One of the biggest worries in traveling to international destinations is applying for a tourist visa. Coming from a third world country, this reason ranks high on why most Filipinos like me are hesitant to travel to countries that require a travel visa such as Japan. Now, imagine having to prepare your whole family’s visa application and this can get overwhelming very fast especially if no one is there to help you out.
This was one of the challenges we faced when we organized a trip for 17 people to Osaka last May 2017. I’ve applied for a tourist visa for Japan twice already and currently have a 5 year multiple entry but the same does not apply to the rest of my family. We had to take into consideration the different documents we had to prepare given each of us have different circumstances.
A quick profile of my family:
We had to research on the net how best to provide all documents and requirements needed for a visa application because we wanted to avoid the additional cost of consulting with a professional travel agent. To help others going through the same difficulties we faced a couple of months ago, I’ll share our own experiences here. Please note that there is no way to guarantee that following what we did will grant you a visa. You may also consult the official page of the Japanese Embassy for more information.
Japan offers different types of visa depending on your situation and what you need it for. So far, I have only experienced applying for single entry tourist visa and could only share based on my personal experience. The Japanese Embassy website has more information about the different visas you can avail and all the documents needed for each.
First time tourist visa applicants who have been approved are typically given a single-entry visa that is valid for use within 3 months of issuance. The period of validity of the single-entry visa is 90 days and you are not allowed to take any form of employment in Japan while using this. On the other hand, people granted multiple-entry visas can enter the country any number of times during their period of validity.
In my experience, most people I know are given a multiple-entry pass that is good for 5 years on their second visa approval even if they only requested for a single-entry; All the more reason to keep coming back!
- Is it possible to use a single-entry visa if I have not done so within the 3 months validity?
- If you need to change your travel plans, it should only be within 3 months from the day your visa was approved. The duration of your visa’s validity will be indicated. If the trip will not happen within this period, you will need to apply for a new one.
- Is it possible to request for a multiple-entry visa?
- Yes. There are additional requirements for multiple-entry visa requests and you can find more details here. Unfortunately, I’ve not tried this process before.
This is probably the hardest part in the whole process as you will need to gather all required documents and make sure they are updated and correct. Submitting papers with wrong information can be considered a fraud and will result to rejection. All documents should be A4 in size only and should not be pasted or stapled together for quicker processing.
I based this list from what is on the Japan Embassy website on the time of writing (2017). I would suggest to check their page first before following my guide below to make sure no changes have been made in the requirements. The visa process is subject to change at any time and again, these tips are based on my and my family’s experience and will NOT guarantee approval.
With that said, let’s take a look at the required documents and some tips I have in preparing each of them.
1. Philippine Passport
As advised in the Japan Embassy webpage, damaged passports will not be accepted when applying for a visa. This includes torn pages, passports with water damage and missing covers to name a few. Your passports should also be valid more than 6 months before applying or flying to Japan. Given the difficulty in scheduling passport renewals, I suggest making sure the expiration date of your current passport is still some time away to avoid immigration issues. Another thing that most people miss is that you need to have a signature at the last page of the passport. Your application will not be accepted without it.
- Do babies and infants need a passport?
- Yes. Everybody who will enter Japan needs one including babies and infants.
- My valid visa is in my old passport should I still get a new visa?
- No need to get a new visa but make sure to bring your old passport with your new one when you go to Japan.
- Should I get a new visa if my passport gets lost with a valid visa in it?
- Contact the Japan Embassy to explain the situation. Note that you might need to apply for a visa again.
2. Visa Application Form
Make sure to fill in all fields correctly. If the question does not apply to you, put N/A as your answer. Some agencies do not accept application forms with blank items. Make sure that all application forms have signature at the back. My brother missed putting his signature on the form and the agency did not accept his application until he could sign it.
