In recent years, the Japanese government has relaxed the processing of tourist Visa for Filipinos in aid of further boosting tourism arrivals and activities in their country. This also applies to neighboring ASEAN countries. This in turn is a favorable development for travel enthusiasts like us who are dreaming to visit the Land of the Rising Sun.
Since 2007, the application, processing and releasing of Japan Visa is being undertaken through accredited agencies duly recognized by the Japanese government. This means that you no longer need to personally appear at the Japanese Embassy in Manila or its Consular Offices in Cebu and Davao at any point during your application. You just have to look for these accredited agencies and select your preferred service provider. As a rule, the issuance of Japan Visa is gratis or Free of Charge, however, by virtue of the third party arrangements, the agencies impose processing and handling fees for individual applications. In general, the requirements and process are the same among agencies, but they differ in pricing.
I. WHAT TYPE OF VISA SHOULD I APPLY FOR?
Visiting Japan by Filipino nationals for tourism or visiting friends/relatives requires a Visa. Once you decide to visit or if you have availed of a package tour, you need to apply for a Visa for Tourist/Visit Friends or Distant Relatives. The Visa for Visiting Distant Relatives extends to cousins and further relatives. In case the applicant is applying together with an individual who has a relative in Japan (up to the third degree of relationship), follow the requirements for “Visiting Relatives”.
II. WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?
1. Valid Philippine Passport
- Broken lamination of the photo part is not accepted. Must have signature and have at least two (2) blank pages.
- Must be valid within six (6) months from date of travel.
2. Visa Application Form
- Application Form can be downloaded here. It must be printed in A4 size bond paper.
- Also available at the entrance of Embassy or through accredited agencies.
- Filling out of the application form can be done by typing or handwriting. In our case, we had it typed and printed to avoid erasures and errors. If you decide to write it by hand, write legibly.
- Specs: 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background.
- Maintain a neutral expression. For the ladies, show your ears. Wearing any jewelry or accessories (earrings, eyeglasses, colored contact lenses, etc.) is not allowed.
- Photo must be pasted or glued on the application form. DO NOT use stapler.
- Many of the photography shops, particularly in malls, are familiar with the specs. Just tell them that you are applying for a Japanese VISA.
- Please refer to the official specs here.
4. Birth Certificate of Applicant
- Must be original copy and should be issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), formerly NSO Main Office, or Serbilis Outlet Office within one (1) year.
- You can also request for birth certificates online via PSA Help Line @ Php350 per copy. Delivery is within 2-3 working days. You can request at SM Business Centers.
* Additional Documents needed:
a. Birth Certificate from Local Civil Registrar
- If Birth Certificate from NSO is unreadable or
- If there is no record in NSO, (in addition to “Certificate of Non-Record” from NSO Headquarters
b. Baptismal Certificatem, School Record (From 137), School Yearbook (If applicable)
- If Birth Certificate (NSO) is “Late Registration”
5. Marriage Contract (if the applicant is married)
- Must be from NSO Main Office/Serbilis Outlet Center (Nationwide) issued within one (1) year. In case of non-record, you must submit certificate of non-record together with the one from Local Civil Registrar.
*Please indicate complete address and landline number (if applicable) of the church in the baptismal certificate, and of the school in school record.
6. Daily Schedule in Japan (TAIZAI NITTEIHYO)
7. (If visiting friend) Documents or photos etc. to prove relationship
9. Bank Certificate
- You may request anytime for bank certificate/s at your respective banks.
- Bank certification requests vary per bank. For BPI, approach the accounts staff and request for a bank certificate for any or all your accounts (ATM or Passbook). You will fill out a form indicating the purpose and the specifics of your request. The certificate is issued right away with a minimal fee of Php 100 per certificate. You can also ask for your bank statements for the past 3 months for no additional cost. Good thing, you can request for the certificate in any BPI branch.
- The bank certificate should reflect the current balance, average daily balance (ADB) and the date of opening of your account/s. Should you decide to deposit additional amount to your account, you will have to request for certificate the following business day to ensure that deposits are credited.
