How to Apply for your Philippine Passport Online in Cebu

Good news: we aren’t so archaic anymore–you can now apply for your Philippine passport online! Passport application is now made faster and more convenient for everyone. I was never a morning person, nor am I the most patient human being–so this is very good news for me! Horray–no more long queues at midnight!

I. How to Apply Online

  1. Go to the official DFA https://www.passport.gov.ph/ website. Just read the instructions–it’s all pretty clear and straightforward.
  2. Choose a schedule. Go to this link and select whether it is an individual or a group appointment. Afterwards you will need to fill in the DFA Office location, date and time for your appointment.
  3. Fill up online application form. Provide your personal information and contact details.
  4. Once this is done, simply download the accomplished form (it will be sent to you in PDF format) and print out in an A4-sized paper. Bring this along with your other requirements on your scheduled appointment.

II. Requirements

Bring the following on your DFA appointment.

  • Printout of your accomplished application form in an A4 sized paper
  • NSO Birth Certificate
  • valid Picture IDs and supporting documents to support identity (e.g., driver’s license, voter’s ID, SSS ID, etc.) – refer to list of accepted IDs and supporting documents here
  • For passport renewal applicants, don’t forget your most recent expiring or expired passport.

There may be additional requirements for other applicants such as for muslims, minors, etc. For complete information on passport requirements, you can read about it here.

III. Appointment

Yes, after the online application you still have to make an appearance to the DFA office to submit requirements and have your biometrics taken. If you apply online you can skip the queues and just show up during the appointed time.

Starting next month, walk-in applicants will not be welcomed and all applications will have to be made online. Only the following will be allowed as walk-in applicants: military personnel and family, senior citizens, PWD, pregnant women, infants and children 7 years old and below.

(If you would like to know how I applied for my baby’s passport, read my blog post on How to Apply for your Baby’s Philippine Passport)epass-releasing-schedule

Passport fees are as follows:

Express Processing – 10 working days – Php 1,000
Normal Processing – 20 working days – Php 950

(Fees and processing times vary from one DFA office to another!)

You can have your passport couriered to your address for an additional fee of Php 120.

IV. Additional Tips 

  • Come at least thirty minutes before your scheduled appointment. No time for Filipino time!
  • Failure to show up on your scheduled appointment means that you will not be allowed to book another appointment online for the next 30 days.
  • Boycott fixers. It is illegal. Period.

How to Apply for Taiwan Visa for Philippine Passport Holders

Taiwan is a place I’ve constantly raved about to friends since I visited the place last month. Initially, Taiwan was a something I didn’t think about seeing or visiting. I have a sick compulsion of booking random tickets to cure bouts of depression, and for that case I decided to book to Taipei, because why not? I’ve never been there…

Starting December 17, 2015, Cebu Pacific is now flying Cebu to Taipei (CEB-TPE) flights three times a week! Getting to Taiwan is now easier and I recommend everyone to visit Formosa. It is important to note that you need a Taiwan visa to enter Taiwan.

taiwan-tourist-visa

I. What is a Taiwan Tourist Visa?

Philippine passport holders need to apply for Taiwan visa with TECO (Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office) to gain entry. Taiwan tourist visas are good for single-entry only and allowed a maximum stay of 14 days. They’re valid for 90 days from date of issue so you can apply as early as three months before your trip.

There are some cases wherein you can travel to Taiwan without a visa. If you have a valid UK/US/Schengen/Japan/AUS/NZ visa, you can skip the whole visa application process and simply apply for a visa exemption certificate online. Think you qualify for the Taiwan visa exemption? Read this blog post for more information: How to Apply for Taiwan Visa Exemption.

II. Requirements

  • Valid Philippine Passport with at least six months validity.
  • Online Application form to be filled out here. Once you’ve filled out and printed the form, be sure to submit this with all other requirements within fifteen (15) days.
  • Two (2) Passport photos taken within the last six months. (1.5″ x 2″ inches). One is to be attached on the form. Most photo shops should already know the specifications needed for visa requirements-just tell them it’s for a Taiwan visa. I had ours taken in Ayala Center Cebu.
  • Trip Details including the following:
    • Roundtrip Airfare Ticket Reservations.
    • Planned Itinerary, what you intend to do and places you want to see when in Taiwan
    • Hotel Booking or Reservations
  • School / Employment Supporting Documents
    • Certificate of Employment
    • Photocopy of school or company ID
    • Business Registration Certificate (if self-employed)
  • Financial Supporting Documents – proof that you have enough funds to finance your Taiwan trip and not travel to Taiwan for purposes outside of tourism (e.g., become an illegal alien)
    • Recent bank certificate
    • Income Tax Return (ITR)
    • Pay slips (for the last 3-6 months)
  • Personal Supporting Documents – proof of your identification details & personal circumstances
    • NSO birth certificate issued within the last year.
    • If married, NSO marriage certificate

Complete submission of these documents will be helpful in obtaining that visa, but does not guarantee visa issuance; but missing or incomplete supporting documents may result in a visa refusal.

III. Submission

Upon collating all the requirements, you can then file your applications to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO). Visa applications are only entertained on weekdays Mon-Fri from 8:45-11:45am only. Their address is at 41F Tower 1, RCBC Plaza Tower, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

Here are the visa fees:

taiwan visa fee

*As of writing, fees have been updated. Mainland China visa fee is PHP 1,400.00; for Taiwan, PHP 2,400.00 for single-entry visa and PHP 4,800 for multiple entry visa.  

