How to Apply for DSWD Minor Travel Clearance in Cebu

I remember the feeling of traveling alone when I was only 16. Well it wasn’t technically a solo trip–the rest of the family were already in Hong Kong and I had to follow after my finals–but I still remember the thrill of going to the airport, checking in my luggage, going through immigrations and finally arriving in one piece–all alone.

I was in college when I first applied for a DSWD travel clearance for myself. Now that I’m a single mom, I had applied for Caleb’s travel clearance so he can travel accompanied by other guardians (e.g. his grandparents).

dswd travel clearance for minors

Who Needs A Travel Clearance?

By Philippine law, all minors below the age of 18 are required to have a DSWD Minor Travel Clearance for the following:

  • for minors traveling alone
  • for minors traveling with companions other than his or her parents parents.

Even if a minor is traveling with a direct relative such as their own adult siblings or aunts or uncles, they are still required by law to travel with the DSWD document. This requirement is to ensure that children on transit are protected from child kidnapping or child trafficking.

Minors traveling with the legal guardians or parents are not required a DSWD clearance. However, illegitimate children traveling with father are still required to have a DSWD clearance.

When Should I Apply?

Once you have finalized travel plans, it’s best to apply as soon as possible, around a month or two weeks before the travel date. This will get you ample time to collate all required documents before the travel date.

Once you have all the requirements, it only takes around thirty minutes to an hour to get your DSWD document (at least in Cebu!) The people in the Cebu DSWD office are very efficient and accommodating (thanks, Ligaya!)

Where can I apply in Cebu?

The DSWD office in Cebu is located in MJ Cuenco Avenue cor. Gen. Maxilom Avenue, Cebu City. Office hours are on weekdays M to F, from 8am to 5pm.

What are the Requirements?

As of July 2017, here is the updated list of requirements for minors traveling abroad unaccompanied by parents:

  • Filled up DSWD application form
  • NSO birth certificate of the minor
  • Marriage certificate of minor’s parents (if legitimate); no need if parents are unmarried and child is illegitimate
  • Notarized affidavit of consent from parents . This must include:
    • destination,
    • date of intended travel,
    • purpose, and
    • name of companion/s
  • 3 pcs. passport size photos of the minor and companions
  • Photocopy of the passport and visa (if necessary) of the minor
  • Photocopy of the passport and visa  (if necessary) of the companion
  • 300 PHP payment per minor applicant.
  • If parents are not applying; you also need an authorization letter from minor’s parents to process application

Once again, if the child is illegitimate, it will only need requirements from the mother (sole parental authority) and not the father.

Also, the minor does not need to be present in the DSWD office to file for the clearance. The officer will only

Once you have everything, it only takes 30 minutes to process your travel clearance valid for one year. Always check the spelling of the names before you leave.

 

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How to Apply for US F-1 Visa in the Philippines: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Prior to graduate school, I never dreamed of getting a chance to study or even be inside the prestigious Ivy League universities in the US. Yale, Princeton, Harvard… those were elite names a third-world student myself could never see or experience in my life.

MBA in the Asian Institute of Management opened up possibilities; business school made my dreams more concrete and my whole world smaller. Not only were we able to work with people of different nationalities from Kazakhstan to Brazil, but I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to study programs and experiences in Yale University School in New Haven, Connecticut for General Network of Advanced Management last March and now to the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia.

wharton school rachel arandilla exchange f1 visa AIM.jpg

I’ve been to the US a few times for travel, but to actually study and live there is a completely new experience. I already have a valid US tourist visa, but as a student you still need to apply for a US student visa (either a J-1 or an F-1) to study in any American university.

Applying for a student visa is definitely more complex than the standard tourist visa, and it took me at least two months to get the whole thing sorted. There are a lot of websites you need to coordinate with, so to help you future student applicants sorted, I’ve compiled all resources you need in one blog post. (thank me later!)

This article will focus only on how to apply for the F-1 visa. If you intend to apply for J-1, I have no experience and won’t be of any help, sorry!

What and Who Needs a US F-1 Visa?

To study in the USA, you need a student visa–either a J-1 or an F-1 visa. You need to know which visa type is eligible for you.

  • F-1: all non-immigrant students are eligible.
  • J-1: students who are either:
    • students with non-personal funding source that accounts for more than 50% of the total study costs–either via scholarships and grants from non-personal sources: e.g. government, foundations, international organization, etc.
    • Exchange students in a program pursuant between the US & your home country government / foundation

I had the option to choose between the two. While both visas allow you to work while studying, there are long-term implications with J-1. J-1 visa students require you to return to your home country for at least two years before you can come back to the US.

For F1 visa, you can remain in the United States up to 60 days after the end of the program. You can opt to stay and work under the OPT program (not applicable for students under shorter stay)

US visa F1 student philippines

How about for short study programs?

For short recreational studies that are non-credit towards a degree or certificate, visitors can come on a tourist visa. Otherwise, all students in academic institutions need the necessary student visa.

For more information regarding student visa, you can check on the US government website here.