You can find the latest visa application form in the Japan Embassy website and fill it in directly from there. Here’s the link to the document: http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp/files/000163096.pdf
They also provided a comprehensive guide on how to fill up all the fields correctly and you can download it from here: http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp/files/000163097.pdf
The photo must be recent and should have been taken less than 6 months prior to application. Specified dimension is 4.5cm x 4.5cm, with white background. Write your name and birthdate at the back of the photo before pasting it on the application. Do not staple the picture as this will not be accepted.
Inform the place where you will have your photo taken that this is for Japan visa application So that they know how best to take the picture. Most visas require applicants to look professional in the photo. It is best to wear a collared shirt or jacket.
4. Birth Certificate
The Japan Embassy website states that the birth certificate should be issued within one year from PSA Main Office/Serbilis Outlet Center (Nationwide) but based on our experience, some agencies ask us to get a birth certificate issued within 3 months of application. Only original and certified copies will be accepted.
I would suggest requesting from NSO online and the fee was P315.00 per piece including delivery charges (Metro Manila). The process was pain-free and the documents were delivered within the week. If there is a need to rush and get your birth certificate right away, the Makati City Hall released ours within 30 mins. I’m not sure if other city halls are able to do it as quickly.
5. Marriage Certificate (only required if married)
The same conditions apply to the marriage certificate document as with the birth certificate. The document should be original and released issued recently. I would suggest requesting it together with your birth certificate via NSO Online.
- I’m married but don’t have a record with NSO yet. What should I do?
- Submit a certificate of “Non-record” and include the marriage certificate from your local civil registrar. Feel free to call the NSO hotline (02) 737-1111 available 24/7 if you need help with your documents.
6. Itinerary in Japan
Be as detailed as you can. Include your accommodation/s, daily plans and contact information in Japan if any. Below is a sample of the itinerary we submitted for our Osaka trip. Here’s a sample of our itinerary document that we submitted as a VISA requirement: Japan Itinerary Sample
** Note: Number 7 and 8 are only needed if you will pay for your own trip. If someone else will be paying for you, proceed to 9.
7. Bank Certificate
This needs to be very recent and within 3 months before applying for the visa. There is no guideline given on how much should be in your bank account to get an approval. I know of people who were issued a visa with P50,000 in their bank account while I also know of a case where the person had a higher savings but was denied.
Ultimately, the money you have should cover the cost of your whole trips’ expenses including airfare, accommodations and pocket money. If you come up with an itinerary that shows you plan to visit for an extended period of time, going to different cities via the Shinkansen and checking-in to expensive hotels, the money in your bank account should be sufficient to cover all of these plus the trip of other people if you will be their guarantor. If you are not able to prepare for this, there is a high possibility that your application might get rejected.
- I have more than 1 bank account should I include them all?
- It’s your choice if you will include them all or just one but the more you can prove you are capable of financially supporting your trip the better chances of getting a visa.
- If using a joint account is there a need to provide more than 1 copy when applying together?
- It is best to be ready with a copy for each applicant.
8. Income Tax Return (form 2316)
This can be a printout of your 2316 form or a clear photocopy. Provide the latest you have. If you don’t have an ITR yet, you must provide a letter explaining why you cannot supply this.
My mom is a retiree and does not have an ITR ; to prove that she is capable of paying for her own trip, she furnished a letter from the company she receives a pension from as proof of income.
- I’m a fresh graduate who just started work and have no ITR yet. What should I do?
- Make a letter of explanation detailing your circumstances and why you can’t submit this requirement. It would also help to get a Certificate of Employment as evidence to support your claims.
- I’m self-employed and have my own business. What should I do?
- Request ITR form from the BIR directly. If you have an ITR for your company, make sure it indicates your position in the company. It will also help to make an explanation letter on your circumstances and why you could not furnish an individual ITR.
** Note: Number 9 onward are only needed if someone else will be paying the trip for you. Application for dependents such as your children, parents or other dependents will need these documents.