It is best to arrive early so you can finish early. Arrive before 8:30am to sign up and get a priority number. Leave a valid government-issued ID at the reception area.

Once your number is called, present the original documents and a set of photocopies for the visa processor to go through. Once everything is in check, you will then wait for your name to be called for the payment of visa fee. The process is pretty quick and straightforward.

IV. Waiting Period

Upon submission of documents, it takes three (3) working days to process the visa. If you want an expedited release, pay the expedited fee of Php 1,200 so you can get your passport within the next day. Releasing times are Monday to Friday, from 1:45PM to 4:45PM.

Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in the Philippines

41F, Tower 1, RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati
Tel: (+632) 887-6688
Office Hours: Mon-Fri, 8:45AM-4:45PM
Applications: Mon-Fri, 8:45AM-11:45PM
Releasing: Mon-Fri, 1:45PM-4:45PM
Website: taiwanembassy.org
Email: phl@mofa.gov.tw

If you would like to know more about Taiwan, read my blog post on Taipei, Taiwan: What to Expect.

How to Apply for Visa Exemption to Taiwan

When Filipinos think of trips abroad, we usually think of Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand first. We don’t normally think Taiwan for tourism, but let me tell you: it’s worth skipping the mainstream tourist destinations and try Taipei for a change.

how to apply taiwan visa free

Cebu Pacific is offering more Manila-Taipei flights and a Cebu-Taipei route starting this December 2015! No excuse to skip Taipei now, it’s a totally underrated and beautiful country. A foodie will die happy in Taiwan– the country is best known for its gluttony (I’ll get to this on a future blog post).

To get to Taiwan, Philippine Passport Holders need a Taiwan visa. I was able to bypass application for a Taiwan visa because I was eligible for visa exemption!

taiwan-visa-exemption-certificate-philippines

I. What is a Travel Exemption Certificate?

You can get a visa-free entry to Taiwan by availing of the ROC Travel Authorization certificate, which allows you to bypass the need for a Taiwan visa. The visa exemption allows travelers to stay in Taiwan for up to 30 days.

The certificate has to be printed out and presented by the foreign visitor upon immigration inspection, along with other requirements ready for immigration inspection. Failure to present the valid documents will not be admitted into Taiwan.

If you are not eligible for visa exemption, refer to my post on How to Apply for Taiwan Visa for Philippine Passport Holders.

II. Requirements

  • Valid Philippine Passport. Nationals of the Philippines, India, Thailand and Vietnam can apply for the visa exemption if they meet all said requirements
  • Valid visa or a permanent resident certificate to the following countries: US, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Schengen countries.
  • Online Application form to be filled out here.

III. Waiting Period

What do you mean, waiting period? You immediately get your travel certificate after filling out the online form, in 5 seconds (or, depends on your internet connection)! It is then ready to print out and use for your travels.

IV. Other Important Reminders

  • Print out your visa exemption certificate, and in color.
  • Expiry of the visa exemption certificate is only valid for one month after application’s approval. Online application and approval is instant, so you can do it a few days before your trip. I applied mine a few months back only to realize during my packing that my exemption certificate has expired. I had to reapply for it a day before my trip–I instantly received it without any problems.
  • Make sure to bring your valid US/UK/Schengen visa to present to immigration. I normally only bring my most recent passport, but since my 10-year US tourist visa is in my old green passport, I brought that along as well.
  • A single entry visa becomes invalid once it’s already been used. However, it may be deemed acceptable to immigration inspection if: 1., visa holder arrives in Taiwan before the expiration date, and 2., if on the same continuing journey, the visa holder uses it on the issuing country before arriving Taiwan.

How to Apply for Schengen Visa via Norwegian Embassy

A few months ago, we received an invitation from my boyfriend’s childhood best friend to visit Iceland with him. My boyfriend hasn’t seen him in a decade, so it was an exciting proposition. Plus, we haven’t been to Iceland, nor do we know much about it. We wanted to see what Iceland has to offer, aside from, well, ice. We agreed.

The plan was to visit my boyfriend in London for three weeks, and make a 5-day side trip to Iceland. I have already accomplished my UK visa and would need a Schengen visa to enter Iceland.

Since there is no Iceland Embassy in Philippines, all Schengen visa applications for Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Sweden and Finland will be lodged via the Philippine Norwegian Embassy. Read on to know how I was able to get my Schengen visa. Since our intention was to visit Iceland, I will relate my experience and requirements I needed for Iceland specifically.

If you would like to know about applying for Schengen Visa via the French Embassy, read about my experience here.

What is a Schengen Visa?

As a Philippine passport holder, it is a given that we need a visa to get to anywhere outside ASEAN countries. A Schengen visa is the powerhouse visa that allows you to travel to all 25 countries in the EU area. It allows you access to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. This makes organizing the grand Euro trip so much easier–you only need one visa to enter all aforementioned EU countries signed under the Schengen agreement.

Although the Schengen visa allows access to the aforementioned countries, you will need to apply your visa to the country where you’ll be visiting. This isn’t so hard if you’re only intending to visit one country, but if you’re planning to visit several Schengen countries, you should lodge your application to your main destination, either on your first point of entry or the country where you’ll be staying the longest.

