Applying for a Tourist Visa to South Korea

Applying for a Tourist Visa to South Korea

This article has been updated on June 25, 2018. For more details, see the Important Update below.

Important Update

Effective July 1, 2018, the Embassy of the Republic of South Korea in the Philippines will no longer accept walk-in applicants for the Korean tourist visa. All tourist visa applications must be coursed through designated travel agencies. You will find our comprehensive directory of travel agencies here.

In addition, the company alphalist will no longer be a requirement for employees or those self-employed. More details about this change in Korean visa requirements here.

The Rundown

  • Applying for a tourist visa to South Korea is free for stays up to 59 days.
  • Application fee is ₱2,000 if you're staying for 60-90 days.
  • US Passport holders and other foreign nationals in the Philippines may also apply for a fee.
  • You may go to the Embassy in Taguig or Consulate in Cebu to file your application.
  • There may be a cutoff time for submission of applications, which is set depending on the number of applicants. If you'll lodge your application in Taguig, it's wise to arrive as early as 7am to make sure you're accommodated.
  • In most cases, there'll be no interviews.

Also read: Appl ying for a Korean Visa Through An Accredited Travel Agency

Update on South Korea Visa Application

Effective July 1, 2018, all walk-in applicants for the South Korea tourist visa will no longer be accommodated in the Embassy. Applications must be coursed through a designated travel agency.

To learn more, read our new Korea visa application guide below (includes travel agency's contact details, address, and fees):

Before Anything Else

Claim it. You’re going to get it. Trust the process.

South Korea Tourist Visa Requirements

Here are the documents required for employees, as listed on the Embassy's website. Requirements for other categories as well as tips follow below:

  1. Application Form
  2. 1 x Passport-size Colored Picture
  3. Original Passport (should be valid for more than 6 months)
  4. Photocopy of Passport Bio Page (the one with your photo and information)
  5. Original & Photocopy of Valid Visa/s and Arrival Stamps to any OECD member country for the past 5 years, only if applicable
  6. Original Certificate of Employment
  7. Original Personal Bank Certificate
  8. Bank Statements for the last 3 months
  9. ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 with Company Alphalist (stamped BIR Form 1604-CF with your name highlighted)
  10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card, only if applicable

For families intending to apply, also bring marriage and birth certificate/s to prove familial ties. Please note that application forms and requirements of all traveling family members must be filed at the same time and at the same window. Only one representative is needed to submit the family application.

UPDATE: Starting July 1, 2018, the Embassy will no longer accommodate walk-in applicants for the temporary visitor's visa (tourist visa). Those who intend to apply may submit their applications to any designated travel agency. For more details, read: UPDATE: Travel Agencies to Process South Korea Tourist Visa Applications Starting July 1

UPDATE: Effective March 26, 2018, first-time travelers who have not been to any OECD-member country in the last 5 years are required to submit a stamped BIR Form 1604-CF (Company Alpha List) together with the Form 2316. Visa applicants are instructed to highlight their name in the form. More details here.

 

Invited by Korean?

If you were personally invited by a Korean national, submit an invitation letter and photocopy of their passport or Identification card.

If invited by a company in Korea, submit an invitation letter and photocopy of their corporate business registration certificate.

Locations

The Korean Embassy is in 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City 1634.

Alternatively, the Consulate in Cebu is located at 12th Floor Chinabank Corporate Center, Lot 2, Samar Loop Cor. Road 5, Cebu Business Park, Mabolo, Cebu City. 

To help you plan for your application, refer to this list of holidays in South Korea and the Notice Section on the Embassy's website (look for entries with the title "Embassy closed on..."). Needless to say, the Embassy is expected to be closed during these days. 

Fees
 

Philippine Passport Holders

It's free! You will not have to pay for anything if your trip in South Korea is less than 59 days.  Otherwise, it will be ₱2,000 for stays of 60-90 days.

US Passport Holders

Expect to pay ₱2,250 or around $42.8.

Foreign Nationals

If you are a foreign national in the Philippines, application fee for a single-entry South Korea tourist visa is ₱2,000 (around $38). Applying for a multiple-entry visa will cost you ₱4,500 (around $85.59).

Please note that fees may differ for other nationalities.
 

Processing

3 business days if you have been to an OECD member country as a tourist in the last 5 years.
5 business days for first-time travelers and those who have not visited the countries below:

OECD Member Countries

In addition to having a quicker processing time, those who have visited any OECD-member country within the last 5 years as a tourist may also be exempt from submitting an ITR. You can verify their statement here.

