South Korea, Travel, Visa Guide

South Korea Visa Application Guide

South Korea has been a popular destination for Filipinos the past few years, with Spring, Fall and Winter being the season of choice for a visit.

Early into 2018, the Korean Embassy in the Philippines announced that all applicants in Manila should apply for a visa through an accredited agency.

Quick History:

Less than a year ago, I applied for a Korean visa on my own. A friend and I was planning to visit during spring for some cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, I got denied. Now, they don’t really say why you are denied but I have two theories:

1. I got a call early morning of my date of pick up confirming the HR number of my office. I was already tendering my resignation that month and probably this may had came up during the call.

2. It was already the start of having visa applications go through travel agencies.

Moving on, my titas and cousins thought of going to Korea during winter. I wanted to come with, but my concern was I am now a freelancer — meaning: I have no ITR.

If you are planning to visit South Korea this year, and don’t know where to start, below is a guide of the things you will need to prepare 😊

 

VISA REQUIREMENTS

Since it is already a requirement to go through a travel agency when passing your application, we opted to go with Travel Pros. Before picking an agency, we searched for reviews and feedback from former clients of the agencies we found. Travel Pro was one of the recommended travel agency of bloggers.

They reviewed the documents we have and gave us a thorough list of what else we need. Their processing fee for South Korea is Php 700 — our application took almost a week to come out, but our tita who has another OECD visa got her result in two days.

* Tip: You can always check your application status online. 😉

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

Okay, so here’s the tricky part. I had been working home-based as a freelancer since April last year, meaning I do not have some of the employed requirements. What I did was had my tita be my guarantor or sponsor for the trip.

IMG_3391

BASIC REQUIREMENTS

FOR TOURISTS WITHOUT ANY GUARANTOR OR SPONSORS

  1. Philippine Passport. Make sure that your passport is valid for more than 6 months prior to your intended travel date, it has your signature, and has at least two (2) blank pages.
  2. Photocopy of Philippine Passport bio page. This is found on page 2 (the part where your passport photo and other info are shown).
  3. Original and photocopy of all your OECD visas for the past 5 years. (If applicable) If you have been to any of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD countries in the past 5 years as a tourist, make sure to submit the original and photocopy(ies) of the relevant visas and arrival stamps.
    • This will help expedite the processing time of your visa (from the usual 5 working days to only 3 working days).
    • You have to submit the original passport(s) that contains the OECD visas and arrival stamps (no matter if they are your old or current passport[s]).
    • Only used visas are counted.
  4. A duly accomplished South Korea Visa Application Form.
    • Download the application form here.
    • Our travel agency required that the forms be submitted with information printed/computerized.
    • There is a section here that will ask for your address/hotel in South Korea as well as your intended date of entry and period of stay… Take note that you DO NOT HAVE TO BOOK YOUR HOTEL/AIRBNB BEFORE APPLYING FOR A VISA.
  5. 1 Passport-sized photo. This should be around 35mm x 45mm, colored, and against a white background. Paste this on your South Korea visa application form.
    – Most photo places know this already when you say that the photo is for a Korean visa application.
  6. Cover letter and itinerary.  (This is not really required but best to have prepared)
    • If you are a freelancer or if you have missing documents that you can’t submit such as an ITR, a Certificate of Employment, etc. — it is A MUST that you submit a letter of explanation.
  7. If applicable, photocopy of eligibile BDO or BPI credit card and latest original credit card account statement. The South Korean Embassy is currently holding a promo wherein eligible BDO and BPI credit cardholders can acquire multiple-entry visas — and they will also be exempted from submitting some required financial documents. As of January 2017, the embassy announced that this promo will last until December 31, 2019. Thanks to this promo, I got a 5-year multiple-entry visa (I submitted my BDO Platinum credit card).
    • These are the cards that are qualified:
      • BDO Gold Cardholders will get multiple-entry visa valid for 3 years: Gold Visa Credit Card, Gold MasterCard Credit Card, Gold UnionPay Credit Card
      • BDO Elite Cardholders will get multiple-entry visa valid for 3 to 5 years: Platinum Visa Credit Card, Titanium/Platinum and World Elite MasterCard Credit Card, Gold/Platinum/Cathay Pacific and American Express Charge Cards issued by BDO, Diamond UnionPay Credit Card, Diners Club Premiere
      • BPI Gold Master Cardholders will get multiple-entry visa valid for 3 years
      • BPI SkyMiles Platinum Master Card and BPI Amore Visa Platinum cardholders will get multiple-entry visa valid for 3 to 5 years.
      • Gold BPI Express Teller Debit Cardholders will get multiple-entry visa to Korea valid for 3 to 5 years
    • The following financial documents are NO longer required for submission, as long as you have at least one of the credit cards above:
      • Original personal bank certificate.
      • Photocopy of your ITR (and/or Form 2316).
  8. Proof of income or financial stability. The requirements for this differ depending on your occupation. But if in case you are a student, a minor, or a person who has no income, check the next category.
    • For employed persons.
      • Original personal bank certificate: this must indicate your account type, current balance, account opening date and 6 months average balance (ADB).
      • Original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months.
      • Original Certificate of Employment: this must be printed on your company’s official letterhead and must contain details of your officer or employer’s address, HR landline number, HR email address, your position, your hiring date, and your salary.
      • Photocopy of your ITR (or Form 2316) 
      • If you do NOT have an ITR or any of the other requirements above, write a simple letter explaining why you’re unable to submit them (examples: you’re newly employed so you don’t have an ITR, etc.).