On my case, I was approved the Schengen visa via Norway but was able to use it to see Netherlands and France. Both trips were unplanned and decided when I was already abroad, but was able to come in both countries without a problem.

I. Preparation

1. How Much?

Visa processing fee is 60 euros, or during my time, around Php 3,500. For children ages 0-6, it is free of charge whereas minors from ages 6-11 pay 35 euros or approximately Php 2,000. This is good news as when I applied for my baby’s UK visa, fee for both adults and children were the same! 

I used the Self-Service Norway Application Portal wherein you are required to pay the 60 EUR fee online through credit card. On the day of the appointment, I also paid another Php 1,233 to VFS Norway for the agency’s processing fee.

2. When to Apply?

Applications are accepted up to three months before your travel date. You should apply for your visa as soon as you’ve finalized your travel schedule (by the way, you don’t need to buy a ticket just yet, a booked reservation will do). I recommend to apply 6-8 weeks before your travel date for enough time allowance.

3. How to Apply?

Again, I used the Self-Service Norway Application Portal. The website is pretty easy to use and straightforward. Filling out of the application form, setting the appointment date and payment of processing fee are done online.

Once this is accomplished, you can then print out the application form, receipt and cover letter from the Royal Norwegian Embassy (this serves as a confirmation and will be sent to you via email). You can then book your appointment and simply show up with the duly fulfilled forms and required documents at VFS Norway

4. Where to Apply?

Manila

All visa applications are handled by an outsourcing agency, VFS Global Norway, to make things faster and easier for the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila. Here’s the address for VFS Norway in Manila:

Ground Floor, Ecoplaza Building
2305 Chino Roces Avenue Extension
Makati City, Philippines 1231

Cebu

Starting May 7, 2015, you can now apply for a Schengen visa at the Norway Visa Application Center in Cebu starting May 7, 2015. If I had known this earlier, I could’ve done it in Cebu instead of flying to Manila for my booked appointment was on May 6, 2015, just one day before! Here’s the Cebu Address:

Norway Visa Application Centre – Cebu
Unit 503, 5th Floor, Keppel Center
Samar Loop cor. Cardinal Rosales Ave.
Cebu Business Park, Cebu City 6000

Please be advised that visa applicants can walk in/go directly to the Centre in Cebu and submit their application after they have registered their application in the Application Portal. There is no need to book for an appointment before applicants can proceed.

5. Other Important Information

VFS Norway’s website has a tracking tool for visa applications, but when I tried to use them it doesn’t seem to be working.

VFS Norway has a hotline number (+63 2 790 4902), which was really helpful when I wanted to track my visa application You can call them Mon-Fri 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM. It takes them a while to answer, but Edelyn was really helpful. You can also email them at info.noph@vfshelpline.com.

If you wanted to contact the Royal Norwegian Embassy – Manila directly, you can call their Visa Section at +63 (0)2 317 2778, from Mon-Thurs, 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM only.

II. Application Requirements

Checklist of Documents to Bring on the day of your appointment:

  • Cover Letter. I did not need to write a cover letter for this application, as a cover letter is already provided for you and emailed after accomplishing the Online Application Form. You just need to affix your signature in the bottom of the page.
  • Printed, filled up and signed Schengen Visa Application Form or VAF (download here) with 1 photo affixed (bring 2 photos).
    • Photograph Requirements – Most photo shops would already know the specifications needed for visa requirements-just tell them it’s for a Schengen visa. I had ours taken in Ayala Center Cebu.
      • recent photo taken within six months
      • 45mm x 35mm
      • White or cream background
      • Taken with nothing covering the face, without sunglasses or tinted spectacles, or a head covering unless for religious or medical reasons. The subject should have their mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eye brows). Applicant should be facing forwarding, looking straight ahead.
  • Confirmed Appointment Date and Time. You can choose to book an appointment or come anytime as a walk-in.
  • School / Employment Supporting Documents – provides proof of coming back to the Philippines.
    • Student – a letter from your school or education provider confirming your enrollment and leave of absence
    • Employee – tax returns, pay slips, letter from your employer confirming employment, and confirming leave of absence.
    • Business Owner – tax returns, business registration documents (stating your name as business owner)
  • Financial Supporting Documents – documents that prove you don’t need to work while you’re in France. This can include bank statements, pay slips, credit card statements, property titles; within the last six months or so
  • Trip Details must include the following:
    • Roundtrip Airfare Ticket Reservations.
    • Planned Itinerary, detailing what you intend to do and places you want to see during your stay in the EU areas.
    • Hotel Booking or Reservations. I suggest you book your accommodations at Booking.com where booking and cancellation is free. If you are intending to stay with a friend, provide your host’s passport, national identity card, residence permit and Certificate of Board and Lodging.
  • Personal Supporting Documents – proof of your identification details & personal circumstances
    • NSO Birth Certificate
    • Marriage Certificate, if married
    • Current Passport and Previous Passport, to see travel history
  • Travel Insurance covering the entire duration of your intended stay. Minimun coverage is 30,000 EUR. 

Complete submission of these documents will be helpful in obtaining that visa, but does not guarantee visa issuance; but missing or incomplete supporting documents may result in a Schengen visa refusal.

