to be more strict when it comes to agency-handled applications. I have a friend who joined a tour group and had the agency process her application. Of the 30 members of the tour group who applied for a Korean visa, 22 got denied. The agency tried to appeal but to no avail.
Korean VisaOkay, these are about all I can share from my experience. After the preparation and stress of waiting, hopefully you will be granted a Korean visa. A Korean visa is valid for 3 months and you can stay for 59 days or less. Good luck! Should you have any more Korean visa concerns, I suggest reading through THIS PAGE on the Korean Embassy website. Please don't ask me about fiance visas, working visas, and student visas because I have no experience with regards to those. XD


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