9. Guarantee Letter
This document simply assures the embassy that the guarantor will pay for the trip. This is used when the guarantor is living in the Philippines and NOT in Japan. The document can be downloaded here: Japan Guarantee Letter (English)
- My guarantor is in Japan and not residing in the Philippines. Will I follow the same process?
- There are other types of visa for traveling to Japan that covers visiting relatives, friends or business partners there. Check the Japan Embassy website as these might better suit you. If you are still unsure, it might be best to inquire with the Japan Embassy directly or a professional travel agent.
- I am a housewife and my spouse is paying for our family trip. Do I need a guarantee letter?
- Yes. A guarantee letter with your spouse’s signature, item number 10 and 11 (see below) will be needed as proof of financing. The same documents will be needed for your children or other dependents who will not be paying for their own trip.
10. Proof of Relationship
Establishing relationship between the guarantor and the guarantee is important to convince the consuls of your intent to be traveling as a family for tourism only purposes. Best documents to submit for this would be birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.
11. Bank Certificate and 2316 form of Guarantor
This should be fairly easy to furnish as these requirements are the same ones needed to prove that the guarantor has enough funds to pay for his own trip. A rule of thumb to follow here is to show through these documents that he has enough cash to cover the added expenses of another person’s vacation on top of his/her own (See number 7 above).
Visa Application Submission
Now that you’ve put all the documents you need to apply for a tourist visa togethe, it’s time to submit your application to an accredited travel agency. The price for processing visa applications vary between P800 – P1500 depending on which agency you choose. Check this page for Accredited List of Travel Agencies.
Lines in these travel agencies can be very long especially the ones inside malls and you can end up in line for almost the entire day. I experienced this firsthand when I went to Reli Tours and Travels in Megamall during a weekend. I was in line by 11:00 am and did not finish until around 5pm. On the other hand, I had my latest visa done with Discovery Tour Inc. in Salcedo Village, Makati and was in and out within 20 mins.
Processing time also varies but we got ours back in less than 1 week. You should get an 8-digit confirmation code from your travel agent which you can use to follow-up if you don’t hear anything from them in more than 7 working days. Once you’ve successfully submitted your application, there’s nothing else left to do but wait for the good news!
- My flight date is fast approaching!Can I request for my application to be expedited?
- No. All visa requests have the same expected time to be processed. It is possible for the embassy to get it out sooner but you cannot request to have yours prioritized over other applications. So, schedule this accordingly to avoid being pressed for time.
- Is personal appearance necessary?
- No. Someone else can submit your requirements for you. The same thing goes when claiming your passports as long as they have an authorization letter and the claim stub with them.
- Is it better to submit our application as a group or individually?
- It is better to submit with people who are going on the trip with you especially if you are a family or have a guarantor as advised in the Japan Embassy website.
If you’ve accomplished all required documents and proven your purpose of visit, CONGRATULATIONS! You will most likely receive your passport back with a Japanese visa attached to one of the pages. Review the details correctly to make sure there are no errors. If everything is in order, it’s time to celebrate and start planning for your family trip! Check out my previous blog entry 8-Days Itinerary in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe for ideas and inspiration.
Unfortunately, not everyone is granted a visa. The embassy does not state the reason why an application was rejected for security purposes and so, there is no exact way to pinpoint what went wrong. If your application was denied on first try, all is not lost because you can apply again after 6 months and fulfill that dream of yours to travel to Japan.
- Is it possible to apply for a visa in less than 6 months after my application was rejected?
- Re-application is possible if there is a humanitarian reason. I suggest contacting the embassy directly for more information on this.
The good news for everybody planning to apply for a visa is that Japan decided to relax their requirements to boost tourism in their country making the whole process easier for all of us. The whole process is daunting at first but once you start working on your documents, it becomes apparent that it is not as hard as it looks. Keep in mind that after you’ve successfully accomplished this, nothing is stopping you to enjoy that trip you’ve always dreamed of. I hope this helps and I wish you all the best of luck!