10. Income Tax Return (Form 2316) original and photocopy
- Exemption: If the applicant is eligible for Multiple Entry
- If you’re a voluntary tax payer (freelance, consultants workers), you can submit your BIR Form 1701 instead.
- Have your ITR photocopied beforehand.
- We learned from research that a common problem encountered by Pinoy tourists is the lack of ITR. An option by other travelers is to submit a letter of explanation addressed to the Consul of your circumstances for their consideration. You can also attach an employment contract (for Tax Exempt agencies/orgs) or certification from your employer. Of course, this is just trying your luck and does not guarantee approval. But we tried this successfully in our trip to Korea.
- The best way forward is to actually process your tax payment on voluntary basis using BIR Form 1701. You can file this during the regular filing of taxes in the first quarter of every year. We filed ours at our respective RDOs and bank branches.
- DO NOT SUBMIT A FAKE ITR. The Japanese Embassy has ways of verifying documents and you would not want to risk being blacklisted.
Note: Submission of requirements, even complete, does not guarantee issuance of visa. Validity of Documents is three (3) months from the date of issue.
11. Optional / Non-Required Documents (For attachment)
- Certificate of Employment (COE) from your HR Officer specifying the following: Position, Salary + Remuneration, Insurance (if available), Length of Employment, Purpose of Certification (Japan Visa)
- Hotel/Accommodation Booking: Confirmation (if available). You can book ahead through Agoda or Booking.com for later payment
- Letter of Explanation addressed to the Embassy Consul
- The above-mentioned documents are NOT REQUIRED. However, you may want to prepare them and bring them during application to support your application. The agency staff will determine if its necessary or not.
III. WHERE TO PROCESS/APPLY YOUR VISA?
In our case, we applied for Visa at Reli Tours at SM Megamall. We learned that they offer the lowest service fee for Tourist Visa among other accredited agencies at PHP 950 for Tourist Visa (with no guarantor). They also have branches in SM Mall of Asia, SM South Mall, Lucky Chinatown Mall and Dusit Thani Hotel. Mall branches are open 7 days a week. Another option is the Friendship Tours at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati. Details of the other agencies are available at the Japan Embassy website. The agency will inform the applicant if the passport is ready for pickup. Various travel agencies affiliated with the accredited agencies also accept Visa Application processing.
For applicants in Visayas and Mindanao, you can apply through accredited agencies with branches in Cebu and Davao such as: Friendship Tours, Discovery Tour, Attic Tours Philippines and Pan Pacific Travel.
IV. HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?
On the average, the process should take 2-3 days, after which the agency will notify you that the passport is now available for pickup. In some instances, the Embassy might request for additional documents, in which case, the agency will contact you to comply with the requirements as soon as possible, so keep your communication lines open.
V. HOW WOULD I KNOW IF MY APPLICATION IS SUCCESSFUL OR NOT?
This is seemingly the most stressful part since the agency will not tell you the result of your application over the phone (some agencies do though, it just depends on your luck and charm ☺). You will only know the outcome upon pickup. If the passport has a Visa pasted on it, then you’re good to go to Japan! However, if there is no Visa pasted on your passport, that means that your application is not successful.
VI. WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR DENIAL OR NON-ISSUANCE OF VISA?
As a rule, the Embassy does not divulge or indicate the reasons for denial or rejection of application. However, based on their website and from first-hand experience, these are some of the common and possible reasons for such unfortunate circumstances:
- Incomplete Requirements – failure to comply with the required documentation, including their validity and source
- Incomplete Application Form
- Inconsistencies – this could be in your personal or employment circumstances
- Insufficient funds to support travel (Funds are lower than expected expenses)
- Unable to prove purpose of visit
- Unable to prove intent to return to the Philippines
VIII.WHEN CAN I APPLY AGAIN?
In case your application has been denied, you will have to wait for another six months before you are allowed to file another application, unless, for a different or special purpose. Do not fret if you were denied the first time. It wouldn’t matter in your new application, as long as you have satisfied the requirements and followed the process.
