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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easy Korean Visa Application at Cebu Embassy

I was wary about applying for a Korean visa since I had recently just transitioned from corporate work to freelancing. In my previous visa applications, I always had the "comfort" of having an employee certificate. I felt like the employee certificate gave me a compelling reason to return home in the eyes of the embassy staff. So without it, I had some real qualms, even with an active set of OECD visas, and prepared for the worst case scenario. As I see it, I can't ever be overconfident about visas since there's no way to predict how the embassy can see you.

For those looking to apply for a Korean visa, here are some of the important points I gleaned:

  • Make sure to check where you fall in the categories to determine the documents you'll prepare. For example, employed versus business owner versus housewife. The requirements on their website are pretty straightforward, so make sure you have all of those prepared.
  • There were no specific instructions on their website for the self-employed, so I had used the "business owner" category as a guide. 
  • As a freelancer, I did submit a screenshot of the online portal where I do most of my work. I also submitted a screenshot of a list of my recent contracts.
  • Not listed on the website but best prepared (since they are indicated at the embassy bulletin board) are:
    • Photocopies of your ticket (including return)
    • Your rough itinerary for the duration of your visit
  • There is a requirement for a "BIR stamped" 2316 form or ITR. For most people who work for companies, their individual 2316 forms are not stamped since companies usually send all the employee files in bulk to BIR. There should, however, be a "transmittal" that verifies that the BIR received the 2316 forms submitted by your company. A copy of this transmittal can be provided by your HR officer.
    • If you filed your ITR yourself, you should have a BIR stamp.
    • If you have an existing/active OECD visa (i.e. US, Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan), the ITR submission requirement can be waived entirely.
  • Paste you picture. No stapling please.
  • Remember to be mindful of the times: visa application submissions are allowed only during the morning. They have a lunch break from 12pm to 2pm. And 2pm to 4pm is for visa releasing.
  • It takes approximately 5 days for your visa to be released, so don't wait too long to process it before your flight.

The experience was relatively easy and stress-free. It would have been completely easy had I read the opening hours with more understanding. I came at the wrong time for visa submission and had to come back the next day. But, again, that was my fault. There are not a lot of people at the embassy at any given time, making waiting time very minimal. The wait can be anywhere from 5 mins to 30 mins only. The embassy staff who handled the visa was also very efficient, which was really great.

I can't wait to go to Korea!