Applying for a visa is nerve-wracking, even for us. I have done 20 applications at various embassies over the past 5 years, ranging from Korean visa to Australian visa to Schengen visa to Canadian visa. You might think I should be used to it by now. But the truth is, I still get extremely nervous every single time. Thankfully, I have never been denied. And I hope a first time would never come.
We know we’re not alone in this. Many of the questions we receive are from anxious readers sharing with us the list of documents they plan to submit and then asking us what we think their approval chances are. Will my visa application be denied? Will it be approved?
To be honest, it is difficult for us to give an opinion on and impossible to assess any application because it is based on a whole bunch of factors. The embassies consider several things before making a decision.
I think it’s important that you understand why embassies and consulates screen applicants and have a visa policy in the first place. Visa policies are there primarily to protect the national interest of the country. Tourism-wise, their usual concerns are visitors overstaying and working illegally. It is not uncommon that tourists with a short-term tourist or visit visa decide to stay much longer for employment or other reasons, a clear violation of the rules. Filipinos even developed a colloquial term for it: TNT, which is short for “tago nang tago,” referring to the act of constantly hiding from police or immigration authorities. This prompts embassies in the Philippines to be much stricter in screening tourists. It’s not that they prohibit longer stays or working there. It’s just that you must have the proper papers for it. Having visa policies in place also helps address other serious concerns like human trafficking and threats to national security.
Most reasons for visa rejection are related to overstaying. Thus, it is important to establish that you don’t have ANY reason to stay longer while still being honest about everything. So here are the common reasons why a visa application is rejected and what you can do to prevent them.
Note, however, that I don’t work for any embassy or consulate. All these are speculations based on the patterns and similarities we see in our applications, conversations with travel agents, and experiences of our friends, readers, and members of our Support Group. Much of the evaluation process isn’t visible to outsiders. At the end of the day, it’s an exercise in making educated guesses.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Incomplete, Fake or Dubious Documents
Every visa application involves a set of requirements that must be submitted by the applicant. The problem arises when applicants don’t have some of these documents. Some choose to submit fake or forged documents, which is the biggest no-no. Some docs like birth certificates are hard to fake, but things like Certificate of Employment, pay slips, and bank statements can easily be produced. But DON’T DO IT.
If caught, your application will automatically go straight to the trash bin. It reflects your character. It shows your willingness to break the rules, which is exactly what they DON’T want in their country. Some embassies do verify documents. The Korean Embassy sometimes calls the company you work for to confirm the details in your Certificate of Employment. For embassies that require flight reservation, they may check the booking code of the flight to confirm it exists and is under your name.
If a certain requirement doesn’t apply to you, don’t fake it. Find alternatives. For example, most OFWs who are back in the country won’t be able to produce an ITR released by BIR because they didn’t work here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t submit anything. You can submit that country’s equivalent tax document.
There are also workarounds. For instance, if you’re applying for a Japanese visa and you don’t have an ITR or bank certificate, you can find a guarantor, ideally immediate family. This way, the burden shifts to the sponsor and you just need to submit their documents instead (among others). Take note that this is only for Japanese Embassy. Most other embassies will still ask for your financial documents even if your trip is sponsored.
Bottomline, submit a complete set of documents. If you can’t, don’t fake anything. If you can’t find a workaround or alternative, it’s probably not a good time for you to apply for a visa yet.
However, having complete requirements doesn’t mean approval. They will inspect the documents and must find them satisfactory.
Incorrect or Unjustified Visa Type
If you’re traveling for business, go for a business visa. If traveling purely for leisure, go for a tourist visa. Don’t apply for a tourist visa if your purpose is clearly for business.
Aside from that, don’t be too ambitious because it’s too risky. One of the most memorable messages I received was from someone asking my opinion as to why her Korean application was denied. I asked her a few questions and it became pretty clear early on. She was visiting for the first time and had very little savings in her bank account, but she applied for a 90-day stay in Korea.
Applying for a longer stay especially if it’s your first time raises a lot of questions. Why would you need to stay that long? Would you be able to afford it? What about your job here? Don’t you have strong ties in the Philippines? These questions tick a lot of items on the hmmm-what’s-up-with-that list.
Another incident I remember is a guy who applied for a multiple-entry Schengen visa. He was invited by someone in Europe but he insisted on applying for a multiple-entry visa even though nothing in his itinerary merited it. His application was rejected.
Generally, if it’s your first time applying for a visa at that embassy, go for single entry unless it’s completely justified. When we applied at the German and Greek Embassies for the first time, we had to clearly prove that we would be exiting the Schengen Zone a couple of times, which called for a multiple-entry visa.
Some embassies would still give you a single-entry if they think you don’t deserve it. When I applied for a double-entry Chinese visa, I was still granted a single-entry one. I was lucky because some embassies would just reject it altogether.
