Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dad's Review - Practical tips for Filipinos applying for Japan Visa in Philippines

Update as of 06 May 2014

After our arrival at Narita Airport our family of five got separated and fell in line at different immigration counters. We were not worried at all since we have done this many times in our previous trips without encountering any problem. However, my eldest son was interrogated by the immigration officer due to his status as student on his arrival card. In addition, we were supposed to stay at an apartment in Harajuku thus the immigration officers kept on asking my son whether he has a relative in Japan and why he would stay in an apartment and not in a hotel. Furthermore, aside from being a student he stated that he wasn't carrying any banknotes with him. The immigration officer told him thrice in a raised voice "you can't stay." Fortunately I was near him but on a separate queue. I approached the immigration counter and informed the guy that I am his Dad and our family got separated at different immigration counters. The guy simply smiled and allowed my son to pass after verifying my arrival card.

Thus, when in queue at the immigration counters at Narita airport better to stay in group so as to prevent anybody from being questioned. Remember that having an entry visa doesn't mean that you can't be denied entry anymore by the immigration authority in Japan.

Enjoy your trip and stay tuned for my additional tips regarding Suica card / Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner.

Japan visa is selling like hotcakes nowadays. It has been in news for quite some time and I am sure that in the past few months thousands of visas have been issued to Filipinos who intend to visit the land of the rising sun. We joined the frenzy and received our passports with visas on 16th of this month.

Before anything else, the steps in acquiring the much coveted visa are not as easy as walking in the park notwithstanding the Japanese Embassy's announcement that these steps have been simplified. 

There are several tour agents accredited by the Japanese Embassy where you can submit your application. You can easily search these tour agents on the net but in our case we preferred Reli Tours located at 5th floor of SM Megamall. You may check its website: Reli Tours. We chose this tour agent due to good review on the net and it was the most convenient place for us.

Since we plan to go to Japan without any guarantor we prepared all the necessary requirements as stated on the tour agent website before we submitted our applications.

1. Valid passport with 2 remaining blank pages

2. Application Form - You can download this from the tour agent website: application. When filling this form do not leave any blank spaces. If you don't have guarantor like us then put "N.A." in all the spaces such as guarantors' addresses and Tel nos. More so, there is nothing to worry if you are traveling as a family and you have a single breadwinner. The visa applications of my wife and three kids were approved even if they stated their status as housewife and students on their applications.

3. Photo - 4.5 cm x 4.5 cm or 2" x 2." Reli Tours asked for a single photo to be pasted on the application form. You should be wearing a collared t-shirt with white background on your photo. If you have long hair both ears should be exposed. Moreover, there is no need to go to any expensive photo centers at the mall. It costs us 106 pesos for 6 copies while my eldest son paid only 24 pesos for 4 copies printed on photopaper by our friendly neighborhood internet shop. The embassy accepted all our photos.

4. Birth Certificate from NSO - If you are alone and have plenty of time to spend then it is preferable that you apply for this document at any SM Business Centers or at Teleserv Online application. The cost is reasonable but processing will take more days.

In our case, we were five in the family thus we applied for our birth certificates at NSO Main Office at Quezon City to reduce our expenses. The wife and I went to NSO at around 10 am and received queue number 4219. We were aghast since the number being processed at that time was 2150; it took another hour to reach 2300. We inquired at the Teleserv counter inside NSO office for home delivery of the documents but the guy was asking 350 pesos per document and around 3 days delivery period. It was way too costly.

inside NSO Main Office

Feeling helpless I asked the security staff whether our queue number would be entertained and luckily he assured us that all queuing numbers issued for that day would be completed before the office closes at 6 pm. Hence, we decided to come back at 4 pm.

We came back at 4 pm only to find out that the number being processed has already exceeded 5000; I don't know how they did it. Since our queue number was way ahead, we proceeded immediately to evaluation desks and after that went directly to cashier area. In less than 30 minutes we were able to finish the transaction and returned the following day at 7 am to collect our NSO issued birth certificates. Just make sure that you have valid ID otherwise the evaluator won't accept your application. We paid 140 pesos per document or 700 pesos for five of us. 

