Applying for a visa? Keep these 5 tips in mind

Ana P. Santos
There’s the dream of travel, but there’s also the reality of the paperwork involved

COMPLETE YOUR REQUIREMENTS. Visa application may be the source of a few pre-travel worries, so find the most efficient way to get through it

MANILA, Philippines – There’s the dream of travel, but there’s also the reality of the paperwork involved.

More budget carriers are flying to Europe, the Middle East and the United States and more direct flights to these destinations are opening up. It’s looking more and more like a buyer’s market for travelers. The one thing that remains laborious and tedious is applying for a visa.

Preparing the necessary supporting documents for a visa to one country is already quite laborious. If you’re traveling to more than one country and will require different visas, well, that only multiplies the minor inconveniences you’ll have to go through.

Here are some ways to prepare for the visa application process without dampening your travel spirit

1. Prepare a “grab bag” of documents frequently requested 

Get a clearbook to hold all the documents that embassies usually require and make at least five copies of each of these documents. Usually, the embassy will need to look at the original copy for verification purposes and then just keep a photocopy. Make sure that your photocopies are clear. It will save you the trouble of having to photocopy another clearer copy while at the embassy 

Documents to include in this clear book are: 

  • Birth certificate (must be certified by the National Statistics Office)
  • Marriage certificate*  (if annulled, you will probably need a copy of your Marriage Certificate annotated by the NSO certifying that the marriage was declared null and void.
  • Latest Income Tax Return
  • For business owners, include business permits, business license and (audited) financial statements
  • Photocopies of previous visas you have been issued
  • ID pictures: Different embassies will have different size requirements, so when you have your picture taken, have the picture reproduced in different size dimensions. I suggest you get one picture taken in the standard 2×2 white background and one in the US visa size and Schengen size. (Note that for all visa requirements, both ears must be shown and women should not be wearing earrings.)
  • Proof of income and ownership such as land titles and or car registration documents 

Keep all your old passports with other visa stamps as reference. It may not fit in the clear book, but it should be made part of your visa app “grab bag.” 

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2. Keep a list of the countries you’ve visited 

Update the list of countries you’ve visited the way you would update your CV. Many embassies require you to list the countries you have visited within a certain number of years. Some embassies will specify a time frame, some will not, so it is best to start from countries you have visited from 5 years back. Keep a soft copy of this list in your computer and update it each time you travel.  

3. Make a checklist of the visa application requirements – and triple check that!

When applying for a Schengen visa via the Italian embassy, for example, a checklist of requirements (which you can download along with the visa application form) is mandatory in the list of documents to be presented to the visa processing center. It is not a standard requirement for all countries, but a checklist is definitely a good thing to have on hand. Make one of your own if your destination country does not require it. 

Double and triple check each requirement, line by line if you have to. It will be worth the trouble because there are varying specifications for each country.

Look out for fine print like required payment mode: Is a manager’s check required? Can you pay in Philippine pesos, US dollars or Euros? Tip is to pay in US dollars so you will not be subject to currency fluctuations. Remember to check for exact amount, e.g. if it says $58, bring $58 as some embassies will not offer change.

Double check the location of the visa processing centers as their addresses on the application forms may not be updated. I went to the Dubai visa processing agency along Arnaiz Road, as specified in their application form, only to be told that they had just moved to a new office in Pasong Tamo extension.

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4. Have a standard template for letters of introduction to consuls

Embassies may require you to prepare a letter to the consul to introduce yourself and state your reason for travel. Make a standard template for this letter of introduction, save on your “Travel Docs” folder and just fill in whenever you need to apply for a visa.

This cover letter should have:

  • Header with your name, contact details and if available, your visa application reference number
  • Reason for travel
  • Duration of stay
  • Mention of other countries you have visited
  • How you will fund your trip
  • Day by day travel itinerary as an attachment

5. Make your travel agent your travel buddy

Find a travel agent you can trust and make him or her your travel buddy. She can act as a semi-one-stop shop and help you book tickets and hotels that you won’t have to pay for yet (you will want to wait till you get the visa before paying for a ticket or hotel), and facilitate travel insurance, which is now a requirement in Schengen countries.

This will (still) not guarantee you getting a visa, but it will at least ease the laborious preparation process of applying for one. – Rappler.com

Photo of typewriter from Shutterstock 

 Ana P. Santos writes about sex and gender issues. Seriously. She is also a regular contributor for Rappler apart from her DASH of SAS column, which is a spin off of her website, www.SexAndSensibilities.com (SAS). Follow her on Twitter at @iamAnaSantos.