Unclear or Unjustified Purpose of Travel
Why do you want to travel to that country? It’s one of the most basic things asked when applying for a visa. It’s in every application form. Are you traveling simply for sightseeing? Will you be visiting friends or family? Will you be attending a seminar or conference? Will you be meeting a client?
Whatever your reason is, it has to be clear and honest. Honest, yes, because you will be asked to prove it. For tourism, you’ll be asked to submit an itinerary or daily schedule. Some embassies will ask you to provide hotel and tour bookings. If your itinerary is far from being realistic, you’re gonna have a problem.
If visiting a friend or family, you will be asked to submit an invitation letter and sometimes guarantee letter and other documents. Other embassies will also ask to prove your relationship. For immediate family, birth certificates often do the trick. For friends or partners, it can get trickier. For Schengen visa, for example, you might be asked to submit pictures together and conversation records. If you have a specific reason — you’re attending a wedding or reunion — mention it. It keeps your purpose grounded, personal, and believable.
Insufficient Proof of Reason to Return
Remember, embassies fear that you would be overstaying, so you need to prove that you have every reason to return after the trip. It’s sometimes called “proof of rootedness.”
Proving your rootedness is basically showing them that you have strong ties in the Philippines and you can’t just disappear. Here are the most common forms of proof of rootedness:
- Employment. They look at your job description, salary, and tenure. If you’ve been with that company for a long time, that’s a good sign for them. This is why they require that these details be included in your Certificate of Employment. This is also why those who are unemployed or who have no stable job are most likely to refused a visa. Embassies fear that you would be working in their country.
- Business. If you own a business in the Philippines, even if it’s a small one, it’s a good proof of rootedness. You can submit business registration documents. Some embassies even ask for the financial reports.
- Properties. If you own a piece of land, a house, condo unit, or even a car, you can submit a copy of the title or deed of sale.
Shaky Employment Status
Another case I will never forget involves a guy who wanted to visit Europe. He had ok funds in his bank account but he couldn’t prove that he was employed. He said he was manning a small sari-sari store and he practically owned it. I said that’s great and that he should submit registration papers. He said that his problem was that all store docs were under the name of his grandmother. That’s bad because on paper, his grandma owns the store, not him.
He then said that he also ran another small business, but unfortunately it was not registered with DTI, BIR or any government agency. He asked if he could write that down as employment in the form. I told him it would be impossible to convince the embassy without documentation.
He remained pretty optimistic about the whole thing. He said he would just explain it in a cover letter. I told him it would very risky because he had no proof. None of the papers had his name. But he said he would still give it a shot.
Of course, his application was denied.
Imagine yourself on the embassy’s side for a minute. Would you believe someone who would tell you he had a job but no documents to prove it? Embassies cannot just take your word for it. They need solid proof.
For freelancers, this is the most challenging part of the application. I was a freelancer when I applied for a Schengen visa via German Embassy. Even when I have business registration docs and ITR, they still asked to see my contracts with clients. Imagine if you had none at all?
If there are documents that you can’t provide, supply alternatives. Submit a copy of the contracts and invoices. Get letters from clients complete with contact details so the embassy could easily get in touch with them to confirm.
Questionable Financial Records
Obviously, you need to prove that you can financially support the trip and not end up in the streets after. Hence, they need to see your proof of income and your bank documents.
How much money should you have in your bank account? Most embassies do not explicitly state an amount. But in general, the unofficial rule of thumb is to add the cost of airfare, hotels, and then daily travel provisions, which is different per embassy. For example, the French embassy requires 120 euro per day. In my travel circles, most follow the P10,000 per day rule. I have friends who have been granted Japanese, Korean, and Australian visa even though they have only around P50,000 in their account because they only applied for a stay of 3-4 days.
The point is, how much you have in the bank should be proportional to your stay. Don’t apply for a 30-day or 60-day visa if you only have P50,000 in your account. That just doesn’t make sense.
Some embassies like the Japanese require only a bank certificate. Others like the Korean and Schengen countries’ embassies want to see both the bank certificate AND bank statements. It’s not enough that you have sufficient funds. They also look at account maturity and transaction history.
You see, some applicants and illegal recruiters try to game the system by either opening an account or depositing a large amount just for the purpose of application and then withdrawing that money after they get the visa. Because of this, embassies want to see the account activities for the past 3-6 months. It should present a steady cash flow. If your account history shows something unusual like a one-time big deposit, it will raise a red flag.
A friend of mine wanting to attend an event in Europe was refused a Schengen Visa by the Norwegian Embassy because she had little savings. But my friend made an appeal and showed that aside from her savings, she also had a Paypal account with some money in it. She printed the transaction history and submitted it together with a letter. Her appeal was approved.