Kindly note that the Embassy does not entertain requests for expedited visa application processing.

What to Expect

Queue outside the Embassy. Photo taken on April 02, 2018 at 7:30am.

Queue outside the Embassy. Photo taken on April 02, 2018 at 7:30am.

The Embassy accepts applications for a tourist visa to South Korea on a first-come, first-serve basis. They don't have an appointment system. Also, while their official hours for application processing is 8:30am-11am (Monday-Friday), there are days when they implement a cutoff time (varies per day) if there is a huge turnout of applicants. This means that you might not be accommodated inside despite arriving before or within the official business hours and that you may have to return the next business day, if you do not make it past the cutoff. (When I submitted my application on October 2017 in Taguig, the cutoff was 9am. This was something I did not expect. It was a good thing I arrived at 7am, so I was able to hand in my application for processing. I'd definitely recommend arriving anytime between 6am-7am to be safe.)

As soon as you arrive in the Embassy, find the end of the line. Every 15 minutes or so, the security will ask ten applicants to come forward to the visitor log booth. When you're done signing your name, they will let you in to the Embassy Grounds, where you will most likely queue up some more. Browse your Facebook feed to kill the boredom.

When you finally make it inside the hall, you will immediately spot a rectangular table on your left. Here you can organize your documents and paste your picture on the form if you haven't yet. You may then proceed to the security who's stationed by the door. He will make an initial assessment of your paperwork and provide you your queue number. If you're a frequent traveler with valid OECD-member visa/s, you will be asked to queue up for Window 3. All the rest will go to Windows 1 or 2.

Expect the process to be a lot faster from here. When your number is called, proceed to your designated window and hand in your documents. The visa officer will flip through them and give you a receipt. As shown below, this is just a small piece of paper that indicates when you are supposed to come back for your passport. Whatever you do, do not lose this. 

Except for the floral distraction, your receipt should look like this.

Issuance of the receipt does not mean approval of your application. Furthermore, it does not always guarantee that you will be able to get the visa on the date indicated. In some cases, the Embassy may still require an interview and/or ask for additional documents to verify your documents' authenticity.

Check Application Status Online

If you'd like to check the status of your Visa Application, you may do so online by visiting the Korea Visa Portal. Here are the steps:

  1. Translate the website to English
  2. Select Check Application Status & Print
  3. Choose Diplomatic Office and input the rest of your details
  4. Hit the Search button

Releasing

Official releasing time for passports is Monday-Friday, 1:30pm-4pm. Take your receipt with you, and write your name and contact number at the back portion. (For those claiming multiple passports, you only need to write one name). Claiming of passport should not take more than an hour.

If you don't want to make that second trip to the Embassy, they have noted here that you can actually have your passport mailed back to you. For this, you will have to apply at their reception counter. The fee is ₱180 upon receipt of mail.

However, all applicants, especially first-time travelers, are advised by the Embassy to personally claim their passports in case an interview is needed.


TIPS!

