Going to South Korea has always been on my travel bucket list. However, as a Philippine passport holder, it is difficult for most of us to enter this country as we need to submit the necessary requirements when applying for a tourist visa.
My husband and I recently decided to have a winter vacation in Seoul this February. And the first thing to do? Apply for Visa. We were both first-timers and our passports had no record of any travel (we recently renewed). But for the love of heaven, we were granted 3-year multiple-entry visa! Woohoo! Such a blessing!
So, let me share our visa application experience and some tips to help you with your Korean visa application. It’s pretty easy so you don’t have to get a travel agency and pay for visa assistance.
Gather all the documentary requirements.
If you’re an employee like me, just complete the following requirements:
- Visa Application Form — Print it in a clean bond paper, A4 size. See FAQs below on how to fill-up the form.
- 1 piece passport-size colored picture (35mm x 45mm) — If you’re having your photo in a studio, just advise them that your ID picture is for a Korean Visa application. Do not staple it to the form. Instead, glue it to the space provided.
- Original Passport — Your passport must be valid for more than 6 months from the time of your travel. I know how much you adore your cute passport cover, but remove it when you submit it to the embassy.
- Photocopy of the Passport Bio-page (page 2) — This is the page where all your passport details are reflected.
- Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years (if applicable only) — OECD stands for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. If you have any valid visa/s to any of the member countries (e.g. Australia, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, United States etc.), provide the photocopies of those visas, as well as the arrival stamps. But remember, this does not guarantee that your application will be approved. It will just help increase your chances of getting approved.
- Original Certificate of Employment (CoE) — You must request this from your Human Resource Department. The following details must be included: Applicant’s Position, Date Hired, Compensation, Office Address, HR landline number (mobile number is not allowed), HR email address. Your HR’s contact information will be used if the embassy needs to verify some information.
- Original Personal Bank Certificate — You must request this from your bank. The bank certificate must include the following: account type, current balance, account opening date, average daily balance (ADB). BDO charged me Php 100.00 for a copy.
- Original or Certified True Copy of Bank Statements/Passbook — This is also requested from your bank. The bank statement indicates the movement of your funds for the last three months.
- Income Tax Return – Submit your recent ITR.
- Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (if applicable only).
- For group applications:
- Married Couple: Original PSA Marriage Certificate
- Parents or Siblings: Original PSA Birth Certificate
- Cousins: Original PSA Birth Certificate of your parents that are siblings
If you are invited by a Korean national, you need to provide an invitation letter and photocopy of your sponsor’s passport or proof of identification.
If you are invited by a company in Korea, you also need to provide an invitation letter and photocopy of the Korean company’s business permit.
For other visa categories and requirements, you can refer to the official website of the Korean Embassy.
Submit your documents to the Korean embassy.
NEW! As of July 1, 2018, the Embassy of the Republic of South Korea no longer accepts walk-in applications. All visa requests shall be coursed trough their accredited travel agencies. However, the embassy will allow walk-in applicants only for spouses and children of Koreans, holders of visa issuance number, government employees with official business trip, and for those with humanitarian reason to travel to Korea urgently.
Once you’ve completed all the requirements, submit them to the agency of your choice. Though the Korean visa is free, the travel agency will charge you a minimum processing fee.
For our 2018 winter trip, we directly submitted our tourist visa application to the Korean embassy and were given 3-yr multiple entry visa. For our 2019 spring trip, we submitted my mother-in-law’s visa application to Aboex Travel Agency in Mandaluyong since it was the nearest to my office. The travel agency staff did an initial screening of the documents I submitted, arranged it neatly and stapled them once verified. I was issued an official receipt which will be used when claiming the passport.
- For first-time applicants, or those who have no previous trips within the last 5 years to OECD member countries, their processing time is 1-3 days.
- For frequent travelers and visa holders of OECD member countries, their processing time is 5-7 days.
Wait and claim your passport/visa.
The hardest part was the waiting game. I read a lot of blogs about visas getting denied. I kept on wondering what may possibly go wrong with our application. So remember to pray, it’s the only thing you can do aside from worrying.
On the eve of our claiming date, I checked the status via this site: kr-gov.org
Choose “Diplomatic office”, then from the drop-down, select “Passport no.” and provide the information. Enter your name in this format: <surname> <given name> (e.g. Dela Cruz Juan). Fill in your birthday using the calendar, then click on “Submit”.
The search results should display the status of your application. This way, our waiting time was reduced and we were able to see that our application was approved. Yay!
The next day, we went to the embassy and were still skeptic about the online results. When the female embassy employee handed our passports, she said “3 years”. We were so ecstatic to have been approved and granted multiple entries for 3 years. Thank God!
Looking forward to more trips to Korea in the next 3 years. Woohoo!
How long is the processing of visa?
- 3 working days – with OECD tourist visas within the past 5 years;
- 5 working days – for those applying in Manila without OECD visas.
How do I fill up the form?
