January 29, 2015

Japanese Visa Application

Time for another visa application run -- this time to Japan! 

I soooo love long holidays, but the long holiday this December (Christmas and New Year) and this January (Papal Visit) is sending me into panic mode! I need to renew our passports and apply for our visas and the very short working days are not making it any easier.

After our trip to Korea, I knew I have to have our passports renewed so it'll still be valid for a least six months when we go to Japan. The thing is, I forgot to schedule an appointment! So I was only able to get a December 22 schedule. Perfect as there's no more school so the kids need not be absent, but not so perfect because due to the long holiday, I will be getting our passports second week of January (and this is after paying a rush processing fee) and our trip is scheduled end of January!

Good thing the procedure in getting a Japanese visa is pretty much simple: submit your documents to an accredited agency and wait for their notice on when to collect your passport.

Unlike way, way, way back, where you can submit directly to the Japanese Embassy and do away with the fees, effective July 30 2007, you now have to submit them to an accredited travel agency and pay a processing fee. The Japanese Embassy does not meddle with the fees charged by each agency. So processing fee varies and it's better to scout around for a good rate. The processing fee is non-refundable should you change your mind after submitting the application or in the event you were not given a visa.

Click here for a complete list of accredited travel agencies.

Good news is that effective July 1 2013, the Japanese Embassy started issuing multiple-entry visas to Philippine-passport holders. And as of Sept 30 2014, conditions for giving multiple-entry visas will be more relaxed! I know we're still far from being included in the "no-visa" list, but a "relaxed" procedure is way better than nothing. 

Submission of documents. I decided to go with Discovery Tour as they have the cheapest fee at Php800 per person. I called up their office and they promptly emailed me the list of requirements:

1. Application Form. Download here.
2. Passport (valid for at least six months)
3. 2pcs 4.5cmx4.5cm colored photo (one to be pasted on the application form, and one to be submitted to the agency)
4. Original NSO certificate (issued within the last 12 months)
5. Original NSO marriage certificate (issued within the last 12 months)
6. Tour Itinerary ( Sample format here).
7. Original Bank Certificate
8. Photocopy of ITR

Yes, you need to submit a Birth Certificate regardless of what age you are. And yes, you are required to submit a Marriage Certificate even if your spouse is already deceased. If you're not sure if you're NSO certificate was issued within the time allowed, check the last 11 digit under the barcode of your certificate. It represents the month (2 digits), day (2 digits) and year (4 digits) when the certificate was issued. The last remaining digits, I'm not so sure what's it about. Haha!

As for the tour itinerary, you are required to indicate the address and contact number of the hotel where you'll be staying. There's no need to include a copy of your hotel booking though.

You are allowed to add more if you think it'll help your chances. Like in our case, since we have new passports, I included a photocopy of our visas and a summary of our travels.

Collection of passports. Luckily, the Japanese Embassy processes applications really quickly. Four working days after we submitted our application, I received a call that our passports are ready for pick-up. 

The quick turn-around time actually cuts the agony of waiting for the results. We usually breeze through the preparation of documents but the waiting game is the most stress-inducing. Especially for applications without appearance/interview since you will not be there to explain your case should there be any problem.

Finally got our visas (with only less than a week till our travel date!).

Discovery Tour
301 G/F Sagittarius Bldg. HV Dela Costa St.
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Tel: +63 2 8922849
Mobile: +63915 3200780
Email: japanvisamnl1@discoverytour.ph
Website: http://discoverytour.ph/japanvisa/single-or-multiple-207.html 

Japanese Embassy Manila
2627 Roxas Blvd., Pasay City
Tel: +63 2 5515710
Website: http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp

January 28, 2015

Korean Visa Application

It's been ages since we have to secure a visa for our travel and we have to go through the nerve-wracking ordeal again for our trip to Korea. We've been through a couple of visa applications already but it just never gets easy. 

The good news is, applying for a tourist Korean visa is absolutely free! Yes, no need to pay for any charges to schedule an appointment or pay any visa fee at the Embassy. I'm starting to love Korea already!

The procedure is fairly straightforward: prepare your documents, submit your documents at the Korean Embassy and collect your passport at the designated date.

Prepare your documents. Here's the list of documents you have to prepare (as of March 01, 2015): 
1. Passport (valid for at least 6 months from the date of application)
2. Application form. Download here.
3. 1 piece passport-size colored photo
4. Photocopy of passport's bio page
5. Original and photocopy of visa/s and arrival stamp/s to OECD countries for the past five years
6. For employed: 
  • original Certificate of Employment (stating position, date hired, compensation, with landline contact number, address and email  of company) 
  • original Bank Certificate (indicating account type, current balance, opening date and ADB for the past 6 months) 
  • original Bank Statement or passbook for the past 6 months 
  • photocopy of ITR
   For self-employed: 
  • photocopy of DTI/SEC registration 
  • photocopy of Mayor's Permit 
  • original Bank Certificate (indicating account type, current balance, opening date and ADB for the past 6 months) 
  • original Bank Statement or passbook for the past 6 months 
  • photocopy of ITR
   For students: 
  • original school certificate 
  • photocopy of school ID 
  • photocopy of NSO Birth Certificate 
  • parent's financial documents

OECD countries include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States of America.

Submission. Upon completion of the requirements, just submit them at the Embassy anytime from 9:00am to 11:00am Monday to Friday. No need to secure a schedule beforehand. Also, you do not have to personally submit the documents, you may ask a messenger to do it for you. But for first time travellers, it is strongly advised to submit it personally in case the Embassy has any questions regarding the documents.

In our case, I was the only one who went to the Embassy to submit our application. There will be someone who'll initially check your documents and then give you a number and assign you to which window/consul. As I understand, there's a separate window for first time travellers and for frequent travellers. 

You then wait for your number to be called. After handing your documents to the consul, you will be given a claim stub with a date on which you may claim your passport. Processing time is usually three working days and could extend to five working days or more. 

Collection of Passports. Releasing time is from 2:00pm to 4:00pm Monday to Friday. Again, you may just ask someone to claim them for you but it is strongly recommended that you claim them personally in case the consul has any questions. 

Please note that the parking in McKinley Hills is very far from the Embassy. Either bring a driver with you, or you can park at the Petron station right before the Embassy.

Please visit the Korean Embassy Manila's web page for updated guidelines and requirements in applying for a visa.

Korean Embassy Manila
122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City
Website: http://embassy_philippines.mofa.go.kr/english/as/embassy_philippines/main/index.jsp
Tel: +63 2 8569210
Email: philippines@mofa.go.kr