  • Download the application form here and print it on A4 size paper.
  • You must fill out the form by hand
  • Some of my friends have tried filling out the form using a word processor. While their application was still accepted, it's highly recommended to always follow the official directive and accomplish the form manually.
  • For a visual guide in filling out the form, click here.
  • It is said that the peak season for South Korea tourist visa application is March-May. This is usually when queuing alone takes about 3 hours, if not more. 
  • Some people have recounted to me their frustrating experience of applying during the peak period. Majority of them had been asked to return the next business day since they did not make it past the cutoff, despite arriving at 7am.
  • I recently re-applied for a visa on April 2, 2018, which is right after Holy Week. When I arrived in the Embassy at 6:45am, the line already reached as far as Petron Upper McKinley Road! Luckily, there was no cutoff time set and I was able to submit my application. My total waiting time was 4 hours. (When I came back to claim my passport and visa three days after, I only had to wait for 10 minutes, if not less!)
  • If you're planning to camp out, make sure to bring some water, fan, umbrella, and a power bank. Having a face mask and a portable chair would make the wait a little more bearable too.
  • No parking space is allotted for applicants. However, there are establishments across the street where you can pay around ₱100 per hour. Good luck.
  • The Embassy instructs applicants to arrive before 10:30am to allow ample time for processing.
  • Guards stationed at the entrance are generally nice. If arriving by car, just don’t be dropped off right in front of their vehicle gate to avoid their irk.
  • If applying with friends or family, know that you can assign one person to submit all of the documents in the Embassy. There’s no need to make a group trip to the Embassy nor an individual appearance before the consul. (Same goes for passport claiming!)
  • Arrange your requirements according to the order presented in the list of requirements above. Also, take them out from any envelopes or folders, if you have them enclosed. 
  • If your OECD tourist visas are in your old passport, attach the old passport to your new one.
  • Your Certificate of Employment should note the following:
    • Position
    • Date hired
    • Compensation
    • Office address
    • HR landline number (Mobile no. is not allowed)
    • HR e-mail address
  • If you're a remote worker or someone whose employer is based outside the Philippines, the consul might ask you for a signed (by hand) and stamped (or sealed) Certificate of Employment. Prepare to present one.
  • If you’re a self-employed individual or a freelancer, submit your BIR Form with corresponding receipt from an authorized bank. Here is the Embassy's official directive.
  • If you are unemployed, do not fall into the 'Housewife' category, and will be applying alone, there is a high chance that your application will be denied. Having no source of income is a red flag to consuls; it shows that you may not be able to fund your trip and/or you're looking to apply for a job overseas.
  • Getting a bank certificate is easy. Just go to your branch of account and ask the clerk to issue you a Bank Certificate for visa application. Getting one shouldn't take longer than 10 minutes.
  • Payment for bank certificate + statements vary per bank, but I know that BPI charges at least ₱100.
  • No savings account? Get a statement for your payroll instead. It's what I did.
  • If you’re thinking about how much money should be reflected in your account, there’s really no official guideline on this. Just make sure that what you have is commensurate to your planned trip. If you’d like to stay in South Korea for 7 days, I’d say ₱10,000 is a very questionable amount, anywhere near ₱25,000 somewhat acceptable, and ₱35,000 or more should be ideal.
  • For budget tips for your South Korea trip, read our article here.
  • No ITR or Company Alphalist? Submit a letter of explanation. Here’s the letter template that you can use. (I personally have done this and was able to get a visa, so I'd say it's worth the try. However, even with this workaround, failure to present an ITR or Company Alphalist may affect your application.)
  • When you're issued a regular tourist visa to South Korea, you will most likely have 90 days to use it before it expires. Plan your trip accordingly.
  • If you obtained a new passport after receiving a South Korea tourist visa, notify the Embassy. Contact information are found below.
  • If you have not tried drinking water from mini paper bags, try to do so inside the Embassy. It's good practice for your trip!

South Korea Multiple-Entry Visa

Until December 2019, you can apply for a multiple-entry visa to South Korea if you have any of the following cards:

  1. BDO Gold
    • Gold Visa Credit Card
    • Gold MasterCard Credit Card
    • Gold UnionPay Credit Card
    • Gold JCB Credit Card
  2. BDO Elite
    • Platinum Visa Credit Card
    • Titanium/Platinum & World Elite MasterCard Credit Card
    • Gold/Platinum/Cathay Pacific & American Express Charge Cards issued by BDO
    • Diamond UnionPay Credit Card
    • Diners Club Premiere
  3. BPI Gold MasterCard
    • BPI SkyMiles Platinum MasterCard
  4. BPI Amore Visa Platinum
  5. Gold BPI Express Teller Debit

If you own any of these, know that you are also exempted from submitting an ITR and bank certificates. Just make sure to bring with you your original card and billing statements.

In case your application's denied...

You will be given a reason for rejection. Most common reasons are: your intention/purpose of visit is unclear, you can't prove that you can financially support yourself, and you can't prove your intent to return.

If this is the case for you, move on quickly and don't lose hope. Apply again in the next six (6) months. Just make sure to be more thoughtful and thorough with your application by doing the following:

  • Demonstrate that you have a verifiable and stable job/source of income
  • Show a solid financial history and record (whether yours or sponsor's)
  • For questionable travel history (i.e. overstaying), make sure to explain by writing a cover letter

Contact

For any questions, clarifications, and comments, you may reach the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines by calling +632 856 9210 (loc. 270 or 500) or emailing them at ph04@mofa.go.kr.

Alternatively, you may call the Consulate in Cebu at +63 32 231 1516 (to 19) or email them at phi_cebu2015@mofa.go.kr.

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