Friday, June 3, 2011

VISA: South Korea (Single Entry)

For Philippine Passport Holders a visa is required to visit South Korea unless you are only going to Jeju Island (visa-free, rejoice!) which means booking a direct flight with Asiana that you probably would not like to afford after seeing how you could land directly at Busan or Incheon for less than half the price via Cebu Pacific. Besides, the visa fee is waived for 59-day single entry visas. What have you got to lose? Please be reminded that this is not really an entry on how to get a South Korean Visa per se, but rather an anecdote on how I got MINE. Getting yours is so not my problem. Hence, I could not answer questions like:

A - “What are my chances of getting a South Korean visa?” I do not work for the South Korean Embassy. Telling you not to worry and that you will get a visa would be like your grandmother telling you that you were cute when you were young just so your feelings won’t get hurt. The South Korean Embassy processes a lot of visa applications on a daily basis and there is ample reason to believe that they don’t have the luxury to care about your “feelings”.

B - “I am a 49-year old housewife with no income, will I get a visa?” I am not a housewife. I do not have a wife. My mother is a housewife but she is not going to South Korea, and I would think twice about inviting her to join me because she walks too slow and shops too much. Hi, Ma! If you are twenty-something, have been in the same company for almost two years, and have a bank account with xxx, xxx.xx, then hurray! We have the same profile. You could gauge your chances against mine. But then again, we won’t know unless you apply now won’t we? You don’t win the lottery without buying a ticket, after all.

So, what requirements did I submit?

Certificate of Employment – Get it from your company’s HR Department. Mine took three days to process. Make sure that the date of joining the company is stated along with your annual gross income. The embassy dictates that you need an approved letter of leave. I did not have that but they granted me a visa, which makes me think that it is not that essential. The CoE is an important indicator for them that you are coming back here because you have a job. This is actually more important than your Bank Certificate, IMO.

Bank Certificate – Get it from your bank. A bank certificate is a certificate, NOT a statement. The bank statement is the one you receive monthly showing your balance and stuff, similar to that of a credit card statement. A bank certificate is just a piece of glossy paper indicating the total amount of money you have in that particular bank. It takes a day to process and costs 300 pesos at HSBC. Please don’t ask me if you have to get one from HSBC if you bank in BPI.

ITR Copy – Only people who have multiple jobs and have no fixed income could file for an ITR directly at BIR, I think. If you are employed like the rest of us (employed = corporate slave) what you actually receive is a copy of the Certificate of Tax Withheld, the code of which I think is Form 2316 or something. It’s that long sheet of paper indicating how much has been deducted from your salary to fund the European family holiday of your favorite corrupt government official.

Application Form – You could fill one out at the embassy or print the one they have at the website. I printed mine on A4 and accomplished everything by hand. I am not sure if typewritten application forms are accepted. Are there people who still use a typewriter nowadays? Haha. Hahaha. Hahahaha. You attach a Passport-Sized Photo of yourself on the form, if possible taken within the last six months. Paste or glue would be preferable over sticky rice or stapler. Family pictures (Facebook?) and whole body shots (PBB Audition?) are not accepted.

You do not need an itinerary like the one they require for a Japanese Visa. You do not need a copy of the Round-Trip Plane ticket like the one they require for a Chinese Visa. You do not need a Travel Insurance that would cover 30,000 Euros like the one they require for a Schengen Visa. Write N/A if a certain entry in the Application Form does not apply to you. For example, I marked both “Residence in Korea” and “Phone Number in Korea” with N/A.

Remember that the visa is only valid for three months upon issue. If you are leaving on December 1, you could apply one week before September 1, or on September 1 itself. Mine took exactly a week to be released. Who knows, the visa officer assigned to you might love doing overtime. If you get it earlier, the three month rule still applies. Estimate lodging your visa application accordingly. If you have been to any OECD country or if you hold a US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand (-i, -er, -ese, -ian?), or Japanese visa, the processing time is shorter and you have the chance of getting a multiple entry visa.

The embassy is located at McKinley Hill next to Jollibee and the gas station. Take a bus or a jeep up to Market Market from EDSA corner Ayala. Then you could take the bridge going down east of the Market Market parking lot if you love walking. If not, a taxi would be good as long as the driver is not a grisly bastard trying to rip you off because he is originally planning to go the opposite way to Quezon City. I also saw jeeps plying the said route, although I wasn’t able to determine where they were coming from.

You fill out the attendance sheet at the guard house. There are separate sheets for applicants and for those already claiming the visa. By the way, visa application is up to 11 AM only. The whole afternoon until 4 PM is reserved for claiming only. Just follow the path left of the guard house for the entrance. The rotating silver metallic thingy that looks like a medieval war weapon is actually the exit.

The woman by the door would be more than willing to assist you and I bet you could ask her questions as long as it doesn’t involve anything personal like her ATM Password or TIN Number. There are separate windows for first time visa applicants and those who already have valid visas from the countries mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago. Typical waiting time is one week. I applied March 29, 2011 and got the visa April 5, 2011. It is indicated in the paper you would receive in exchange for your passport anyway. Again, the visa fee is waived. The only thing you pay for is the bank certificate and the fare to and from the embassy.

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