Contributed by The Wander Cat
I recently came across this infographic entitled, ‘How Powerful Is Your Passport?’ It basically summarizes how much travel freedom each passport is entitled to.
Travel freedom here means being granted visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a certain country. According to this, citizens of Nordic countries, Finland and Sweden, plus the United Kingdom hold the ‘best’ passports (173 countries) while citizens of Afghanistan have the ‘worst’ (28 countries). The Philippines, where I’m from, is somewhere in the middle — okay, it’s actually closer to the bottom (58 countries).
How Powerful Is Your Passport? | Image credit: GOOD Magazine
Securing a tourist visa is one of the main struggles Filipino travellers have to deal with. This is why I’m quite jealous of my friends, who have dual citizenships. They get to hold US or Canadian passports, which makes travelling so much easier for them.
It’s a good thing my love for travel far outweighs my frustration with having to get tourist visas. I hope a lot of Filipinos, who are eager to see the world, don’t get discouraged by this as well.
If you’re a Philippine passport holder and it’s your first time to get a tourist visa, I suggest choosing Japan as your first visa-requiring country. Just recently, Japan relaxed their visa requirements and extended the visa validity period for Philippine nationals. Lucky for me, I had a trip to Japan planned for December. Because of this new development, I was able to get a multiple entry tourist visa. I’m allowed a maximum stay of 30 days and my visa validity period is 5 years.
On July 30, 2007, the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines announced that all visa applications have to be filed through their accredited agencies. They will only accept direct applications for very special cases. There are 6 agencies in total and you can check out the list here. I applied via Universal Holidays, Inc. (UHI). I found their staff very accommodating so I’m recommending them.
Here’s how to go about the application process for a tourist visa:
1. Download and print the Visa Application Form
The form is available in the agency’s website and is in PDF file. You need to print it so you can fill it up. Aside from your basic personal info, the form will ask for your port of entry, name of ship/airline, name and address of your hotel and intended length of stay. You don’t necessarily have to have these booked yet but you should already have an idea which airline you’re going to take and which hotel you’re going to stay in.
2. Prepare additional documents
– Machine-readable Philippine Passport
Your passport must be valid for 6 months and must have at least 2 blank pages.
– Original NSO Birth Certificate and Marriage Certificate (if applicable)
They must be issued within 1 year. Trust me, the agency staff can tell if they’re not. You can order both documents online and have them delivered to you in 3-9 days.
– Original Bank Certificate/s
– Original and Copy of Income Tax Return
– Daily Schedule in Japan
A template is also downloadable in the agency’s website. This doesn’t have to be final. But try to be as accurate as possible.
– Original Employment Certificate (optional)
I strongly suggest submitting this. Ask your HR Department to make you one. It should state your position/rank, annual compensation and years of service.
– Plane Ticket and Hotel Booking (optional)
It’s a risk to book even before you get a visa but a lot of people do this. I guess this could help since it will show that you plan to go there for vacation only.
3. Have your photo taken
The specific size must be 4.5cm x 4.5cm (or 45mm x 45mm or 2in x 2in) and the background must be white. Usually, when you go to photo printing shops like Kodak, you just have to tell their attendants that you’re applying for a Japan visa and they’ll know what to do. Paste — don’t staple — this on your Application Form.
4. File your application
Go to UHI, get a number from the queuing system and wait to be called so you can submit your documents. The good thing about UHI is that their personnel will do a preliminary screening of your documents before accepting them for forwarding to the embassy. A Japan tourist visa is free (gratis) but agencies charge a handling fee. I had to pay 1,500 pesos for mine. Of course, just because the agency checked your documents, don’t assume that you’ll be automatically issued a visa. Although, I believe that it does increase your chances.
Normally, you won’t be required to appear for an interview so after you submit your documents to an accredited agency, you just have to wait a few days to see if you were granted a visa or not. The agency will advise you through email or text if you need to submit additional documents or if they got your passport back already. They say that it usually takes 7-10 days to get feedback from them after applying but I got a text 3 days after saying that my passport is ready for pick-up. The text didn’t mention if I was granted a visa or not. The only way to find out is to get your passport back and check. If you don’t see a visa inside your passport, the embassy will not provide you with a reason why. However, you can apply again after 6 months for the same travel purpose.
Compared to other tourist visas, I consider this process to be quite simple.
UHI is located at the Mezzanine Floor, Dusit Thani Manila, Ayala Center, Makati City, Philippines. This is right across SM Makati. Their office is open from 8:30am to 5:30pm on Mondays to Fridays and from 8:30am to12:30nn during Saturdays. You can visit their website here.