III. Appointment

I had to fly to Manila to get my visa done, as the Cebu option was still not available on my time of application.

I scheduled for 8:00AM and arrived 30 minutes before. I was asked to fill up a registration form of some sort by the guard before coming in. They checked my bag, and told me that I could come in with my phone as long as it is switched off. You are not allowed to use the phone or any electronic device while inside VFS.

Upon inside, I was given a priority number ’11’, but since the Norway window wasn’t so busy, they called me ahead to approach the window. I submitted all my requirements and when the officer saw that everything was well in order and complete, he proceeded to ask for the VFS fee of Php1,233. I also asked to have the passport couriered to me so that was another additional Php500. They gave me a receipt to which they told me I need to present when I redeem my passport. The officer told me I could get my passport within 2-5 working days. Not bad, I thought to myself. Afterwards, I waited until I was called by biometrics to have my picture and fingerprints taken.

I was very impressed with the whole proceeding. It only took 30 minutes, from the time I arrived inside their premises until I left.

IV. Waiting Period & Results

I was told that I will be informed via text and email that my passport is ready. And since I was promised I will get my Schengen visa within 2-5 working days, plus given the swift processing on my appointment, I was confident I could get it way before my UK trip. I had availed of the courier service, which would take another 2-3 working days. Alternatively, you can pick up the passport at VFS yourself or someone could pick it up for you, provided that they present a letter of authorization, the receipt, the authorized person’s ID and a photocopy of your identification (two valid IDs).

To my dismay, processing took longer than expected–after several follow-up calls and emails to both VFS Norway and Royal Norwegian Embassy from a paranoid like me, I was finally informed via email that my visa was ready with the email from the embassy:

Dear Ms ___________,

The Royal Norwegian Embassy has the pleasure of informing you that your application for a Schengen visa has been approved for repeated entries __ days stay in Schengen between the period ________ and _______.

The visa has been issued in accordance with the round trip flight ticket reservation and travel medical insurance submitted along with the application.  The visa cannot be issued for additional days.

Please pick up your passport at Norway Visa Application Center, VFS Global, Ecoplaza Bldg. Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City between 2pm and 4pm from the next working day.

Thank you.

Kind regards,
Royal Norwegian Embassy, Manila

I got my visa after 14 days, exactly the day before I am scheduled to leave for HK!

Moral of the story, apply way ahead especially during summer time!

Sample Travel Documents

I am probably aiding in driving travel agencies out of business–but I sincerely believe that applications should be done quick and easy so applicants can do on their own. I get asked a lot how I craft my written letters for travel document requirements, and to be honest I also just refer to my parent’s previous letters as well as sample letters online.

To make it easier for my readers, here are sample travel documents that you can craft and revise for your own applications. As long as you use the letters for personal applications and not for business purposes, you are free to use them. Don’t forget to thank me 🙂

1. Sample Letter of Introduction to the Embassy or Consulate

This is a requirement for Schengen visa applications for most embassies. It must state your travel dates, intention to travel, submitted documents and travel companions. Here is a Sample Cover Letter that can be applied on all EU embassies, and my Letter to the French Consulate to the French Embassy attached.

2. Sample Itinerary

A planned itinerary is a requirement for all tourist applications for whatever country. The itinerary is a supporting document that you are really traveling to the said country for tourism purposes. The following are sample itinerary you can revise to fit your own trip:

3. Letter of Authorization

Being based in Cebu, I often have to fly to Manila to acquire visas (US and most EU countries). I can’t afford to fly back to receive my passport, so I often have to ask someone else to collect it for me. You will need a Letter of Authorization, photocopy of your two valid IDs, two valid IDs of the authorized person, and sometimes the official receipt of your visa processing fee. Here is a sample of Letter of Authorization.

I’ll continue updating this page for more sample travel documents and requirements I will encounter in the future to help you with your applications. In the meantime, I hope my sample letters helped!

How to Apply for Schengen Visa in the Philippines via the French Embassy

UPDATED: 1/15/2016

schengen-visa-apply-philippines

It was always a childhood dream of mine to see Paris, France. Isn’t it delightful to see the sights of Champs Elysees, the smells of French bakeries, the interesting sounds of Moulin Rouge, and experience the love that envelopes the world’s romantic city? I finally got the chance to see Paris last year with my partner through a short side trip while I was visiting him in the UK. And because I have a Philippine passport, I had to acquire for a Schengen visa to travel to France. Read on how I got my Schengen visa.

What is a Schengen Visa?

As a Philippine passport holder, it is a given that we need a visa to get to anywhere outside ASEAN countries. A Schengen visa is the powerhouse visa that allows you to travel to all 25 countries in the EU area. It allows you access to the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. This makes organizing the grand Euro trip so much easier–you only need one visa to enter all aforementioned EU countries signed to the Schengen agreement.

I. Preparation

1. How Much?

Visa processing fee is 60 euros, or during my time, around Php 3,080. For children ages 0-6, it is free of charge whereas minors from ages 6-11 pay 35 euros or approximately Php 2,000. Visa processing fee c/o VFS is Php 1,333. Other charges may include SMS fee for updates for Php 220 and courier fee of Php 330 if you preferred the passport to be mailed to your door.

