MAJOR UPDATE (14 Apr 2016): Japan visa is no longer accepted for transit to Korea.
Source: http://embassy_philippines.mofa.go.kr/english/as/embassy_philippines/visa/announcement/index.jsp (Entry 30)
|Visa-free, for real!
(I initially wrote about this when I found out late last year, but this year I finally got to personally prove it!)
One day a few weeks ago, I left Narita International Airport in Tokyo to attend my high school reunion on the following day in my hometown of Manila. But this was no direct flight; I had a stopover for a few hours at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. Normally (and tragically), Philippine passport holders need a visa to visit just about any first-world country (the struggle is real), with the exception of Singapore (thanks to an alliance among Southeast Asian nations).
Since last year, I knew for a fact that in addition to flights to Jeju Island not stopping over at mainland Korea, Philippine passport holders can also enter Korea visa-free provided that: one is in possession of a valid Japan* visa and has a confirmed departing flight (not boarding pass, which means the policy isn’t exclusively for layovers; besides, what kind of layover lasts for 30 days?) to that country within 30 days. (Link to the Korean Embassy Manila website’s post below). However, I was in the opposite situation because I actually came from Japan and will be going to the Philippines, which made me unsure if I can be extended the same privilege.
*or US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand visa
|NO VISA NEEDED! Arrival and departure stamps taken at Jeju Island through a direct charter flight I took in 2014.
|VISA REQUIRED. Stamps taken at Incheon Airport, back in 2013 when there was no such policy visa-free policy yet.
As I walked toward the long lines forming at immigration, I saw an attendant dressed in a traditional Korean hanbok and approached her. She had a flag of China pinned on her outfit, so I explained my predicament to her (in Mandarin, of course.) She told me to just fall in line because the best person to know how to handle my situation would be the immigration officer (IO).
Of course, I was not about to risk embarrassing myself by facing the IO and be asked where my Korean visa was and be turned away/detained in preparation for deportation. So I asked her where the immigration office was and luckily, it was located right beside the queues. So I went inside and spoke to the first officer I got a hold of. I showed him my two boarding passes which clearly states that I arrived in Seoul from Tokyo and will be leaving Seoul for Manila.
He basically said it was fine, but for some reason was really skeptical about what I can do during a layover of over two hours. (Then again, IOs are trained to be skeptical.) He looked at the clock and asked me, “What can you do in two hours?” I wanted to respond with: “Um, Mr. Immigration Officer, you underestimate me. I think the question you should be asking is, ‘What can’t I do in two hours?’ “
So the first thing I blurted out was: “Shopping!” He replied by asking what exactly I wanted to buy. So apparently, my inquiry had turned into an interrogation. I mentioned “food, clothes…” whatever basically. He argued by saying all the duty free shops can be found within the transit area, which means not having to go through immigration. But now that I knew that I had the chance to actually visit the country, I was intent on making full use of it.
We were just going around in circles so I just thanked him and left even as he shook his head wondering why I wanted to enter his country so badly. I went back to fall in line. It was the moment of truth when I was the next one in line.
As usual, I handed over my passport and my onward boarding pass. I didn’t have my Japan visa since it was on my old one, so the IO asked to see a visa or residence card. (FYI: having only a tourist visa works just fine, and having a residence card implies that you have a visa.) They took a photo and biometrics, stamped and wrote “transit from Japan to Philippines” on my passport, and I was set free! I couldn’t believe it!
I got the stamp! Not that it matters, but let’s do an analysis of my passport stamps anyway for the benefit of those who would want to look further into it. (From top left going down):
– I departed from Narita Airport in Tokyo on May 29
– I arrived in Incheon Airport in Seoul on the same day
—– I could have stayed for 30 days, until June 28
—– “TS” (Transit Status) “il” -> “pil,” written in Korean, which stands for Japan (ilbon) -> Philippines (pilipin)
– I left Korea on the same day
– I arrive in Manila Airport (NAIA) on the same day
– New record: I can now say that I’ve been in three countries in one day! Haha
The bottom line is: you can enter Korea visa-free (for at most 30 days) as long as one of the above-mentioned countries is your origin OR destination, with an applicable visa of course. Since I was going to Manila from Tokyo, it was pretty obvious that I already had a Japan visa.
|HELLO KOREA 2015! I never thought I’d visit Korea three years in a row!
Then again, I said that about Singapore too. 😛
Actual link to the Korean Embassy Manila web page here