My family and I are hoping to travel to South Korea this winter so, last week, we applied for a visa at the Korean consulate in Cebu. Our passports are scheduled for release mid-November so we still don’t know if we’ve gotten approved for a visa — keep your fingers crossed for us, please! In the meantime, I thought I’d share our Korean visa application experience here, in the hope that other applicants out there will find it useful.
Friends who’ve been to South Korea before tell me they got their passports back within 3-5 days of applying BUT that’s no longer the case. Apparently, there’s been a great surge in the number of applicants this year, and so the Korean embassy has had to significantly extend its visa processing time.
In our case, we applied for a visa in Cebu on October 8 and were told to come back for our passports on November 13 — that’s roughly 25 business days processing time.
The lengthened processing time took effect just the day before we were there and took many by surprise (although there had been announcements in their website). What’s worse was that they no longer offer “rush” visa processing except in special circumstances. I do know of at least one applicant scheduled to travel in early November who pleaded with the staff and was able to obtain an earlier release date, so if necessary, you could try that, but I doubt that will work once the new processing times become more widely known.
The Korean embassy has taken to posting processing times in their website HERE — keep yourself updated because processing times can vary from week to week, depending on the number of applications they’re receiving. I’ve seen processing times ranging from 24 to 35 days but, really, to keep things simple, just apply as soon as you can, starting as early as 3 months before your intended date of departure.
Travellers applying for a visa at the Korean embassy in Manila are required to engage the services of an accredited travel agency.
My sister, who works in Manila and opted to apply there, had to look for another agency after the first one she approached told her they would not be able to submit her documents and get back her passport in time for our trip. Apparently, agencies have a “quota” — a maximum number of applications they can submit in one day — and the first one my sister approached already had a two-week backlog of applications that needed to be filed. Fortunately, the second agency she went to had only a one-week backlog and was able to submit her application just in time (barely — her passport release date is the very day before our trip).
Luckily, as of now, applicants can still walk into the Korean consulate in Cebu and personally hand in their documents.
This would have been my sister’s Plan C: to actually fly home to Cebu and submit her application here. In the end, she didn’t have to, but this is still at least an option for other applicants.
Having said all that, if you want to get a travel agency to process your visa for you here in Cebu, you absolutely can. Some friends used and recommend Bindle Travel & Tours and I’ve asked them for help with plane reservations before, so I can personally recommend them as well.
The consulate is located at the 12th floor of the Chinabank building in Cebu Business Park — you can search for “Korean Consulate in Cebu” in Google Maps.
If you’re going there by public transportation, you can take any jeepney going to Ayala and simply walk over. If you want, you can also take a 13C jeepney from their stop in Ayala (the one near the Terraces, on their way downtown) and get off right in front of the Chinabank building.
If you’re driving, there are actually parking spaces outside the building, and you can find a spot if you arrive early enough. Parking was full when we arrived just before 9 AM, though, so we just parked at Ayala — that is, my dad did, after kindly dropping us off ^_^ — and walked over.
You can download a list here:
There’s this Korea Visa Portal where you can supposedly check the status of your application but I can’t really say that it’s been very useful to me as an [anxious] applicant. It only says “Application received” from the day you file your application up to the day you get back your passport — like, I literally checked it just before leaving home to go to the consulate and its status was still “Application received” — and then when I arrived back home the status had been changed to “Approved” which is nice but kinda anticlimactic as I’d already seen my passport.
I think it’s more useful for people who are getting an agency or someone else to process their visas, because they just give their papers to the agency, and they could use the portal to find out when the agency has actually submitted their application to the consulate. Also, if their agency tells them when their passports are due to be claimed, they could verify that they’ve gotten a visa, even if they haven’t had the time to get back their passport from the agency.
Well, we got our visas, so…yay! Thanks to everyone who wished us well.
The procedure for claiming passports was more or less the same as during application. We got a priority number from the second guard and waited till our number was called. When I was called, the lady checked her files, asked me if I was one of the applicants (I was claiming for our group of 9 people), then said to wait a bit more — she would just call my name when our passports were ready. The same thing happened to the people who came after me. After she called up 4 more numbers, she called my name and handed me our passports. The whole thing took…maybe 30 minutes? Enough time to watch the end of My New Sassy Girl and the beginning of Masquerade (again!).