2. When to Apply?

Applications are accepted up to three months before your travel date. You should apply for your visa as soon as you’ve finalized your travel schedule (by the way, you don’t need to buy a ticket just yet, a booked reservation will do). I recommend to apply 6-8 weeks before your travel date for enough time allowance.

3. How to Apply?

Schengen tourist visa applications should be lodged at the embassy or consulate of the country of visit. In my case, my intention was to visit France only, so I did it at the French Embassy. If you’re planning to visit several countries, you apply for your application to the country you’ll be staying the longest. If the length of stay in each destination is almost the same, you should lodge the application to the country of first entry. 

*Update 1/6/16: As of December 9, 2015, all Schengen visa applications for France are already outsourced to VFS Global. For more information, you can check this link

You can book an appointment online or via call at +63 2 790 4903. Visa applications are open from Monday to Friday at 7AM to 2PM.

4. Where to Apply?

Update: Schengen visa applications for France are now done in VFS Global as of 12/9/2015.

The address of VFS France is: 

France Visa Application Centre,
Mezzanine Floor, Ecoplaza Bldg.,
Don Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati City
1231 Philippines

Address of the French Embassy in Manila: 16th Floor Pacific Star Building corner Sen. Gil Puyat Ext. and Makati Avenue 1200, Philippines.

II. Application Requirements

Checklist of Documents to Bring on the day of your appointment:

  • Cover Letter. The letter must contain your travel details, purpose of your trip, and your plans to stay there, who you are traveling with, the details of your relationship with sponsor (if applicable), and the list of documents you’re about to submit to the embassy. The letter should be addressed to:
    • THE HONORABLE CONSUL
      EMBASSY OF FRANCE
      16th floor Pacific Star Bldg
      Makati Avenue cor. Senator Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City
    • Attached is my sample Letter to the French Consulate for the French Embassy.
  • Printed, filled up and signed Schengen Application form (download here) with 1 photo affixed (bring 2 photos)
    • Photograph Requirements – Most photo shops would already know the specifications needed for visa requirements-just tell them it’s for a Schengen visa. I had ours taken in Ayala Center Cebu.
      • recent photo taken within six months
      • 45mm x 35mm
      • White or cream background
      • Taken with nothing covering the face, without sunglasses or tinted spectacles, or a head covering unless for religious or medical reasons. The subject should have their mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eye brows). Applicant should be facing forwarding, looking straight ahead.
  • Confirmed Booking Appointment Letter. Print the confirmed booking, which will be sent to you by VFS via email.
  • School / Employment Supporting Documents – provides proof of coming back to the Philippines.
    • Student – a letter from your school or education provider confirming your enrollment and leave of absence
    • Employee – tax returns, pay slips, letter from your employer confirming employment, and confirming leave of absence.
    • Business Owner – tax returns, business registration documents (stating your name as business owner)
  • Financial Supporting Documents – documents that prove you don’t need to work while you’re in France. This can include bank statements, pay slips, credit card statements, property titles; within the last six months or so
  • Trip Details must include the following:
    • Roundtrip Airfare Ticket Reservations.
    • Planned Itinerary, detailing what you intend to do and places you want to see during your stay in the EU areas. (Read my Suggested Itinerary: Paris France blog post to help you plan an itinerary!)
    • Hotel Booking or Reservations. I suggest you book your accommodations at Booking.com where booking and cancellation is free. If you are intending to stay with a friend, provide your host’s passport, national identity card, residence permit and Certificate of Board and Lodging.
  • Personal Supporting Documents – proof of your identification details & personal circumstances
    • NSO Birth Certificate
    • Marriage Certificate, if married
    • Current Passport and Previous Passport, to see travel history
  • Travel Insurance covering the entire duration of your intended stay. Minimun coverage is 30,000 euros. 

Complete submission of these documents will be helpful in obtaining that visa, but does not guarantee visa issuance; but missing or incomplete supporting documents may result in a Schengen visa refusal.

III. Appointment

 

I came in VFS Center 30 minutes before appointment at 8AM, and deposited my bag to the baggage counter before coming in to VFS France. Since they weren’t that busy they had me come in immediately anyway without having to wait. I presented my documents to the counter, where the VFS pointed out I had a few missing documents. Thankfully, you can now photocopy, print, scan, use the internet, book tickets, accommodations and car rental, buy travel insurance and more at the main reception area of VFS Center through Vasco. I was able to retrieve missing documents at Vasco and went back to VFS France, and they were quick to process them. After submitting the docs, I paid at the cashier the total amount of Php 4, they had my biometrics taken–fingerprints, photo, the works. I left the center at exactly 9:30AM, and would have finished earlier if I hadn’t been so lenient with my papers. 😉

Ecoplaza Bldg has great food choices at Eco Eats, such as Jamba Juice, Yellow Cab, Max’s, Teriyaki Boy and more. I stuffed my face here with great food–who knew visa processing can make you so hungry?

IV. Waiting Period & Results

I am impressed about how quick the processing was for my visa! I received an email that day that my visa has been dispatched to the embassy. It should look like this:

Visa application, ref no.______ has been dispatched to the France Embassy Manila on 1/11/2016 for processing.

Two days after, I received another email:

‘Processed visa application ref no. ______ is ready for collection at the VFS France Visa Application Centre between 2-4pm M-F,
If opt for courier, please disregard this message.

