If you’re a Filipino and you want to go to Korea, the first thing that you must do is to acquire a visa… and it isn’t easy!
More than a decade ago, visas are not required for Pinoys. They can come and go as much as they wanted but things changed in 1994 when the Philippine government requested to the Korean government to require visas for Filipinos travelling to their country. That’s what I learned from watching “Magandang Gabi Bayan” three or four years ago.
Let me talk about the individual tourist visa. I had applied for a tourist visa almost three years ago but I was turned down for some reason. I wasn’t disheartened but my hubby (then fiance) was… I remember reading an article where DOLE secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said that it’s harder to get a Korean tourist visa than to get a US visa. It’s probably true…
Unlike a US visa application, there is no interview conducted when applying for a Korean tourist visa. They also don’t require additional documents like land titles or car registration, and the likes. What you will need to provide them are… (1) bank certificate stating your savings, (2) certificate of employment showing your salary and position, (3) latest ITR (income tax return), (4) your passport and a copy, plus the (5) visa application form and (6) 2×2 pictures and if you have been invited, (7) a notarized invitation letter.
You have to go to the embassy really early! They open at 9AM but you have to line up outside before they let you in. Where do you have to go? The Korean Embassy is located at Pacific Star Building at the corners of Gil Puyat Ave. and Makati Ave. Right in front of a gas station, you can’t miss it!
When I applied for my tourist visa, I was there as early as 7AM and the line was already long… After arriving at the place, just follow the queue outside. At around 10 minutes before 9AM, the guard will let people in. You have to get a Visitor’s Pass by providing an ID. It doesn’t have to be a fancy ID, the one issued by the postal office will do. You’ll have to ride the elevator and get off on the 18th floor. There will be another line before entering the main office. The guard (who’s really friendly and nice) will ask you if it’s your first time to apply for a visa (in general) or not. If it is then he will give you a number for Window 3. If not, then you’ll be provided a number for Window 4. You’ll have to sit down and wait until it is your turn. The Korean lady on Window 3 is Ms. Park Ok (at least, the last time I was there)…
When your number is shown on the LCD display, you’ll have to go to Window 3 and present your documents. Like I told you, there’s no need for an interview. If your documents are complete, she’ll staple them and give you a claim stub for your passport. If you have submitted an incomplete set of documents, she’ll ask you to come back and complete your documents. If you’re planning to stay in Korea for more than 59 days, you’ll have to pay 1,500 pesos as visa fee. A stay of less than 59 days is free. Paying doesn’t guarantee an approval.
Application usually ends at 12PM. If your number is not called at that time, you’ll have to come back another day and fall in line, and get another number! Hehe…
Waiting time is usually 7 days. To claim your passport, you’ll have to come in the afternoon of the designated date in your claim stub. Again, you’ll have to queue outside and wait for the embassy to open. I really hate waiting because it makes me all nervous and excited!
If you get a visa, congratulations! If not, then try again later… after 6 months!
My mother applied for a tourist visa two weeks ago and got hers last Tuesday. She’s been here last year for our wedding and it just took her three days to get her visa. We sent her a notarized invitation last year but not for this year. She has a US resident visa so that probably helped her. Anyway, she’s planning to come here on the 7th of August via Asiana Airlines (whose unionized pilots are currently on strike) from the Clark International Airport. The airport is a 15-minute drive from our residence in Angeles City (we live about 200 meters from the gates of Clark).