How To Apply For A Korean Tourist Visa

Including a few tips from the embassy!
PHOTO: istockphoto

When I applied for a Korean tourist visa for the first time, I was filled with equal parts thrill and dread. On one hand, I'd finally be visiting my dream destination, but at the same time, there was also a big chance that my application would be denied because I didn't have much money, and I've never flown abroad before.

By some miracle, my visa got approved time—even if my bank account had a meager balance of around P12,000.

Compared to all the hoops we have to jump through just to get a tourist visa, applying for one to Korea is pretty chill. Here's a comprehensive guide!

 

Korean Tourist Visa Requirements For Employed Individuals

  1. Application Form

    Download it here: http://bit.do/KoreanVisaApplicationForm
  2. One piece of passport-size colored picture

    The right size is 35 mm by 45 mm. The photo must have been taken within the last six months and should show the front view of your entire face (without a hat) against a white or off-white background. Attach it onto the right box in the application form.
  3. Original Passport

    This should be valid for more than six months prior to your travel dates.
  4. Photocopy of Passport Bio-Page

    This is the second page of your passport.
  5. Original + Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past five years (if applicable only)

  6. Original Certificate of Employment

    This must include your position, hire date, salary, and office address. It must also include the landline number and e-mail address of your HR department (cell phone numbers are not allowed).
  7. Original Personal Bank Certificate

    This must include your account type, current balance, account opening date, and ADB (average daily balance).
  8. Bank Statement

    You may submit an original or a certified true copy of your bank statements or passbook for the last three months.
  9. ITR (Income Tax Return)

    Alternatively, you may submit a copy of your Form 2316 and your company’s alphalist (Form 1604 CF with BIR received stamp). Just highlight your name on the list. Starting March 26, 2018, this will be required for first-time travelers.

    Frequent travelers who have visited as tourists to OECD member countries within the last five years are exempted from submitting an ITR.
  10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (if applicable only)

Visa Fee: FREE for those staying in Korea for 59 days or less.

Disclaimer: These requirements vary for the self-employed, businessmen, students, housewives, and other groups.

How much does it cost?

You can accomplish all these requirements in one to two weeks. The requirements that could take up the most time would be the COE, ITR, and bank documents. These would depend on how long your HR department and bank take to process these requests. For instance, smaller banks can give you a bank certificate and statements within a few minutes, while others take up to seven working days. It then takes five working days to have your application processed (three if you’ve traveled to OECD countries before).

Be prepared to shell out around P300 to 500 for the requirements. You’ll need P80 for the passport-size photo and P100 to P150 for the bank certificate. Charges for the bank statements vary. Some banks charge P100 for the first three pages and P10 for each succeeding page, while other banks charge P10 to P50 per page. If you have an online banking account, you can also access and print your statements from there to save money.

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Some bloggers will tell you that it’s more important to have a stable job than to have a lot of money in your bank certificate and statements. Cosmo.ph asked the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines if it’s true. They said, “Sometimes it is, but [it depends on] how the consul evaluates each visa application. It is much better if applicants have both a stable job and [enough] money when they apply.”

So how much money should you have? They answered, “The embassy has no minimum and maximum amount of money present in your bank account. [Applicants] can submit their financial documents like bank certificate and statements.”

Gathering The Documents You Need

Aside from making sure you have the complete bank and employment documents, make sure you’re anal with the application form, too. Write down “N/A” if something is not applicable to you.

Previous applicants also advise that you must indicate the phone number/s of your office in the right box. There was a case where the application got delayed just because the consul couldn’t reach anyone in the applicant’s provided phone number.

The embassy also reminds applicants that there can’t be do-overs with your documents. “If they will submit their visa application, just make sure that [all details are] right and complete. The embassy is very strict when it comes to visa applications. Incomplete requirements will not be processed and [will not be returned] to its owner.”

Securing A Multiple-Entry Visa With Your Credit Card

The more premium credit cards could make you qualify for a Multiple-Entry Visa for free. You’ll even be exempt from submitting a bank certificate and an ITR.

You’ll need to submit your latest original credit card account statement along with the other requirements (like the COE). You’ll also need a photocopy of the card, and you need to present the actual card for comparison. As the website indicates, “Eligible applicants are not automatically issued a multiple entry visa. Issuance of visa whether single or multiple entry is subject for approval of the consul in-charge.” (More details here for BDO cardholders and here for BPI cardholders.)

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Submitting Requirements + Claiming Your Passport

The exact address of the embassy is 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. You can try taking public transportation (the jeepneys with the route Guadalupe—FTI via J.P. Rizal Extension to be exact). But it will be easier to take a taxi, Uber, or Grab going there.

The designated schedule for submitting requirements is Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. But if you’re filing an application in time for a springtime trip to Korea (like this March), you’ll need to get there earlier. The embassy only accepts up to 200 applications every day, and applicants (individuals and travel agencies alike) line up as early as 12:00 midnight just to get one of those precious slots! Other times aren’t this busy, though. Spring in Korea just really draws bigger crowds because it’s so beautiful there. The kids of most families traveling together are on break during this time, too. You’ll get a claim stub after filing your application, FYI.

A lot of previous applicants and bloggers say it’s better to apply as a family. If you’re dependent on your parents, they may even write a letter of sponsorship. This is what I did when I applied the first time. I don’t know if these strategies work all the time. Again, it all depends on the consul who assesses your application. But they’re worth a try!

Then, you can wait three to five business days and claim your passport on weekdays, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The visa will be attached to a (very random) page in your passport if you get approved. But if you get—*knock on wood*—rejected, there will be a paper briefly explaining why your application got denied. BTW, if you do get approved, be sensitive to others and don’t squeal your lungs out on the spot! Some applicants do get rejected, and sometimes, they take a heartbreaking moment in the embassy vicinity to absorb the news.

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And some last words of advice from the embassy? “If you want to travel to Korea, it’s much better if you have traveled to other countries within [the last five] years. If you check the website, we indicated there that if you are a frequent traveler, the ITR requirement will be waived and the working days of visa application processing will be lessened to three days. It also gives the applicants a high chance of getting their visas approved.”

Fighting!

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