‘Processed visa application ref no.______ has been couriered to you via 2GO Express on 1/14/2016.’

Kindly wait for 24-48hrs if within Metro Manila area.

Additional delivery lead time for Provinces and remote areas applies.

You can track your application via the VFS Website.

Need help in planning your Paris, France itinerary? Read my blog post, Suggested Itinerary: 5 days in Paris, France to help you!

How to Apply for your Baby’s Philippine Passport

At some point, a mother will start to worry about applying for their child’s passport. Maybe you needed to see family or friends abroad. Or maybe you just want to take your little one to Disneyland! Summer is around the corner and travel is the best experience you can give to your child. I got my baby’s passport when he was barely two months old so that he can visit family abroad.

caleb at 5 months old, macau to cebu flight

By the way, I applied for his passport more than a year ago so my memory is kinda foggy on details. I do remember that it was quick and easy though–I remember being in the DFA center and leaving for only 30 minutes! I am surprised that the Philippine agency is very baby-friendly and convenient.

Starting this July 2016, the only walk-in applicants allowed will be infants, PWD, senior citizens and pregnant women. Other applicants will have to apply and book an appointment online. To find out, read my blog post on How to Apply for a Philippine Passport Online.

I. Requirements

  • Personal Appearance – you’ll need to bring your baby to DFA as applicant. Either of the parent must also be present (if legitimate) or the mother (if illegitimate).
  • You don’t need a confirmed appointment – minors ages below 7, senior citizens, pregnant women and handicapped can come right in and go to the courtesy lane.
  • Birth Certificate – an original NSO birth certificate will suffice. When I applied, Caleb’s NSO birth certificate wasn’t available in NSO yet (him being born a month or so ago). I had to bring his original birth certificate and had it certified at the Local Civil Registrar.
Local Civil Registrar in Cebu City
Local Civil Registrar in Cebu City
  •  NSO Marriage Certificate of Parents (if married)

    – If the parents are married, minor applicant will need a parent’s consent letter from both parents. If the parents are not married, minor applicant will only need a consent from the responsible parent (usually the mother).

  • Original and photocopy of passport of the person traveling with the minor.

– Original passport and copy of either parent will do or of mother (if illegitimate).

  • Notarized Affidavit of Support and Consent to Travel

– You will need a notarized affidavit from both parents (if legitimate) or mother (if illegitimate). I had the  notarized by my good lawyer friend Atty. Janjan Perez.

Additional Requirements:

  • If the child or minor applicant is not traveling with both his parents, you will need additional requirements:
    • Travel clearance form issued by DSWD. Original and photocopy will be required (blog post to follow on how to secure this)
      • Note that minors will not need to acquire the DSWD clearance if parents are living abroad or are immigrants, or in the Foreign service. Proof needs to be provided that parent/s are living abroad.
    • Affidavit of Support and Consent by either parent (mother, if illegitimate)
    • Passport copy of the person the child will be traveling with.

II. Appointment

DFA in Cebu is located at the 4th Level, Pacific Mall – Metro Mandaue, U.N. Avenue, Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines.

Pacific Mall – Metro Mandaue

Since Caleb was still an infant, he didn’t need a scheduled appointment. The perks of being a baby mean that you can bypass the long queues of disgruntled applicants through the Courtesy Lane. It won’t save you from their dagger looks, but cut them some slack for they’ve probably been queuing up since 4am. The courtesy lane accepts babies, senior citizens, pregnant women and handicapped applicants. I haven’t tried this (but I have thought of it), you can push it even further and try to apply for your child’s and your passport renewal. (hehe)

Step 1: Make sure to come to DFA with all the documents complete and organized to make the passport application process swift and hassle-free. Bring original copies and photocopies of all required paperwork. Once you enter, the guard will give you an application form you need to fill up. Just wait inside for a few minutes and once you’re up, submit your documents and form to the official assigned who will review them and make sure documents are in order.

passport-philippine-infant-toddler
Isn’t he big for a one-month-something old?
philippine-passport-cebu-pacific-mall-baby
Big and strong too! 🙂

Step 2: Line up to give payment at the cashier. It’s Php 950 for regular processing and Php 1,200 for 7 days express processing. As of writing, express processing is temporarily ceased and the regular processing takes a minimum 6 weeks. Waiting times will be much shorter and you will be directed to pay at the courtesy lane. After you’re done with payment, you will be given a number and directed to another room where the applicant’s picture will be taken.

Step 3: Picture-taking time. Process is again fast and painless as there were probably 30 or so counters in front–in a few minutes, we were asked to go to a counter to have baby’s picture taken. Being only two months old, he could not sit up on his own yet so he had to be laid down in the table in a blanket. If you’re worried about hygiene issues, you can bring your own light blue blanket.

Picture-taking took a longer time than expected. The applicant had to be looking at the camera with eyes open. That’s not exactly easy for an infant to do (especially if he’s sleepy or hungry!)–so the person in charge had to take several pictures and sighed in frustration.

We finally got Caleb to look at the camera after a dozen attempts. It wasn’t a very flattering photo (he looked like a mochi!) and wanted the staff to try again… but the guy didn’t want to be bothered. We left DFA roughly thirty minutes when we came in–I honestly didn’t expect it would be that easy!