I. Preparation

When should I apply for a US F-1 Visa?

Again, applying for a student visa is a lot more work than expected. It’s also a lot more expensive! You need proper coordination with your school’s international student services office for proper documents. To be safe, you should apply 2-3 months before the start of your program. The earlier, the better!

List of Requirements

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, this is the checklist of documents you need to acquire for your US F-1 visa:

  • Valid Philippine passport – make sure it is valid at least six months after intended entry to the US
  • I-20 form
  • SEVIS FEE receipt
  • Proof of funds – either your or your sponsor’s proof of financial support. Your sponsor can be your family or any sponsoring institution.
  • Ties to home country

How much?

You will need to show proof of sufficient funds for the duration you will be in US for education–whether you will be there for one semester or for four years.

II. Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Get accepted to a US school; get the I-20.

The school will help you obtain a temporary social security number (or a 9-digit Admission ID) and I-20 to initiate the visa process.

You will need the I-20 before moving forward. Prior to that, you need to send to your school a copy of your passport and financial documentation. You will then need to fill up some details via online form or email. Processing times can take up to one month, so plan accordingly.

Once your I-20 is ready, you should receive an email from the school’s international services office guiding you the next steps, e.g. paying the SEVIS fee and shipping request form, and payment of shipping. Shipping would probably cost around $60-$100 USD, your I-20 will be sent to you via snail mail from the US educational institution, e.g. DHL, UPS or FedEx. Your I-20 Form should look like this:

f1 visa i20 form.jpg

Step 2: SEVIS Fee

All international students are required to pay the SEVIS fee which costs $200 USD for F-1 applicants. To pay, you can do so via Western Union or via credit card on fmjfee.com. See links for more details.

For a better overview and more information on SEVIS fee, see this website.

Step 3: DS-160 Form

Once you’ve obtained your I-20 and SEVIS, the next step is to complete your DS-160 form to book your US Embassy appointment. You can fill it up online on the US Consular Electronic Application Center website.

When you start the application form, make sure to keep note of the following:

Application ID. Write down the ID located on the right corner. You will need this to retrieve application later just in case you don’t finish the application or need to get back to it.
– Your passport and travel history information. Information of your international travel history from the past 5 years.
Study information and arrangements. You must have information on the school’s program, address, contact info, living arrangements, etc.
SEVIS ID. This is printed on your I-20.
Digital passport photo. In my experience, I had a lot of technical problems on this one. Pls test your photo beforehand by using this online tool provided by the website.

Step 4: Schedule Visa Interview

Once you completed the DS-160 online application, now you can go to the Philippine embassy website and create your profile by going to New User.

Once you are logged in and on your Dashboard, go to New Application / Schedule Appointment and select the Visa Type, Post (Manila), Visa Category (Student) and Visa Class (F).

You will then need to pay $160 (Consular Exchange Rate is PHP 51 = USD 1 valid through 08/01/2018). The only way to pay it is through bank transfer at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) or online through Bancnet.

You need to print and present the US visa deposit slip when going to the bank. The deposit slip can be found here. It looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 11.42.55 AM.png

For other information on bank and payment options, see this post here.

Once you’ve paid, you can then book an interview 4 hours after payment. You will need: your passport number, BPI deposit receipt number, and the 10-digit barcode number from the DS-160 confirmation form.

Select the date and time of your preferred appointment on the Schedule My Appointment tab on the Dashboard.

Step 5: Appear at Embassy

Whew! That was a lot of paperwork. Now it’s finally time to visit the embassy. The Philippine US embassy is located in Pasig, Manila.

You might not get the interview date and time you want as the US embassy is always booked with so much visa applications to reject/approve, so make sure to apply as early as possible!

Be sure to bring a copy of your DS-160 confirmation, ID photo that meets the US visa requirements and taken within 6 months, your current and previous passports, financial documentation (and other proof of ties to home) and a copy of the appointment letter.

Always bring photocopies and originals. Although not stated in the requirements, just be prepared as additional documents may be requested.

The complete address:

Embassy of the United States of America
1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila, 1000, Metro Manila

III. Embassy Day: What to Expect

The preliminary work is done, but the real deal is the embassy appointment day. Come to the embassy an hour to thirty minutes before your appointment time, just in case there are any unexpected mishaps.

Prior to coming to the embassy, please bear in mind that the following are not allowed inside: phones, cameras, audio or video recorders, music players, and anything with batteries (I wasn’t even allowed to bring my powerbank).

Outside the embassy there are several people waiting to offer keeping your phone for you at a negotiated fee. Just be discriminate on who you deal with–or better yet, leave your devices at home!

It’s my third time in the US embassy but I still feel that feeling of dread when I’m inside. Even if I knew chances of a denial is slim, I still get that state of stress–either because the embassy is evilly designed to promote fear to all applicants; or all the applicants give off the unsettling energy.

The queues are long and you always seem to be assigned to the sternest consular officer. Just keep calm, listen to the questions and answer truthfully. Most of all, make sure you have sufficient proof that your intentions are truthful and you have ties to your home country.

