[Update 25/01/2018: I just applied for a Korean visa for the second time. I followed the exact process and submitted the same documents. I still didn’t have an ITR so I submitted again a letter of explanation. My visa was approved and I got it after 5 working days.]
I have mixed feelings visiting South Korea. It’s not really on my list but since I was able to book a flight for less than a $100 roundtrip, why the hell not? One of reasons why I hesitated was because of the visa requirement.
As you probably know, South Korea is one of those countries where Filipinos need a visa to be able to visit. I almost talked myself out of going but good thing I didn’t because Seoul is one of the good places I’ve been to here in Asia and it’s mostly because of the food!
Of course, you wouldn’t want to miss out on what Korea has to offer just because of a visa.
Applying for a visa shouldn’t be a problem but not in my case since I’m a freelancer and I don’t have an Income Tax Return (ITR) document. And both certificate of employment and ITR are major requirements for a Korean visa.
I searched for ways, even thought of getting a fake ITR but thankfully, I didn’t or I could get myself in big trouble.
So, here’s how I did it:
1) Download the application form from this website.
Here’s a screenshot for your reference:
2) Prepare all the necessary documents:
- Application form (5 pages total)
- 1 photo with white background (35mmx45mm)
- Bank statement and bank certificate
- Certificate of employment (COE)
- Letter of explanation for not having an ITR
- Philippine passport. Must have at least 6 months remaining validity. Submit without jacket or cover.
- Photocopy of passport bio page (page 2).
- If available, original and photocopy of valid visa(s) and arrival stamps to OECD member countries within the last 5 years. Valid visas to OECD member countries will greatly increase your chances of getting approved so be sure to submit these if you have them. CLICK HERE for a list of OECD member countries.
Note: print everything in A4 paper
For the bank statement and bank certificate, I just went to any BPI branch and asked for those documents. I requested for 2 copies, 1 for Korean visa and 1 for US visa. You have to tell them the purpose of those documents because some require more details. For Korean visa, for instance, they need to put in more details whereas for the US visa, not much details were needed.
I have to pay Php 100 per copy and I got it after 20mins. It’s that easy!
Now, in terms of how much money you should have in the bank — that I cannot answer. In my case, I have around Php 100,000. And it was already in my account 3 months prior to my bank statement request.
Certificate of employment [COE] — since I am a freelancer, requesting for a certificate of employment was a bit of a challenge. What I did was, I prepared the COE myself using the company letterhead and sent it via email to my employer. I asked my project manager to sign it via DocuSign App and have it sent back to me. It wasn’t much of a hassle for my project manager, using the DocuSign app, so I got it back instantly.
I wasn’t sure though if the embassy called my project manager or our main office in the US. But I made sure all contact information were included in the COE. Here’s a sample format:
CERTIFICATE OF EMPLOYMENT
To whom it may concern:
This is to certify that [name], with address at [home address], is currently employed at [company name] as an [job position] since [start date]. Her monthly net salary is [income in local currency or in USD].
This certificate is issued upon the request of [name] for whatever purpose it may serve.
[name of your immediate head]
Position in the company
Email address and contact number
Letter of explanation for not having an ITR
I didn’t have an ITR because I just started work this year and since ITR is one of the major requirements, I have to look for other ways. I’ve read stories about submitting a letter of explanation and I did just the same. However, submitting a letter of explanation does not guarantee visa approval.
Here’s a sample for your reference:
Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines
122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center,
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city 1634, Philippines
Dear Sir / Madam:
1st paragraph: I am personally writing this letter to explain why I failed to present an Income Tax Return (ITR) as part of my requirements to obtain a Tourist Visa to South Korea.
2nd paragraph: explain why you don’t have an ITR.
3rd paragraph: brief background of your travel experiences in other countries
4th paragraph: explain why you want to visit South Korea [Korea has always been on top of my list, mainly because of the food and awesome theme parks. Nami Island is also part of my itinerary. I plan to stay 7 days maximum to give me enough time to experience and embrace the local culture.]
5th paragraph: closing statement
Keep this letter of explanation in just under one page.
3) Submission of application at the Korean embassy
Once I have everything printed and ready, I went early Monday morning to the Korean embassy. You can go there as early as 7am because if you came in late, you might be asked to return. Visa application is only from 8:30am-11:00am. They stop accepting applicants by 10:30am.
I arrived there at 9am and I got a number at around 11am. My number was called in less than 5 minutes and I was handed a paper with releasing date within 2 minutes.
2 hours waiting time and less than 10 minutes for submission.
Things to note:
- Visa is FREE. If you apply through an agency, what you’re paying are just agency fees.
- If there are revisions on your application form, simply ask for one at the guard. Application forms are readily available at no cost.
- Photocopying services are available on site.
- Bring an umbrella and water because you’ll be waiting outside under the sun for more than an hour.
- No interview or personal appearance needed. You can ask someone to submit your application for you; just make sure that all your documents are complete.
- Once documents are submitted, you will be given a piece of paper with the releasing date on it. Releasing date is 5 working days from date of application/submission.
- You will only know for sure if visa is granted or denied once you come back on the releasing date. Submission and acceptance of documents do not mean visa granted. The Korean officials will still have to process everything.
- Releasing time starts at 1:30pm until 4:00pm. Be there 3:30pm at the latest to make sure that you will still be accommodated.
- If you have a BPI Gold Mastercard, you can apply for a multiple-entry visa that is valid for 3-5 years. Read here to know more.
4) Go back on the specified release date.
I waited for 10mins and while waiting, I was already preparing myself that my visa application could be denied. So, whatever the result was, I will be neutral. I keep telling myself, if it’s not for me, it’s not for me.
My number was called, it’s time.
When I got my passport, all the girl said to me was, “visa granted”.
My flight to Seoul leaves the next day. End of story.
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