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Tourist Visa Application Tips

Posted by on 22 November 2008

Having been burdened with the curse of the Philippine passport, I now consider myself as a veteran of sorts when it comes to applying for tourist visas. Hence, this post to share what little I know about applying for tourist visas, based on my experience with embassies located in KL.

From foreground to background: Swiss visa, Schengen visa, Chinese Visa

Different countries have different requirements and they range from the simple (an application form and passport-sized photograph for the Chinese Embassy) to the complicated (the whole gamut for a Schengen visa).

Despite the differences, I find that they share two things in common:

  1. They want proof of your financial capability, i.e. that you can pay for your intended stay and pay for the cost of having to repatriate your body should anything happen to you during your trip; and
  2. They want proof that you have a compelling reason to go back to your country of origin, such as a family, a business or some property. (I suppose they think that, if you have such strong reasons, you wouldn’t be tempted to overstay and try your luck in looking for, say, jobs in retail.)

Due to criteria #1, now you know why they require copies of your latest bank statements (at least for the past 3 months). If you have credit cards, some embassies require a photocopy, others don’t, but it’s still useful to make photocopies of your credit cards and enclose them with your bank statements. It’s also a must to bring copies of your latest payslip and/or your income tax returns. Some countries would also require that you apply for travel insurance covering the entire length of your trip, including dates of your inbound and outbound flights.

As for criteria #2, some embassies ask me for copies of my marriage certificate and my children’s birth certificates. If you’re the owner or director of a business entity, then by all means, please bring photocopies of the legal documents that support this. Otherwise, just bring photocopies of your current contract of employment and/or offer letter.

Of course it goes without saying that you need to bring your passport but I strongly suggest that it be valid for at least a year. Most countries require passports with 6 months validity to gain entry. Plus, you have to factor in the visa processing time and the duration of your trip. So I say 12 months is safer than 6 months.

Always bring the original documents with you because the embassy officials will want to look at them in order to verify that the photocopies you brought along are genuine.

All visa applications require photographs. Check with the embassy what size photographs are needed, how many pieces per size, and what background colour is required. Some embassies require blue background (e.g. Malaysia), others require red (e.g. Indonesia), some insist on white (e.g. Saudi Arabia).

Most embassies these days provide application forms online. Other embassies require that the forms be filled up online only. But be warned — many embassies do not update their websites so unless the embassy requires that you fill up the form online, I recommend that you personally go to the embassy to ask for the form(s).

Oh, and bring cash to pay for the visa fee. Call up the consulate in advance about the cost of the fees. And take note that certain embassies charge a processing fee upfront, which is non-refundable, even if your visa is denied. The Schengen visa is one of them and so is the visa to the United Kingdom. Sucks, huh?

In Malaysia, most embassies are open from Monday to Friday, with visa application submissions only accepted in the mornings, as the afternoons are reserved for visa collection.

Alternatively, for a small service fee, you can ask a travel agency to do the running around for the visa application for you.

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