What is a visa?
A visa is a document that allows foreign passport-holders to enter a country or group of countries for a certain period of time.
There are different types of visa for different purposes of entering a country. A person can enter a country for work, studies, medical treatment, among other things. The process is different for each type of visa. We are only concerned with the tourist visa.
What is the purpose of a visa?
- To restrict who can or cannot enter the country.
- To restrict the duration of stay in the country.
- To restrict the number of times a foreigner can enter a country within a period of time.
- To restrict what you can or cannot do during a visit. (For example, while on a tourist visa, you cannot work or take up studies.)
Why is it important to know the reason why countries require visas?
This is because you will have to prove to them that you deserve the visa, and that you will likely follow their rules.
Do I need a visa?
Whether or not you need a visa depends on:
- What country you are from (For example, I am a Philippine passport holder)
- What country you are visiting
The rules for visas for an American visiting Japan is completely different for a Filipino visiting Japan. An American probably does not need a visa at all, while a Filipino does. Each country has a different set of rules for each country, and they are usually more strict when it comes to Filipinos.
These rules change all the time, so you need to do your own research and make sure you are getting information from reliable (and multiple) sources such as:
- official website of the embassy (For example: Embassy of Japan in the Philippines)
- news outlets (For example: Taiwan Extends Visa-Free Privilege for PH Until July 2020)
While it is good to read travel blogs as a guide to your visa application process, it is important to double check this information with the official (and updated) source which is the embassy.
Here is a list of visa-free countries for Filipinos according to ABS-CBN news. Remember to double check with the embassy. This is extremely important due to possible changes in the rules. For example, Korean visa applications were supposed to be done at the Consulate of Korea, but this is no longer allowed. Applications must be done through accredited travel agencies.
Official visa information for Filipinos
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
How to increase the chances of getting your visa application approved
Your visa will likely get approved if the country you are applying to is confident that you are honest and will follow the rules when you enter said country.
As a general rule of thumb, you have to prove the following:
- You will go back to your home country on or before your visa expires. There are different ways to prove this:
- Return flight
- A job waiting for you back home (certificate of employment, income tax return, company ID, proven leave of absence)
- You own a business in your home country (income tax return)
- You have ongoing studies in your home country
- You own properties in your home country (a condo unit, house, lot, car)
- You will not work.
- A job waiting for you back home
- You own a business in your home country
- You can support yourself financially.
- Bank certificate. This can be obtained from your bank. It states your current balance and average daily balance. If you suddenly deposit 100k into your account, they will know and they will be suspicious. They will think you borrowed money just for the visa application. Make sure your bank account has a steady consistent increase in balance. Nothing drastic or sudden.
- Stock shares
- Bank statements
- Your purpose is tourism.
- You have a clear detailed itinerary.
- You know which hotel/hostel/Airbnb you are staying at.
Requirements vary from country to country, but in the end, tourist visas from all over the world serve the same purpose, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, requirements will be more or less similar. But then again, some countries are more strict than others. To get a Schengen visa, you need to purchase travel insurance valid for the dates and places that you are traveling to. This is not required for visas in Japan and Korea.
To increase your chances of approval, submit all required documents and if possible, add supporting documents which I mentioned above.
A visa lets you enter a foreign country, so we have that to deal with. Another thing that we have to go through is Philippine immigration. After checking in for your flight and going through security, you will also have to face an immigration officer. They will either let you board the flight or turn you way – this is called “offloading”. While this seems like an unfair thing to do, they are doing this to protect Filipinos by preventing them to do anything illegal abroad. They want to make sure that:
- You will not work abroad.
- You have enough money to fund your travels.
They will usually ask the following questions:
- Where are you going?
- For how long?
- Be prepared to show your return flight.
- Who are you traveling with?
- Where are you staying?
- Make sure you can provide them your hotel booking.
- If working, what is your job?
- Prepare your company ID and certificate of employment.
- If studying, what is your school and course?
- Prepare your school ID.
- Why are you traveling alone?
- Just be honest. I just say I have no friends, hahaha. Sometimes I also tell them that I’ve done it before already, so it’s not a big deal.
- Is this your first time traveling abroad?
I’ve also been asked some unusual questions like:
- Why are you suddenly going on this trip?
- This was because my flights were booked only a week before the travel date.
- Why do you only have accommodation for the first 3 days?
- I only had a booking for the first 3 days in a 3-week trip because I wanted to be flexible.
- What is your mode of payment for your flight/accommodation bookings?
- Do you have a credit card?
- They also asked questions about past trips.
If you are honest, have no plans of breaking the rules, have no history of breaking the rules, then they will let you on that plane. Be confident and answer the questions clearly.
Summary: General List of Documents to Prepare
(for visa applications & immigration)
Visa application requirements and documents that are requested by the immigration officers are usually similar, since both parties serve a similar purpose. You don’t have to bring all of these. For visas, just follow the requirements + submit some additional documents, if allowed. For immigration, there is no definite rule, but I always bring as many documents as I can.
- Proof of employment
- Certificate of Employment
- Company ID
- Income tax return (ITR)
- Proof that you can sustain yourself financially
- Bank statements
- Bank certificate
- Proof that you will be visiting as a tourist
- Accommodation bookings
- Tour, transport & sim card bookings
- Proof that you will come back to the Philippines
- Return ticket
It’s intimidating, but entirely doable.
I know it’s a lot to take in. It sounds like such a long process, but when you have done it once already, then it becomes more familiar and easier. Despite the anxiety and expenses and effort it takes to obtain visas, it has always been worth it for me! Good luck and happy travels. 🙂