Tips: Strictly no erasures. Write in BLOCK letters using black ink. If the question is not applicable, write “Not Applicable” or “N/A”. If it says “For Official Use”, leave it blank. Check the applicable choice/s. If you’re not confident with your penmanship, you can submit a computerized form instead.
1.2 한자성명 漢字姓名: Put N/A.
1.7 국가신분증번호 National Identity No.: Put N/A.
7.2 체류예정기간 Intended Period of Stay: Take note of how many days you put here as you need to be able to financially support your stay.
7.3 입국예정일 Intended Date of Entry: Remember to apply for a visa not earlier than 3 months before your target travel dates.
7.4 체류예정지(호텔포함) Address in Korea (including hotels) and 7.5 한국내연락처Contact No. in Korea: If you have booked a hotel, write here your accommodation details. But if you still haven’t booked one, just put “UNDECIDED”. If you’re a bit paranoid, there are some sites like Agoda which allows you to reserve a room and pay at a later date.
7.7 한국이외에과거 5년간여행한국가 Have you travelled outside your country of residence, excluding to Korea, in the last 5 years: Write your travel history in the last 5 years. If the space provided is not enough, feel free to insert an extra page listing all of your travels.
7.8. 동반입국가족유무기재 Are you travelling to Korea with any family member: Family member means parents, siblings, spouse, children. If you’re traveling with your boyfriend, girlfriend or friends, do not write their names here.
8.1 초청인/초청회사 Do you have anyone sponsoring you for the visa: If you’re invited by a Korean national or a Korean company, put the details here. Remember to include a letter of invitation when submitting your application.
- 9.1 방문경비(미국달러기준) Estimated travel costs(in US dollars): This is important. We estimated USD 100.00/day + USD 300.00 for airfare and accommodation and another USD 300.00 for pocket/extra money. So we wrote USD 1,500.00 for our 9-days trip to Korea.
9.2 경비지불자 Who will pay for your travel-related expenses: If you will pay for your trip, write your name in letter a; “SELF” in letter b; and the type of financial support you will be providing, e.g. flight, accommodation, financial support.
10.1 이신청서를작성하는데다른사람의도움을받았습니까? Did you receive assistance in completing this form: Put “No” if you have not received assistance when filling up the form.
11. 서약 / DECLARATION: Sign the form beside the space provided for the date. Do not sign the “Signature of Parent or Legal Guardian’s for a person under 17 years of age”. We had to reprint this page since we placed our signatures in this portion.
How much do I need to pay?
- If you’re staying for 59 days (or less) in Korea, there is no fee.
- For 60 to 90 days, you need to pay Php 1,800.00.
- The travel agency charges you a processing fee. There’s no standard processing fee but it ranges from PHP 700 to PHP 1,200.00.
Do I need to book my flight or accommodation before applying?
No. In our case, we applied for a visa first prior booking our flight and accommodation. In most cases, some people book their flights way long before their visa application date because it’s relatively cheaper. Especially if there’s a piso-fare promo <wink wink>!
Do I need to stay at the hotel I wrote in my application?
No. Once your visa is approved, you can stay anywhere you want.
How can I get a multiple-entry visa?
Aside from visiting South Korean frequently (no fixed number of visits, but most probably around 4-5 times in the last 5 years), there’s an ongoing promo extended until December 31, 2019 for BDO or BPI Gold Credit Cardholders. If you’re qualified, you are exempted from submitting bank certificates and ITR. You just need to submit your latest original billing statement/statement of account. I repeat, ORIGINAL. Printed copies are not allowed. You can request from your Issuing bank.
- Gold Cardholders are eligible for a 3-year multiple entry visa
- Elite/Platinum Cardholders are eligible for 3-5 years multiple entry visa
We participated in this promo. So, even if we’re first-timers in Korea, we were still granted multiple entry visas! But again, submitting this additional requirement does not automatically gets your visa approved.
How early should I apply for a Korean visa?
Do not apply earlier than 3 months before your target travel dates. It is also not recommended to apply a week before your travel dates. Consider the processing time so you can smartly schedule your visa application.
How much should I have in my bank account?
Your balance should be reasonable and believable. It should be proportional to your earnings. The embassy also validates the ADB so do not suddenly deposit a large amount of money before you request for a bank certificate or statement. It will just make you suspicious if you do this.
Do I have to personally submit my application or claim my passport/visa?
As long as the requirements are complete, you can have other people submit your documents. As for the claiming, just hand-over the claim stub to the person you asked to claim your documents. I recommend though that you personally process/claim your visa because in some instances, the embassy still verifies some information.
If my application is denied, can I re-apply?
Yes, but only after 6 months.
Do I need to have previous travels?
No. My office mate did not have any previous travels but was approved.
So that’s it! I’m hoping that all will be well for you.
Read our 9D/8N Korea trip here: The Land of Morning Calm: Our 9-Day Travel Guide to Seoul
<featured photo c/o norecipes.com>