This will come as a surprise to many that the Philippines offers visa on arrival to over 150 countries, but India is NOT one of them. If you’re an Indian and do not have a valid US/ UK/ Schengen/ Japanese/ Australian visa on your passport, then you will have to apply for it well in advance.
My experience with the Philippine Embassy in New Delhi was pleasant and smooth. I had started to prepare the documentation for the visa well in advance so that there wouldn’t be a last minute rush, and it paid off.
Time taken for visa processing: 6 days (including weekend and public holiday).
Documents presented: Application form, Passport, photographs, return tickets, hotel reservations, bank statements for past 6 months, ITR (Income Tax Returns) copies, and visa processing fee (demand draft for Rs. 2700 each)
We reached the Philippine embassy in New Delhi on a Thursday before 9 am to beat the rush. Having visited the American embassy the year before for my mom’s US visa, I had anticipated a huge crowd and a real struggle to get inside the embassy just to submit a few documents and answer a few questions. But we were in for a surprise; there was no one else at the gate, except the guard, who let us right in.
Once inside the gate, we saw a white building with no entrance; only small window behind which a lady sat. We handed over all the documents and the application form and waited for her to process them. The first question she asked was “Why do you want to visit the Philippines?”
For tourism, of course, I told her so. She didn’t understand, maybe because of my Indian accent. “For holiday”, Abhinash repeated. “Ok”, came her reply.
She ruffled through the rest of the papers and asked “Which places to you want to visit?” I told her we planned to visit El Nido, Cebu and Manila- there was no real need to tell her all other less popular places, as I recalled our experience at the Thai immigration.
*Short Bangkok story* When we reached the immigration in the Bangkok airport, the official asked us where we wanted to go and we replied Koh Lipe. He had no idea where it was! He went to over to his buddy and asked him where it was, and he didn’t have a clue either! We just prayed that we don’t get sent back to India because of this. Thankfully, he let us through after thinking for a while.
So to avoid those kinda questions, we just stuck to the main tourist attractions- Cebu, Manila, El Nido. We presented hotel reservations in these areas (we booked through Booking.com for 100% refundable hotel rooms). We did not present the within-Philippines flight bookings as they did not ask for it. Once the interview was complete, we were handed a receipt showing the date of passport collection- 6 days after. They usually take 3 working days to process visa applications.
On the day of passport collection, we reached well on time (between 3 and 5 pm). There were 8 other people before us, out of which 2 were denied visas because they had visited the Philippines multiple times before in a short span of time (yes, the embassy officials said so!). When our turn came, we were slightly pessimistic and worried that our visa application would be rejected. But we opened the passport and there it was- a beautiful Philippine visa stamp! We were in and out of the embassy in 15 minutes.
Tips for applying for a Philippine visa if you’re an Indian
- If you have a valid US/ UK/ Schengen/ Japanese/ Australian visa, don’t bother applying for a Philippine visa in advance, even if you want to stay there longer than 14 days. You can get your visa extended in Manila. Applying in advance will unnecessarily complicate things.
- Do not present any unnecessary documents. Give only what you’re asked.
- Make sure to have proper hotel and flight bookings. If you are booking an onward flight out of the Philippines then present the visa for that country too (recommended).
- Book only 100% refundable hotel rooms and refundable flights.
- No need to book Philippine domestic flights in advance. The Philippine visa application does not require you to do so.
- Stick to main cities/ tourist attractions for documentation and interview purposes as they are easily identifiable by anyone.
- Lastly, don’t rush- do everything patiently, and do your research well!