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.

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

Multiple-entry Japan visa

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 a small business, renting out motorcycles, but unfortunately, it was not a registered business. 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.

Freelancers can still be granted visas provided that they meet the requirements.

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.

The amount in your bank account should be proportional to the length of your stay.

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

Embassies are more likely to approve application if you have a clear, strong relationship with the inviter than if you just met them through the Internet.

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

Canadian Visa Multiple Entry. Previous visas like this certainly help.

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.


Who knows?

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. A friend of mine 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.


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Yoshke Dimen

Yoshke Dimen

Storyteller at Yoshke.com
Yoshke is a part-time digital marketing consultant, part-time travel blogger, and full-time dreamer. He has three passions in life: social media, travel, and --- wait for it --- world peace. Yoshke has won 3 PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS and received 9 nominations. Learn more about his personal journeys at Yoshke.com.
Yoshke Dimen

Comments

  1. sven says:

    Very good article. I have worked in an embassy for a while and can confirm what is written here.

    However, there is something you should keep in mind: during peak season embassies (shengen countries) have about 5 min per visa application.

    So since the printing process takes around two minutes there are about 3 min to check the documents.

    If you know that you will understand that the most important thing is to not stand out. Means have all the documents and make them look unsuspicious.

    — Some parts deleted —

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Sven! Thanks so much for sharing this.

      I hope you won’t mind that I deleted the last sentence of your comment because it might send the wrong idea to readers, haha. But thanks again for sharing that.

  2. Jessica C. says:

    hi! i would like to ask a question, we applied for a Japan Visa and only put 5 days in our itenerary when we plan to really stay for 8 days. Do you think, Is that okay? Our visa is a single entry valid for 60 days.

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Jessica, yes, it’s okay. Standard Japan Visa allows you to stay up to 15 days. :)

  3. Kaye says:

    Hello!

    I’m a business owner and also do work online as a Digital Marketing Consultant. Should I put both on the application or stick to one?

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Kaye, generally it’s best to stick to one, so pick one na sa tingin mo mas malaki ang chances mo or mas maraming relevant documents na masusubmit. Mas complicated kasi pag andaming isusubmit.

      Pero if weak pareho, dun lang sa tingin ko may sense na magsubmit ng pareho.

      • Kaye says:

        I thought of that, too. I’ll go with the business since complete naman the requirements and it’s somehow established na.

        Thanks for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate it!

  4. Joan says:

    Hi good day!

    Travelled to countries na HK Macau and Taiwan.. All not requiring a visa kaya knakabahan po ako sa japan trvel with a friend on feb 2019.. Pnakaworry ko po is ung bank cert.. Question po i have 2 bank accounts one where I get my pay from every 2wks.. And usually nssimot ko sya.. Or ung isang bank account na once in a blue moon ko lang lagyan mostly 4 -5 digits lang po nggng laman.. Mdalas withdrawal pa.. Pro im planning magipon npo starting this sept pra mkta cash flow.. Sang bank acct po mas mlaki chance ko maapprove?ung with monthly salary or ung savings pro mostly wla dn po syado cash flow? TIA =)

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Joan, if bumababa sa 4 digits yung isang account mo, malabo din yun. Unless nga mag-iipon ka since matagal pa naman ang Feb.

      Bank cert lang naman ang hinihingi ng Japan Embassy, hindi bank statement, so hindi makikita yung mga transaction details. Ang most likely lalabas lang ay yung balance, maturity, and ADB. So kahit alin dyan sa dalawang accounts mo, pwede, basta mag-ipon ka na. May time pa naman.

  5. johanna vidad says:

    Thank you for your article! very informative and also sets my expectations in applying for a visa.

  6. johanna says:

    hi! im going to apply for an australian visa. okay na po ba mag submit lang ng coe, payslips, and itr? or kelangan po talaga na may bank statements? i have been employed for 11 yrs na po and still employed with the company. il just be visiting for 8 days.
    another question po, how much po kaya yung ideal pocket money for an 8- day trip in australia? because u mentioned po sa europe it’s about 120 euros per day.

    thanks po in advance!