 * The only time you are exempt from submitting an ITR is if you are a frequent traveler to OECD countries in the past 5 years or if you hold eligible BDO or BPI cards as mentioned in #6 above.

    • For self-employed / business people.
      • Original personal bank certificate: this must indicate your account type, current balance, account opening date and 6 months average balance (ADB).
      • If you own a business, submit photocopies of your Business Registration issued by DTI / SEC, the company ITR, and Business Permit or Mayor’s Permit.
      • If you’re a freelancer, provide latest photocopy of your ITR (or Form 2316) with corresponding payment receipt from BIR-authorized bank and proof of work (examples: screenshots of your work, letter from clients, proof of payments for your work, etc.).
      • If you do NOT have an ITR, write a simple letter explaining why you’re unable to submit it (examples: if you are a new business, a new self-employed person, you are being taxed in another country, etc.
    • For retirees.
      • Original personal bank certificate: this must indicate your account type, current balance, account opening date and 6 months average balance (ADB).
      • Original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months.
      • Photocopy of your senior citizen ID.
Credits to Iamaileen.com for my reference.

SOUTH KOREA VISA WITH SPONSOR/GUARANTOR

This type of visa is applicable for students, minors, self-employed/freelancers, and unemployed persons.

Personally, I applied under this category because I had been freelancing for almost a year when I applied for a visa — although, I have my most recent ITR but the company listed there is not updated. Just to be sure, I sought for assistance/sponsorship from a relative.

The things I provided were the following:

  • Philippine Passport
  • Photocopy of passport bio page
  • Duly accomplished South Korea visa application form
  • 1 South Korean passport photo requirement
  • Proof of relationship to your sponsor/guarantor

– In this case, I provided a copy of my birth certificate, my guarantor’s (aunt) birth certificate and my father’s birth certificate

  • Guarantor’s bank certificate and statement
  • Guarantor/Sponsor letter
  • Photocopy of guarantor’s passport bio page

There are other requirements for students, and if invited by a South Korean individual or company which you can find here.

FIXING YOUR ITINERARY AND PLANNING YOUR TRIP

Visa validity for South Korea is within 3 months upon issuance.

Since we wanted to visit during winter, we had been looking for affordable flights, airbnb, things to do, and basically planning a budget even before we find out the result.

Once we found out online that our status is approved, we found the cheapest flight possible, and most convenient airbnb for us.

IMG_3657

We departed from Clark, however, if you sum it up — it is more convenient to fly from Manila. The cost still adds up:

  • transportation from Manila to Clark (toll + gas)
  • terminal fee (Php 600)
  • travel tax (Php 1,620)

ACCOMMODATION & NAVIGATION

In South Korea, staying in an AIRBNB accommodation is a favorable option. It’s cozier, and definitely cheaper!

We stayed in the area of Hyochang Park station. It’s always best to familiarize yourself with the areas you plan to visit, or meet-up places for your tours — to find the most convenient location to stay in. (You can use Maps or Google Maps to help with distance, which buses/stations to ride, and location)

 

I downloaded the SUBWAY APP (this one is for ios)SUBWAY KOREA APP (for android). The app has the subway system map, and you can pin the “to/from” stations to see the estimated fare. This will help you estimate budget needed for transportation too.

You can use your T-money to get around South Korea — pay for bus and train fares. Based on my observation, standard train fare can cost around KRW 1,250 and should depend if you are transferring lines.

  • I noticed that Google Maps maay not be as reliable when in Korea. You can use Rome 2rio or Navitime to determine distances and what best to ride for your plans.
  • South Korea uses T-money card to get around the city
  • Tours or booking a couch service are advisable when visiting outside the city spots such as Nami Island, Everland, Petite France, etc.

 

Got more tips? Comment down below!

 

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