Traveling has been a second nature to Filipinos, and it’s pretty evident with the massive demand of OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) into the labor force. It was so culturally accepted that part of your identity as a Filipino is to have at least one relative working abroad.
Over the years, the definition of traveling among Filipinos has evolved into something related to leisure or vacation as opposed to a job order. It is probably because of the mainstream social media influences that persuades us to explore the world beyond our borders.
One of the most favored country to visit has always been South Korea, and as a travel junkie it’s a given to include it in your bucket list. However, there are just some extra steps you may take aside from just booking your flight and accommodation, and that’s to furnish yourself a Korean Tourist Visa.
It might be intimidating to most tourists especially if it’s their first time to visit the country, but that’s why we’re here to help you with each process.
WHY do you need a Visa?
Before we get our feet wet, we should understand WHY we need to apply for a tourist visa in the first place? As a rule of thumb, there are three ways to enter a different country as a tourist: Travel/Tourist Visa, Visa on Arrival, and Visa-Free.
Travel/ Tourist Visa allow you to enter a foreign country for tour and leisure purposes only and stay for a certain amount of time. These visas do not permit you to work or engage in any business activities in the host country. For Filipinos, these countries are South Korea, Japan, United States, etc.
Visa on Arrival means that you must obtain a visa once you arrived in the destination country like India, Maldives, Israel, etc.
Visa-free refers to the ability to travel to a foreign country without a need for a travel visa which are Taiwan, Singapore, Hongkong, etc.
However, these are not written in stone and can be changed overnight depending on the relation and economic status between concerned countries. It was announced early December of last year that they are working on Filipinos to enter Korea visa-free for up to 5 days given that they depart from Jeju Island as part of South Korea’s “Plan for Promoting Foreign Tours”.
WHAT is a Korean Tourist Visa?
Tourist visas are usually issued at the Korean Embassy or consular offices, but there has been a huge influx of tourist visa applications in the Philippines these past few years that resulted to long lines and extended releasing of visas. This phenomenon has led to a decision to have the processing of tourist visa application delegated to accredited travel agencies which we’ll get on to later.
Korean Tourist Visa itself is gratis or free for 59 days or shorter, but since the load is passed on to travel agencies you have to pay a service fee for the processing of your application which ranges from P500.00 to P1,500.00 per applicant.
The Embassy of Korea has also declared that it has allotted additional visa staffs for faster processing of applications. Therefore by the end of February 2020, current visa processing period of 25-27 days will be reduced to 10-15 days.
WHO are eligible to apply?
A Korean Tourist Visa is not a one-size-fits-all document, in fact there are almost 20 types of categories that you may fall into as a tourist applying for one. Visa requirements vary if you are a Student, a Businessman, or a Housewife. You may check here for the Visa Requirements of each category.
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WHEN to apply for a Visa?
Basically when you enter a different country you will need to pass through their immigration, which is sometimes called “passport control” or “border control”. Generally speaking you will need to present significant documents that prove your identity and the purpose of your stay before you’re cleared. With that being said you will need to get a visa BEFORE booking your flight. Your Korean Visa will determine how long you can stay in the country and it is just practical to make sure you have all the details right before planning for your arrival and departure dates.
Most travel agencies recommended that you apply for a visa ten weeks or up to three months before your travel date as the processing time varies.
WHERE to apply for a Visa?
As mentioned earlier, the Korean Embassy released a list of accredited travel agencies that can process your visa application. Fortunately, there are various locations you can visit, even in the provinces.
They have travel agencies in Mandaluyong, Makati, Manila, Pampanga, Iloilo, Cebu, Bulacan, Subic, Quezon City, Pasig, and Laguna. You may check all the agencies and their complete addresses here.
It was also noted that the Embassy will no longer accept walk-in applicant with the exemption for spouses and children of Koreans, holders of visa issuance number, government employees with official business trip, and for those with humanitarian reason to travel to Korea urgently.
Travelers can also avail of the Express Visa which is offered by some agencies. The process will only take two days.
HOW to apply for a Visa?
You already have your processing fee. You already know which travel agency to go to. You already know in what category of applicant you fall in. We’ve now come to the meat of this article which is preparing for the requirements for your visa:
- Download the Visa Application Form and fill up all the details as possible. For groups with minimum of 5 applicants, you may inquire the accredited agencies for their Group Visa Application Form. Remember to put N/A if Not Applicable.
- One (1) 35 mm x 45 mm colored passport photo against a plain background. Photos must be color neutral and taken within the last 6 months. No sunglasses or hats, except for medical/disability reasons. There are also Photo Standards for Religious Apparel.Photos should be pasted on the application form.
- Philippine passport with at least 6 months of validity from travel date. Submit without jacket/cover.
- Photocopy of passport bio page (page 2)
- If available, original and photocopy of valid visa(s) and arrival stamps to OECD member countries within the last 5 years. This will greatly increase your chances of getting approved so be sure to do this final step.
Alongside with these basic requirements, you are also asked to bring in additional documents depending on your category which you can view in the official Korean embassy website. These might include some certificate of employment, bank certificate, income tax return, etc.
Follow all their instructions and you’ll be hopping on that plane bound to Korea soon.
What if I got my visa application denied?
This is probably that one question that hinders you from even taking that first step. I always believe in that verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1 ” To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” There are a lot of reasons why you get denied a visa, and there are tons of articles on the web that speculates why that happened. As discouraged as you may be, you just have to accept the fact and move on. I’ve known of a lot of people that gets denied by a certain country, but when they finally get accepted it is for a multiple entry visa meaning they can enter the country anytime they like for a number of years. It is just a matter of time, but if you’re still persistent on visiting the Land of the Morning Calm there is good news!
Denied applicants can still apply for a Korean visa after 6 months, so make sure that all your documents are valid and authentic.
This has been a lengthy post but I hope this was informative and gave you that extra confidence to work on your visa application this 2020. We have prepared a lot of upcoming articles regarding our offered Travel and Tour Packages that will help you get the best experience out of South Korea, but before that I encourage you to work on your Visa Application first then we’ll guide you from there.