  7. Elma salen says:

    Hi po, i just got denied in my visa application for south korea last sept 26, i have submitted all the requirements for employee, with itr, bank cert and statement of account, coe, all intact. Ive already traveled to hk last 2 years ago, i wonder why nreject ako., is there any way to re appeal po? Thank u

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Elma, according to some members of our Support Group, you can apply via the Korean Consulate in Cebu even if you’re denied in Manila. Just hire a travel agency in Cebu to submit the docs for you. But make sure you have additional documents to support your case.

  8. Elma salen says:

    Thank u so much sir yoshke, i have now a contact person in cebu, hope for a positive result. Your response is a big help for me to know na its possible to re appeal.thank u

  9. E says:

    Hello, I already commented in another post but forgot to ask another question. So here it goes:
    My boyfriend and I are planning to visit France (hopefully) next year. We’re not exactly the travelling type-I’ve been to Macau and HK twice, he hasn’t been out of the country. We want to go to France to visit our favorite authors’ graves, do the Van Gogh Walk in Arles, mostly we’ll be in Provence. These sites are not the more famous sites [for Pinoy tourists, based on my googling], too. My question is, can we, at the very least, explain in the cover letter why we want to visit France despite us not having a passport filled with stamps? Funding and rootedness in PH are not an issue for us.

    Your blog has been very helpful kahit na next year pa plano naming, I’m saving all the info got from here.

    Thank you!

  10. Jen says:

    Hello, Im planning to visit canada. Pwede po ba gamitin yung business name ng In-laws ko and yung husband ko meron maliit na tindahan. Kakaresigned ko lng last May dahil naoperahan ako. Please advise.

    Thanks

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      It has to be named after you. You should be the registered owner of the business.

  11. Jaypee says:

    Hello po, i just wanna know because im planning to travel in xi’an china for 4-5days ideally magkano po dapat un laman ng bank account to use for the visa application, i closed my deposit account so.im.planning to use my card where i get my salary from, but just like the other reader i really use it for withrawing the money but since im planning to travel on december so im thinking not to use it for any withrawal transactions up until the time i apply for chinese visa. And super helpful ng blogs nyo i have been following you guys whenever i travel to some countries.

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Jaypee, di namin alam magkano dapat ang laman. May mga nagsasabi na nag-apply sila for Chinese visa na around 50K na naapprove, pero may mga travel agencies na ang sabi dapat daw minimum 100K. So it’s hard to tell kung magkano ba talaga dapat. :(

  12. Joan says:

    Hello po tnong q lng po plano ksi ng boyfriend ko mg visit ako sa country this 2019 khit 2weeks and ng travel ndin po kmI ng non visa country anu po ung dpat eh prepare ko po salamat

  13. Nikki says:

    Hi,
    I’ll be applying for a japan visa this week for my Nov 2018 trip. I opened a new account last March 2018 where I’ve been depositing my savings. Would it be fine with the embassy if my account started just last March? It now amounts to 100,000 and I’ll be staying for 6 days. Thank you for your help!

    • Yoshke Dimen says:

      Hi Nikki, hard to say, but I’d give it a try if I were in your shoes. That’s just me though.

      • Nikki says:

        Thanks for the advice Yoshke! Will surely give it a try. I got my bank certificate today from BDO and they only have 1 standard format. It only shows the current balance to date. I can’t customized it to have an ADB nor a Created Date. Oh well, it won’t hurt to try. It’s just me being anxious haha :) Thanks again!

        • Yoshke Dimen says:

          Hi Nikki, I just checked my BDO bank cert and yeah, you’re right. The ADB and maturity date are no longer indicated. You should be fine, when bank cert is concerned. :)

  14. Harry says:

    Hi. I applied for a Korean Visa and part of it is the declaration of my out-of-the-country travels for the past 5 years. I have indicated United Arab Emirates and Malaysia in my application. Originally, I submitted by application including my old passport since the stamps for my Malaysia travel including other countries (more than 5 years ago) are there.

    Since the application for Korean visa is already through agencies, I asked my friend to process my application. However, 2 days after the application, my friend told me that the agency gave back my old passport. I am now worried that my application might be denied since I have no other proof that I traveled to Malaysia aside from my old passport.

    I am currently on my 8th year in the company where I am working and am already in a manager position. My Bank Statement and Bank Certificate are also quite okay for the application.

    According to the agency, the estimated date of release of the result is on November 15, 2018. I am really really worried.

    I hope you could respond to my inquiry. Thank you!

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