Step 4: Waiting time. I didn’t opt for the delivery service so I came back to DFA exactly 6 weeks after application. I got it as promised. Thank you DFA for a swift and easy process for the little ones!

Doesn't he look like a mochi?
Doesn’t he look like a mochi?

How to Apply for UK Visa – Cebu, Philippines

uk-visa

Last December, I traded lechon, fruit salad and quezo de bola for turkey, pudding and scones. I had a white Christmas in the UK with our one-year-old son (who was born on Christmas day), my partner Ejay and his family. My boy had been on a few domestic and Asian flights before, but it was his first long haul flight. You can read about it more on my blog post on practical tips on How to Fly and Travel with Baby!

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

I mostly apply my visas and plan my flights without help from travel agencies. Travel agencies’ processing fees range from PHP 9,000 to 15,000 (screw that).It saves me money and I find joy in being my own travel planner! It can be time-consuming, but entirely doable (and pleasurable, at least in my case). Many friends and colleagues have asked me how I applied for my UK, US and Schengen visa, so to make it easier to everyone, I’ll be writing a series of Visa Applications 101.

All Filipino passport holders require a UK Visa if you plan to visit the following territories: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you plan to visit other parts of Europe, you will need to apply for another type of visa. In my case, we made a short side trip to Paris so I needed to get a Schengen visa as well.

Applying for a UK visa doesn’t need to be stressful. You just need to be prepared and do ample research far ahead. If you’re reading my blog right now–good job! You just aced the research part. I have divided the UK tourist visa application process in four steps: 1. Preparation, 2. Online Application, 3. Appointment and 4. Waiting Period.

By the way, if you’re planning to make a side trip to other European countries, you will need another visa, a Schengen visa. Click on this link to read on How to Apply for a Schengen Visa.

I. Preparation

1. Type of Visa 

What is your purpose for visiting United Kingdom? Are you there to see family or friends, to get married, to study or to relocate?There are different types of visas for different purposes, and you can check UK website’s Visa and Immigration page to know what type of visa you need. For marriage, study or other types of visas, they require different requirements and information; but this blog can only provide information on how to get UK tourist and short stay visas only.

It is important to always be truthful regarding your purpose to visit UK. Any inconsistencies stated in your application or documents will get be refused a visa, or even get blacklisted. For General Visitor short stay visa (as is the focus on this blog), your maximum stay is only six months. You cannot work, study, or get married during your stay as a General Visitor.

Initially, I filled out the online application form for a General Visitor visa, but then after careful reading I realized that we actually needed a Family Visitor visa instead. Our primary purpose was to see my partner and his family to spend Christmas together; sightseeing and leisure being secondary. I canceled my primary applications and made new applications under Family Visitor. Again, be mindful of what type of visa you’ll need! 

2. When to Apply?

Applications are accepted up to three months before your travel date. You should apply for your visa as soon as you’ve finalized your travel schedule and booked that ticket! (you don’t need to buy a ticket just yet, a booked reservation will do). I recommend to apply 6-8 weeks before your travel date.

3. How to Apply?

Once you have all your travel information, passport and contact details on hand, you can start your visa application process. The only way to do it here is online. You can start your online application here and read through the second phase to guide you on how to fill up the online form. There’s no need to panic if you don’t have all the information on hand–you can always log in and out of your account any day and fill up the details when you have them ready.

4. Other Important Information

UK visa applications are done on a third party application center (currently VFS Global Services) and not submitted directly to the British Embassy. VFS does not have any control towards your visa application decision. Here are important details you might need to know (information lifted from VFS Website)

Manila Address:

VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc.,
Mezzanine Floor Unit M01, Ecoplaza Building, 
2305 Chino Roces Avenue Extension Makati City, Metro Manila 1231

Cebu Address:

VFS Global Services Philippines Private Inc., 
9th Floor, Keppel Center, Unit 905, Samar Loop
cor. Cardinal Rosales Avenue, 
Cebu Business Park, Cebu City 6000

Opening Hours:

Application submission – with a prior appointment:
Monday to Friday
07:00 – 13:00

Application submission –prime time appointment (presently in Manila only)
Monday to Thursday
16:00 – 19:00

Pick up Time –
Monday to Friday
14:00 – 15:00

II. Online Application

In the Online Application process, you need to register for an account. Afterwards, you’ll need to fill in details of the following:

  • Applicant Basic Details and Contact Information
  • Your Visa Type
  • Passport details and Travel History
  • Family Details
  • Employment and Income
  • Family and Friends in the UK

Read through your applications twice before you click send! Once you submitted the application and paid the fee you cannot change any details anymore. Confirm that everything is correct, Book an Appointment, Pay the Visa fee and Print your Application.

  • UK Visa Fee

The UK visa fee is steep- on 2014 the short stay visa fee in the Philippines was USD 120-150, but since we lodged our applications in Cebu we had to pay an additional service fee of USD 101. Total cost per application was USD 143 or around PHP 11,000+. I paid the same amount for my son’s application and mine.

III. Appointment

In the online application, you are given the option to choose the date and time of your appointment. If I recall right, appointment times can be done on weekdays and from 8:00-12:00 only. I chose my appointment date on November 11, 2014 at 11am (not a morning person here). This gave me approximately two weeks to collect all the necessary documents I need.