5. Bank Certificate - We requested this from BDO and paid 100 pesos. The bank has standard form for bank certificate to be used for visa application so no worries about this procedure. Our bank certificate was released the following day. Just to add, there is no specific or minimum amount required by Japan embassy for bank certificate for visa approval.

our 5D/4N itinerary

6. Daily Schedule in Japan - You can download the form from the tour agent website: schedule. Nothing especial here just make a research on the net of the places you intend to visit. In fact, we submitted a very general itinerary for 5D/4N.

7. Income Tax Return Copy - Since I am an OFW I don't have this document. In lieu of this I attached my contract from my company in the Middle East. It was accepted by Reli Tours.

8. Marriage Contract from NSO (if applicant is married) - Reli Tours initially didn't accept our visa applications since we forgot to attach our marriage certificate from NSO. Lesson learned. Make sure that you have complete documents before you submit your application to avoid losing time and resources.

Nevertheless, it was pretty obvious that we can easily produce this document thus Ms Jane of Reli Tours asked us to pay the processing amount so we wouldn't need to wait upon coming back to re-submit our applications. We obliged and paid 1,200 pesos each or 6,000 pesos for five of us. I noticed that you don't need to personally submit your visa application; anybody can do this for you as long as you have complete requirements.

The following day I went back to NSO Main Office and arrived at 7:30 am expecting that it would open at 8 am like any government offices. To my surprise I found a long queue inside the compound. They started giving queuing number as early as 7 am. Mine was 1239. I completed the task at around 10:30 am thus my receipt showed 1 pm collection time. So if you are in need of your NSO document urgently make sure that you will be able to finish the transaction before lunch time to be able to collect it in the afternoon. Otherwise you have no choice but to return the following day to collect your document.

My wife and I collected our NSO copy marriage contract at 1 pm and raced towards SM Megamall to re-submit our visa applications. Ms Jane finally accepted our visa applications; processing would take 5 to 7 working days according to her. It was Wednesday. 

I called Reli Tours on Monday at 5:30 pm; they haven't received our passports yet and beckoned us to call again the following day at the same time. Since we have some business to attend near SM Megamall the following day we opted to pass at Reli Tours at around 5:30 pm. Fortunately, our passports were included in the batch of passports that just arrived. Great!

I checked one by one all our five passports. I verified the passport number, name and birthday indicated on each and every visa. I was terribly surprised to note that the passport number indicated on my wife's Japan visa was wrong. Their Japanese liaison officer was apologetic and promised that they would send my wife's passport back to the embassy within that day for correction free of charge. Since it was only a correction they asked me to come back the following day. Be very careful about this thing since I saw an applicant at Reli Tours having his Japan visa corrected thrice. Trust me, you don't want to notice any visa error on the day of your flight.

Come Holy Wednesday at around 5:30 pm, all of us have received our single entry Japan visas.

By the way, I added these documents to our applications:

- Return tickets booked as early as January 2014
- Hotel or apartment booking through Airbnb website
- Copy of my company ID and credit cards with blocked/cut-out numbers.
- Old passport of wife having Japan (trainee) visa issued in 1991. She used to work in a Japanese semicon firm. They were sent by their company for training for two months in Japan.

All documents you have submitted will not be returned back by the embassy. In addition, you will know whether your visa application has been rejected or granted once your passport has been returned to you. The tour staff won't give any details over the phone.

By the way, one of my readers asked about the affidavit of support for my wife and kids. We didn't submit it while both Japanese and Filipino immigration officers DIDN'T demand it as well. We simply followed the requirements of Reli Tours for visitors WITHOUT guarantor. I believe this document is needed when you plan to go to Japan with a guarantor. Furthermore, in case you have visited japan recently I suggest that you coordinate with the tour agent to know whether you still need to submit all the requirements or not. They are in better position to answer your query.

Here is a tip to fellow Filipino Dads planning to visit Japan, I have been told by several individuals while waiting inside the office of Reli Tours that the processing of visa for visitor without any guarantor was simpler and faster than applying for a Japan visa with guarantor like family or friend. You know what to do.

I hope Japan will waive its visa requirements for Filipinos in near future as stated on recent news. By doing this, Filipinos will definitely start flocking to their country in throngs. In fact, my kids are bugging me when they have learned that Harry Potter theme park will open at Universal Studios in a few months. Hey, that's another tip for other Dads out there who plan to bring his family to Universal Studios in Japan.