Tourist visa is one of the requirements that Filipino travelers need to get in order to go to our dream vacation. I must admit that our passport has a lot of restriction when traveling to other countries as compared to our Australian and Singaporean friends.
The key to increasing your chance of getting an approved visa is to think like a visa officer. You need to understand how they profile each applicant based on a given set of standards to arrive at a decision. I have applied for visas for several different countries and here are some of my takeaways from it.
I have compiled 5 tips on how you can increase your chance of getting your tourist visa approved, whether it is for US, Australia, Japan, or other visa-requiring countries.
1. Strengthen your travel history
Visa officers will definitely check your travel history since it is one of the best ways to show that you are trustworthy of being given a tourist visa. The stamps on your passport will show that you have a history of going out of the country and returning back.
So, how about for first-time international travelers? My suggestion is that you travel first to the countries that do not require visas for Filipinos to establish your travel history. Members of ASEAN countries require no visa for a specified number of days. I know that most Filipinos would want to visit South Korea or Japan immediately, but going to Thailand or Singapore can also be as satisfying for first timers.
Filipinos can visit Myanmar visa-free for 14 days
Myanmar, Vietnam, and Malaysia are great travel options as well. This way when you apply to countries requiring visas such as Japan, USA, or Australia, your chances of getting approved increases, as the stamps on your passport will serve as your history of returning home.
However, take note that it is still possible to visit a country that requires a visa, like South Korea or China even though you do not have an international travel history yet.
A lot of my friends went to South Korea on their first international trip. And even though they don’t have a travel history yet at that time, they have other things that work for them like the next item on the list.
2. Strong family, social, economic ties to your country
In order to exhibit strong ties to your home country, you need to provide the VO reasons why you will return to the Philippines after your travel.
Is your family living here in the Philippines? Do you have a stable work or a business in the Philippines waiting for your return after your trip? Do you own any property in your country? These are the things the visa officers will look for when they review your application.
You need to persuade them that you will return to your job right after your trip because you depend on it for income, which shows strong economic ties. You need to let the VOs know that your parents or wife/husband are living in the Philippines to display strong family ties to your country.
When I applied for an Australian visa, I provided a copy of my friend’s wedding invitation where I am listed as one of the secondary sponsors – showing strong social ties. You need to give them reasons that you intend to return to the Philippines.
You need to understand that these visa officers are trained to think that every tourist visa applicants have the intention to overstay / “TNT” unless you provide them convincing evidence that you will return home after your travel.
In order to show compelling evidence of strong ties to your home country at the time of application, you can provide the following:
• Bank statement or bank certificate
• 2-3 months pay slips
• Credit card statement
• Proof of employment or self-employment (Certificate of employment showing how your salary, position, and tenure. Business registration for self-employed)
• Vacation leave approval (Signed by your superior)
• Certificate/proof of ownership of any property (Land title, deed of sale, vehicle OR/CR)
• Proof of social ties (Wedding invitation, future-dated concert tickets or airfare, etc)
Providing those documents will help ensure a positive result on your application.
3-4. Financial capacity and realistic itinerary
These two always work side by side. Every time I’m asked how much money I present when applying for a visa, my answer is it depends on your budget or show money, intended length of stay, and planned itinerary.
Having sufficient money is important when applying for a visa. You need to convince the VO that you are capable of funding your travel. But that’s not where it ends. Even if you have enough show money it needs to be sufficient enough to cover the expenses you will incur based on your planned itinerary.
For example, you have PHP 90,000 in your bank statement when you apply for an Australian tourist visa with the intention of staying for 2 weeks and staying in a 5-star hotel. The VO reviewing your visa application will most likely reject it. They will think that your money is not enough to sustain the costs you will incur during your stay for 2 weeks.
Australia requires Filipino travelers to have a visa before you can enter their country
The VO might also review the activities and places you listed in your itinerary. Make sure you create a realistic itinerary as opposed to just putting random places that you will visit.
A bad example would be listing Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka as the places you planned to visit for a 4-day trip in Japan. The VO will most likely reject your application, as your itinerary is not realistic to visit the 3 places that are far away from each other. In this case, you need to study the places you want to visit thoroughly.
They will think that your itinerary is not feasible, or worse, they might even question your intention of wanting to just tour their country, but rather have plans to work or overstay. What I would suggest is that you create a well-thought-out itinerary based on your budget. If you have a limited budget then create a working itinerary based that.
Japan requires a visa to Filipino travelers
A friend of mine submitted a Japan visa application reflecting only PHP 48,000 on his bank certificate, staying for 4 days in Tokyo, and stating that he would stay in a backpacker’s inn, would visit parks and stroll around Shinjuku and Harajuku area.
His application was eventually approved because his show money seems to be sufficient to cover his expenses for 4 days based on the activities he listed.
5. Be consistent and truthful.
In some visa applications, a face-to-face interview is required. For example, when you apply for a US tourist visa, you will be asked to go to the embassy for an interview. They will ask you random questions contained on your application form. You need to be able to answer as quickly as possible to the questions being thrown at you.
The VO will ask one question and the very moment you finish your sentence, the VO will ask the next one. They will test your composure if you are telling the truth. My suggestion is that you make sure you know by heart whatever you wrote on your application form. They will validate the answers you wrote on your application form vs. your answers during your interview. The key here is consistency.