As an MBA student I was wondering why the US embassy still has not opened a deposit service-it would bring great business to them. They sell souvenir shirts inside but can’t even provide a deposit service to applicants.

Anyway, getting the US visa approved still feels like winning a lottery; especially since you get to see the people in the queue receive different colored slips.

As far as I remember, in the Philippines the green slip requires request for more information; pink means administrative review and the blue one is what you want: it means you’re approved.

IV. Other Important Information

IV. Waiting Period and Results

When you’re approved, your passport should be returned to your address via 2GO, or pick up the visa at the nearest 2GO branch. There is no need to return to the US embassy to pick up the visa. Processing times is 3 working days to one week.

Once you have your passport, you’re ready to fly off to America!

V. Upon Arrival?

It’s not the end yet though.

As soon as you arrive and get settled in the US, make sure you ‘check in’ to your school. Present your I-20, F-1 and passport to the school’s international student services office.

When you intend to travel, bring around your I-20 and F-1 visa with you at all times.

So that’s it! Admittedly, the process is very tiring and cumbersome and you need a lot of patience to go through all this on your own. But good luck, future international students and make us proud!

 

 

 

 

What if I lose my Philippine passport?

This blog post was written on 2016.

Losing a passport is one of the most stressful things that could happen to a traveler, especially when abroad. In fact, it is also one of my biggest fears (gasp!)–I can imagine the headache and the hassle you have to go through, as well as the change of plans and expenses you will incur. Losing a passport is not very fun.

Even if you haven’t lost your passport, some preparedness and knowledge will come in handy in case the event arises (we hope it won’t!). This will help diminish stress levels. Read on if you want to know what to do in the case that you, or a loved one, lose a Philippine passport.

First, How NOT to Lose Your Passport

First of all, let’s talk about deterrents–how NOT to lose your passport.

Your passport should be the first and last thing you check when leaving or arriving at all times.

Most hotels have safe boxes–use them. Leave your valuables and passport when not needed. You’re less likely to lose your passport if you kept it safely locked in your hotel room than bring it with you everywhere. I don’t carry my passport unless I have reason to.

Granted, there are countries that do require mandatory identification checks. If you do choose to carry it around when touring, just make sure your wary of your valuables and keep your handbag close to you at all times.

Also, carrying a passport when clubbing is a bad idea.

Finally, always bring a photocopy of your passport when traveling. Leave a copy to trusted family and friends too, or even keep a digital version of your passport so you can easily print it when the need arises.

Losing Your Philippine Passport at Home

If you already lost all hope and resign to the fact that you have indeed lost your passport, you need to file an Affidavit of Loss and a Police Report. Get the Affidavit of Loss from a lawyer, where you will have to state all the details on how you lost your passport: when, where, how, etc. This document must be notarized.

For the Police Report, go to the nearest police station that covers the area where you lost your passport. Even if you lost your passport by sheer carelessness and not through criminal activity like theft or arson (hey, it can happen), you still need to file a police report.

Apart from these two requisites, you need the usual documents to passport application: your NSO birth certificate, valid Government-issued ID, etc.

Just go through the same process of applying for a passport, just pay an additional Lost Passport fee of Php200. To learn more about the new passport application process in Cebu, read my blog post here!

Losing Your Passport Abroad

If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, you need to act fast. The first thing you need to do is to file a Police Report. You’ll also need the police report for travel insurance claims and declaration of lost passport. Immediate action will also prevent anyone from using your passport illegally.

The next step is to locate and contact the nearest embassy or consulate (For a list of Philippine Embassies and Consulates around the world, refer to this link). You need to make a personal appearance, so book an appointment (as walk-ins are generally not allowed). The Philippine embassy or consulate or normally available for appointment on weekday mornings, so let’s hope you didn’t lose your passport over the weekend!

philippine_embassy

Bring your police report, passport photos, itinerary, flight details and proof of citizenship.You will need to pay some fees in cash and should be able to get your temporary passport within 24 hours. The embassy or consulate can either give you a replacement passport that will allow you to finish your trip or an emergency travel document that will get you back home ASAP.

 

 

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 Filipinos

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 for Taiwan

This post was written on 2015.

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

This post was written on 2015.

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!

 

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Sample Travel Documents Templates

filipino passportI 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 template of Letter of Authorization.

4. Notarized Affidavit of Consent

To apply for DSWD Minor travel clearance, among the document required is a notarized affidavit of consent.

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 – French embassy in the Philippines

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 UK Visa in Cebu, Philippines

uk-visa

Last December, I traded lechon, fruit salad and queso de bola for turkey, pudding and scones. I had a white Christmas in the UK with my one-year-old son.

My boy had been on a few domestic and Asian flights before, but it was his first long haul flight. If you want to know more about it you can read on my blog post on practical tips on How to Fly and Travel with Baby! (spoiler: we survived!)

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

I love DIY travel arrangements: I plan flights and apply visas sans 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!

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