I was so elated last Tuesday when I saw my South Korean tourist visa attached to my new passport. Although I wasn’t totally worried that I will be denied, that feeling of uncertainty really lingered on that day and right up to the releasing section when I queued and one by one, the priority numbers were called out and the passports returned. Ah, South Korea. I didn’t expect to visit this country this year as I had other plans but an invitation to exhibit my photography work, The New Cathedrals, made me change my plans. Is getting a South Korean tourist visa easy for Filipinos?
First thing that you have to know, there are two offices where you can apply for a tourist visa: 1) at the Embassy of the Republic of South Korea in Taguig City (along C5 w/c is beside the British Embassy) and if your based in the Visayas, 2) The Consulate of the Republic of South Korea at the Cebu Business Park near Ayala Center Cebu. Second to note, I have a sponsor for this visa application so that is also the main difference to regular tourist visa applications. Now, the process:
Check out the latest requirements at the official site which you can find HERE. Note that there are certain requirements if you’re an employee. In my case, as I’m a freelancer and have a business, I fall under the Businessman category. For the latter, the requirements are below:
1. Application Form – you have to download this from their site. The link is readily available. You can also get the form at the embassy or consulate and fill it out there. Please strictly follow instructions. They also provide paste and staplers and pens but better bring your own pen.
2. 1 piece of Passport size colored picture – the size is very specific: 3.5cm x 4.5cm. Most photo studios who offer passport ID photos know this and just tell them for what visa you are applying
3. Original Passport – should be valid for more than 6 months
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 only) – I have traveled to Schengen countries and twice in Japan so I included photocopies as well as my old passport where the visas have been pasted
6. Photocopy of Business Registration from SEC or DTI
7. Photocopy of Business Permit or Mayor’s Permit
8. Original Personal Bank Certificate – must include account type, current balance, account opening date, ADB. Tell the bank what you need and they will generate the certification. In BPI, they charge P100 for this.
9. Bank Statement – original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months
10. Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 – no need if you’re a frequent traveler or one who has traveled to OECD countries before
11. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (If applicable only)
12. If personally invited by Korean
- Invitation Letter – this is important. The letter must be in a specific form which they only gave me when I was already at the embassy
- Photocopy of invitor’s Passport or Identification Card (authentication not required)
13. If invited by Company in Korea
- Invitation Letter
- Photocopy of Korean Company Business Permit (authentication not required)
- 3 working days (for those who have been to OECD member countries within 5 years as tourist
- 5 working days (for those who have not been to OECD member countries within 5 years)
- 59 days (or less) stay in Korea — GRATIS (free)
- 60 to 90 days stay in Korea — PHP1,800.00
Some important notes:
- Visa applications are done in the morning starting at 0830H and passport releasing during afternoon, at 1330H for both locations
- Although I was pleased I can just apply in Cebu where I am from, the one who accepts the application told me they don’t have a 3 day processing for frequent travelers unlike at the embassy where this is possible
- As I have a sponsor, I got to know of the invitation form when I submitted in Cebu. I had to ask my sponsor again to make a letter of invitation in the form the consulate gave me. Check above.
- As long as you have all the requirements, you don’t have to worry. As for those that you lack, do make a letter of explanation why you don’t have that particular requirement
- On bank accounts. This is contentious and the embassy or the consulate really doesn’t tell you how much you should have. A simple guide: know at least the average daily budget if your traveling to South Korea and multiply that to the number of days you are there. That should be your minimum amount at the bank.
- Submission and release is very straightforward and quick. I was told, however, that at the embassy, be early. Even before it opens, people already list up so that they can go in and finish early. It opens at 0830H and I was there as early as 0630H. I was fourth in line already.
- If you don’t want to queue, apply at an agency and they will just tell you to go at the embassy at a specific time as they will line up for you
- For a list of OECD member countries, check it HERE