Weak Ties to Sponsor or Inviter
Many first-time applicants are under the impression that just because they are invited by someone living in that country means it is easier to be granted a short-term visa. Oh no, that’s not true. Often, knowing someone in that country can actually work against you.
Why? Because knowing someone in that country gives you a strong reason to overstay and not come back. Having an inviter or sponsor abroad doesn’t mean the embassy will not look at your rootedness, employment and financial situation. If anything, they will take a closer look and subject your application to further scrutiny. This is why most Schengen countries zero in on questions like: Do you know anyone in Europe? Do you know anyone in the UK? How are you related to them?
It also complicates things. If you’re invited by someone, you’ll have more documents to submit, some have to be secured by the inviting party abroad. If the relationship appears weak or too distant, it can affect your chances. You should be able to show the embassy why the sponsor is willing to commit to shoulder your trip or be responsible for you. If you just met the inviter online, it will be extremely difficult to convince the embassy because the proof of relationship is weak and unreliable.
You will also have to prove your relationship with them. For Schengen countries, you will be asked to submit photos, conversation records (phone bills, etc.), and other evidence.
Weak Travel History
Sometimes, applying for a visa feels like applying for a job. All the stamps and visas on your passport? That’s your resume.
Having a strong travel history certainly gives you an advantage. It shows the embassy that they should trust you. It’s like saying, “Look, I’ve been to all these countries and I have returned each time and never overstayed.”
Of course, having all those stamps isn’t a guarantee. In the same way, having no stamps at all doesn’t mean your application will be denied right away. But a good history definitely builds your case. That’s why it’s always a good idea to visit visa-free countries first before visa destinations.
If you have a record of overstaying, you have a problem. It will be much harder for you to convince them to trust you again. Hence, never ever break your visa restrictions!
Inconsistent Information and Interview
First up, take the application form seriously. It is the most important document when applying for a visa. It contains the most essential information about you and your trip, and all the other documents will be run against it. Make sure you have spelled everything correctly. Make sure you follow instructions. Most importantly, make sure everything is accurate, truthful, and consistent.
If you write on the form that you’re staying for only 4 days, don’t submit a 2-week itinerary. If you write you’re self-employed, provide business documents. If you write you’re invited by someone, present the necessary paperwork.
That’s critical if an interview is mandatory. We always say, be confident during interview. The truth is, it’s easier said than done. It can be terrifying sometimes, haha. Under all that pressure, it’s easy to buckle. Hence, you have to be prepared for it. You need to be familiar with every nook and cranny of your trip. That’s why it’s best to be heavily involved in the planning so you get to memorize the details by heart.
It’s also why you have to be honest all the time. If you’re telling the truth, it’s easy to be consistent. No matter how the interviewer twists the questions, you will have the same answer because it’s the truth. It’s not difficult to see who’s lying and making up stories. One tough question about a detail can make your facade crumble.
If you feel like you have to lie during the application, it probably means you’re not ready for this trip.
The 10th reason? We don’t know.
You can be adequately prepared for it, but sometimes, we just don’t know what the eff is going to happen.
I have heard about cases wherein I just couldn’t figure out what the hell went wrong. I have a friend who has a great travel history, financial records, rootedness proof. Everything was great, in my opinion. And yet her application was denied. I also know another who was applying for a Japanese visa for the third time. He meets all the items of someone who would surely be guaranteed approval, but was refused a visa, too.
We were thinking, was it just a mistake? Was the assessor having a bad day when they evaluated their application? Haha. It’s just perplexing.
Then, I also have another friend who had never been to any visa country, had shaky finances and was new to her job, but she was granted a multiple-entry visa!
As you know, Vins and I often travel together, so when it comes to travel history, we’re on equal standing. In one of our visa applications, we applied at the same time. When it comes to all the other requirements, Vins is in a much better place than me. He had a full time job; I was a freelancer. He had more money in the bank, more stable employment history, more properties under his name. Naturally, I was more nervous. Guess what, my application was approved 2 weeks earlier than his. Haha. He was even called to submit more documents. It boggles the mind. LOL.
In another incident, I applied for an Australian visa with friends. They were visiting for the first time so I even assisted them through the process. I had been to Australia before, and my travel history and other requirements are definitely much stronger. My friends were granted a multiple entry visa. I was granted single entry. We were all shocked.
Really, sometimes, you just never know. But don’t count on these hiccups. These are more exceptions than rules. Always be prepared.
Other Useful Visa Posts
- Korean Visa Requirements
- Japan Visa Requirements for Tourists
- Japan Visa Requirements for Visiting Friends or Relatives
- Australian Visa Online Application
- Canadian Visa Online Application
- French Schengen Visa Requirements
- German Schengen Visa Application Process
- Greek Schengen Visa Application Process
- Indian Visa Online Application
- Turkish Visa Online Application
- UAE Visa Application