IX. IMPORTANT TIPS
From our experience and from research, we believe that there are no shortcuts to becoming successful in your Visa application. The best way is still to comply with and follow the requirements of the Embassy. However, the least that we can advise to fellow travelers is that it is very critical that you can prove that you are able to finance your visit or tour in Japan and that you will return to your home country after the trip. It is a must that your available money could cover all your expenses (accommodation, food, fares, entrance fees, souvenirs, etc.) in the duration of your stay and prove your employment/business relations in the Philippines. Preparing these documents beforehand also needs wise and careful planning to achieve your #travelgoals. Please consider the following in your planning:
- Set a lead time before your date of travel. One year to six months would be a safe period to allow you to save up and secure budget plane tickets to Japan. We always purchase our tickets way ahead, even a year or more before our travel dates, so we are really compelled to prepare our bank accounts.
- There are no minimum fund requirements cited by the Embassy, but it is a given that traveling to Japan is relatively costlier than touring other countries in Asia. By our estimate, a 3-5 days trip including airfare would cost you a minimum of Php 40,000 to Php 60,000 per person depending on your planned spending. For budget travelers like us, they can make this a little bit lower say ~ Php 30,000 in actual terms. But please note that you have to prove in your documents and itinerary that you are able to do this.
- Please take note that having a bank account with an unreasonable amount of money does not guarantee issuance of Visa. If you submit a bank statement saying that you have half a million pesos in budget for a 15-day trip may raise red flags since the Embassy might think that you are planning to illegally stay in Japan for a longer time.
- It is vital to consider your destination. Nowadays, Osaka and Kyoto have become preferred destinations compared to Tokyo due to budget considerations. This trend somehow provides some advantage to ordinary and daily-wage earners and tourists like us, since it is now easy to plan and prepare itineraries and set our budget for travel in these areas. For first-timers, it is recommended to visit Osaka and Kyoto as your first destination of choice in Japan.
- Familiarize these routes by doing online research and inquire with travel blogs, Facebook travel groups or consult travel agencies. Some blogs have prepared customized and ready-made itineraries which may be suitable to your preference.
- Start to prepare your itinerary and compare with others online, especially with the tour and budget items. Make sure to indicate the expected budget that would cover the accommodation, tour/entrance fees, transport and food costs. From here, you would now have an idea or estimate of your total budget. As a practice, we usually add an additional amount for contingencies/incidentals, which is 20% of the total budget.
- Day-to-day itinerary: It is not recommended and even feasible to cram your daily schedules with as many destinations/attractions as you want since this entails additional cost on entrance fees and transportation, which in turn could affect your financial capability. For example, do not put in your itinerary that you plan to visit Tokyo Disneyland, Meiji Temple, Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower all in one day. Be practical. Keep it simple and prioritize your itinerary for the day. After all, you have a budget to manage and you can always reserve the others for next time.
- Accommodations: Nowadays, it’s more practical to book your accommodation online through Agoda, Booking.com, Hostelworld or Airbnb. Unfamiliar to many, Agoda actually offers accommodations whose payment is upon check-in or at a later date. Make sure to look for these offers in their website. This is very practical if you’re not sure with your travel dates and if in case your Visa is not approved.
Japan Ports of Entry
Once your Visa has been approved, it is now the best time to secure your plane tickets to Japan. Almost all prefectures and major cities in Japan have airports that cater to both domestic and international flights. From Manila/Cebu, however, carriers only travel to/from these port of entries or airports:
- Tokyo Narita (Narita International Airport)
- Tokyo Haneda (Tokyo International Airport)
- Osaka (Kansai International Airport)
- Nagoya (Central Japan International Airport / Chubu Centrair International Airport)
- Fukuoka (Fukuoka Airport)
For complete and official reference to Visa Application for Japan, visit the website of the Japan Embassy in the Philippines.
BEST OF LUCK AND HAPPY TRAVELS TO JAPAN!