For UK visa appointments in Cebu, you need to go to VFS Global Services which is at the 9th floor of Keppel Building, in Ayala Cebu Business Park. It’s not hard to find.

Keppel Building, image from Skyscrapercity

On the day of your Appointment, come early and be prepared. They are strict with their rule and will not let anyone in until 15 minutes before your appointment to avoid crowding in the center. If you came 16 minutes or earlier, you will have to wait outside.

You need to bring all necessary documents and need to take your biometrics (photo and fingerprints taken). The documents should be properly organized and arranged so you wouldn’t be fumbling around your papers on your appointment. Basically these documents support your purpose of UK visit, and show your ties in the Philippines (job, family, children, school, properties, business, etc.) and establish proof that you are coming back.

Checklist of supporting documents to bring:

  • Confirmation of Booking Appointment – this is sent to you via email which indicates the time and date of your appointment. I was not able to print this because I thought VFS already has a schedule of confirmed names and appointments. Since I came early, I had enough time to go down, look for an internet cafe and print the booking confirmation and return just in time.
  • Printed Application Form with Photo – print out your complete and signed application form and affix a photo (glue it in!).
    • Photograph Requirements – Most photo shops would already know the specifications needed for visa requirements-just tell them it’s for a UK visa. I had ours taken in Ayala Center Cebu.
      • recent photo taken within six months
      • 45mm x 35mm
      • White or cream background
      • Taken with nothing covering the face, without sunglasses or tinted spectacles, or a head covering unless for religious or medical reasons. The subject should have their mouth closed (no grinning, frowning or raised eye brows). Applicant should be facing forwarding, looking straight ahead.
  • Personal Supporting Documents – proof of your identification details & personal circumstances
    • NSO Birth Certificate
    • Marriage Certificate, if married
    • Current Passport and Previous Passport, to see travel history
  • Financial Supporting Documents – documents that prove you don’t need to work while you’re in the UK. This can include bank statements, pay slips, credit card statements, property titles; within the last six months or so.
  • School & Employment Supporting Documents – provides proof of coming back to the Philippines.
    • Student – a letter from your school or education provider confirming your enrollment and leave of absence
    • Employee – tax returns, pay slips, letter from your employer confirming employment, and confirming leave of absence.
    • Business Owner – tax returns, business registration documents (stating your name as business owner)
  • Travel Plans – this includes your flight ticket details, hotel/accommodation bookings and your itinerary. (Need help in your UK itinerary? Refer to my blog post, Suggested Itinerary: 5 Days in London!)
  • Supporting Documents from friends and family in the UK – If you’re planning to visit friends or family, include a letter of invitation from them, their financial documents and bio data of their passports attached as well.

Complete submission of these documents will be helpful in obtaining that visa, but does not guarantee a visa issuance. Missing or incomplete supporting documents may also result in a UK visa refusal.

Other Important Information:

  • No need to dress to kill–just look presentable. Wear comfortable, smart casual clothes that cover all the right areas. The application center’s task is to receive your application and documents only–a personal appearance is required but no interviews will be conducted for tourist visas, unless deemed necessary.
  • For the biometrics, you will need your photo and fingerprints taken, hence the need for a personal appearance. My baby boy needed to be there for his biometrics. Even newborn babies are now required to show up in the visa center.
  • You can not to bring your bags, mobile phone and other personal belongings inside, and you’ll be asked to leave them in the reception’s storage counter.
  • Store your documents in a transparent envelope. An enclosed folder or even a brown envelope is not allowed.
  • All transactions will be paid online.

It only took me an hour and a half to go through the process, although I heard the female guard comment that it was unusually not busy that day.

IV. Waiting Period

The most tedious part for me was the waiting game. Once you’ve done with the appointment phase and submitted all documents, I was told by VFS Cebu to wait 14 working days to get my results. This works for Cebu area, but Manila is said to take 7 working days only.

You can sign up for an SMS service to update you throughout your visa’s processing, but I haven’t tried it. Also, they will request for your email address and will email you if your documents and visa is ready for pickup.

I received two emails from them, and you will probably expect the same. I received the first email on November 14 and it looked something like this:

Your decision will be despatched shortly.  Passports can normally be collected from the Visa Application Centre after 3 working days unless you have been advised it will be returned by courier or have paid an additional courier fee.

This email means that the UK Embassy in Manila has already made a decision towards your application. This may mean either way that you’ve been approved a visa or not. I received this email on Friday, probably sent deliberately to give me an awfully nerve-wrecking weekend.

On November 17, I received another email from VFS, which looked like this:

The processed visa application for GWF reference number –  GWF___________ was received at the UK Visa Application Centre on date time.

If a courier service was purchased from VFS Global, your processed application will be delivered to the chosen address.

If not, your documents can be collected during the designated passport collection times.

This email means that your visa has landed in Cebu and is now ready for pickup. I got mine the day after on November 18.

V. Results!

You can choose to have your documents returned to you via courier or pick-up at the center. I chose the latter as I only lived nearby anyway.

As soon as I got my email, I went to the visa center the next day. I had my appointment on November 11, and on November 18, I was able to get our UK visas! That’s exactly 8 days, or 6 working days. Doesn’t it look lovely?

UK visas

Need help with planning your London, UK trip? Read my blog post, Suggested Itinerary: 5 Days in London, UK to help you through!