Going to Japan is one of the most fun things you can do in your entire life — especially if you are an anime fan. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Tokyo (where I stayed for over a year as a university student), Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagano, Kanazawa and a number of other cities — both for business and for pleasure, four times so far. I still haven’t had enough of Japan, and you can bet your entire manga collection that I have plans of going back very soon.
One of the largest hurdles for Filipino J-pop fans planning to visit Japan is obtaining an entry visa. Due to the number of Filipinos in search of employment entering the country via tourist visas, the Consul Office of the Japan Embassy has implemented stricter rules in granting them. I’ve gone through three distinct kinds of visa application procedures, all of which I will be describing below. I hope that my personal experiences shed some light on the sometimes archaic and often very scary process of applying for a Japanese visa.
Applying For a Visa as a University Exchange Student
Students flying to Japan under the auspices of the Ministry of Education or the Japan Student Services Organization have a distinct advantage over almost everybody else when applying for a visa. They are in possession of a special document called the Certificate of Eligibility, which eliminates the need for many of the requirements such as Income Tax Returns, Bank Certificates, and Letters of Guarantee.
The Certificate of Eligibility is exclusively issued to university exchange students (whether postgraduate or undergraduate) so to be able to obtain one, it would be best to start off by applying for a Japanese exchange student programme via your college or university. Application procedures vary for different universities (UP, ADMU, DLSU, etc.) and areas of discipline (language, liberal arts, engineering, etc.) so it would be best to consult with your school’s Foreign Exchange offices.
Once you have cleared their selection process and are bound for Japan, your certificate will be issued to you alongside your Japanese school admission forms and other documents. All you need to do is submit it to the Consul Office along with your current passport to obtain your visa. For more information, you can also view the complete application procedure from the official website of the Embassy of Japan.
Applying For a Visa on Business
If you are employed in a private company with business ties to Japan, you can apply for a commercial visa. With this type of visa, your company vouches for you, eliminating the need for you to find a Japanese individual to act as a guarantor. Instead, your company and the Japanese company affiliated with you will need to issue a Letter of Dispatch or a Letter of Invitation, stating the nature of your business, the business relationship of the two companies involved in the transaction, and the purpose of your visit to Japan.
In my case, both my employer in Manila and our affiliate in Japan issued the letters described above, as well as Certificates of Employment and Length of Service, and a timetable detailing all my travel plans within Japan. Photocopies of my round-trip airline tickets were also given to prove that I will be returning to the Philippines once business has been completed. The travel agency handling my trip then took care of the rest, and my passport with my new visa attached arrived after three days. For more info, you can also view the complete application procedure from the official website of the Embassy of Japan.
Applying For a Visa as a Tourist
There are two ways of going about applying for a tourist visa. The first way is easier but is more expensive and also very limiting: joining a package tour. Since your tour facilitator will act as your guarantor, there is no need to obtain a Letter of Guarantee. However, you will still need to submit all the other documents like your Income Tax Returns, Bank Certificates, and Itineraries. The other option is to go it alone. I actually prefer this method since I can pick my flight schedule, my hotel/hostel, and my itinerary. Unfortunately the Consul Office will be a little bit stricter with your requirements, so it’s best that you make a good impression and get it right the first time.
The first step still means going through a travel agent. The Embassy of Japan has disallowed personal applications for entry visas, and we all now have to apply through accredited travel agencies to apply for visas. I personally recommend Universal Holidays and Rajah Travel since I have used them both and have been happy with their service so far. Just drop by their offices in Makati Avenue for Rajah and Dusit Hotel for Universal, with your completed documents and the PhP 2500 fee. For more information or additional clarification on visa application requirements, you can also view the complete application procedure from the official website of the Embassy of Japan.
Required Supporting Documents for Your Application
What are the most crucial documents needed for the application? From personal experience, it all boils down to three things: 1) proof of good financial standing; 2) history of travel; and 3) proof of return.
Proof of financial standing just means that you have the ability to support yourself during your Japan stay; it also implies that you will not be seeking illegal employment once you have entered the country. This proof comes in the form of your original Income Tax Return, which explicitly states how much you pay in taxes and earn in a year. Another important document that proves you are financially capable is a Bank Certificate stating that you have at least PhP 100,000 in savings, which would roughly be the amount you need to cover the 15 days you spend in Japan as allowed by your tourist visa.
History of travel is basically the number of used visas or old immigration stamps that you have accumulated in your passport. As a rule of thumb, the more stamps you have the better your chances of being granted a visa, since this implies that you regularly travel abroad and that you return to the Philippines after every trip. Used visas from the US, Europe, Australia, and of course Japan are also helpful in getting you an entry visa, since this guarantees the Consul Office that you have entered and left other foreign countries in good faith.
Last but not least is your proof of return: your round-trip airline ticket. This reassures the Consul Office that you will be returning to the Philippines once the fifteen day limit of your tourist visa expires, and will not attempt to stay in the country illegally for employment purposes. You can also submit land titles, business permits, and other documents that will outline your properties and business interests in the Philippines that you will return to once your trip is finished.
Once your application has been received, it will take the Japanese consuls office three to five business days to review it and approve or deny your application. If approved, you will receive your passport from your travel agent with the visa attached. If your passport has been returned to you with no visa attached, your application was denied, and you will have to wait another six months to lodge another application. Under no circumstances will the visa office explain why your application has been denied, so there is really no point in pursuing the argument further.
For more tips, you can also read the follow-up article to this post: Getting a Japan Tourist Visa: An FAQ for Filipinos.
Starting 31st December 2010, I may no longer be able to regularly reply to queries posted on this thread. However, most cases have already been tackled previously, so I suggest you read through the comments log to find your answers, instead of posting a new question. Thank you very much!