August 08, 2012

The visa process [+ Tips!]

With just a little more than a week left before I head off to Korea, I recently received my visa in the mail. I submitted the application to the Korean Consulate General (KCG) on O'ahu on August 02 and received it today, August 07. Thankfully, it only took two to three days to process and a little less than a week to return to me (over the weekend and with express mail).

The flat-rate express mail cost roughly $19 each way plus the D-2 student visa processing fee of $50 (for US Permanent residents [fees taken from the Honolulu KCG]) plus tax came out to rough total of $89. That's a nice chunk of money, don't you think? I did end up saving myself roughly $350 though. How? Well that brings me to my first tip:

Tip 1: Call the respective consulate that deals with visa issuance for the country you'll be going to and ask very specific questions regarding visa requirements.

The websites usually give several general requirements for all visa applications as well as different requirements for specific visas (i.e student visas, employment visas, research visas, etc.). According to the KCG website, the student visa has extra requirements which include the admissions letter issued from your host school, a certificate of bank balance, and a copy of your most recent diploma or school transcript. I'm going to break these three categories down a little (with a few accompanying tips).

Tip 2: Check your acceptance and admissions letter carefully, making sure expected dates of departure and return are correct.

I received my acceptance letter from Sogang University near the end of June, roughly two months before my departure date. I was so excited to have finally received it that I only scanned the letter and quickly stowed it away in a safe place. It wasn't I was preparing to apply for the visa that I really looked at the letter. I noticed that it stated I was accepted into the Fall 2012 semester, though I had originally applied and had been accepted for the academic year. I eventually emailed my contact person of exchange program in Sogang (two weeks after I received the letter) and she confirmed that I was scheduled to attend the full year and that they needed to reissue me the proper acceptance letter for the visa. I was both relieved and then worried that it might take long for the re-issuance to get to me. I eventually received it around August 01, a good month after, and only fifteen days away from my expected departure date!

The original, misprinted letter
And the new letter (it's a little blurry)

Along with the acceptance letter came an admissions letter. The admissions letter informs the consulate your purpose for being in your respective destination as well as the perpetuated cost of living determined by your host school. I believe this is what determines how much money you need in your bank account in order for the consulate to determine whether or not you're able to support yourself in a foreign country. You may need to deposit the right amount into your own bank account, or print out your parent/guardian's account with the proper balance along with a written and signed letter that states that s/he will be financing your expenses. What it doesn't say on the KCG website is that you may also show them your Financial Aid documents if that's how you plan on financing yourself just as long as the printout has your name and the amount you'll be financed for the semesters and/or year.

As mentioned earlier, the KCG website also states that you'd need to present your current transcript along with your application. This was somewhat bad news to me because it takes a few days for my school to process these requests and coupled with mail out dates, I was about to stress out! I just didn't have enough days left! Thankfully, during my phone call with KCG, they had repeated what the requirements were and they didn't include the transcript. Another load off my mind.

But wait... How did I save $350 by calling and asking questions? Well, for me being a US Permanent Resident, I had extra requirements that I needed to fulfill. Pretty simple, only two extras: my US permanent residence card and my flight itinerary. My friends (who will also be studying in Korea) and I had already scheduled our tickets with our return date expected to be in April. Unfortunately, school in Korea actually ends late in June but we had to book our flights way in advanced so April was the only date we could schedule at the time. I called Hawaiian Airlines asking how much it would be to change my return date it would've cost me about $350! I really didn't have the finances to spend that much so I made sure to ask KCG if it was really necessary to include it with my application. And it turns out it's not! Another load off of my shoulders. Which brings me to another tip, and one you should already know.

Tip 3: Plan ahead. Way ahead.

Not with just plane tickets but especially with the visa. I'm lucky to have the nearest consulate only an island away and it only took about a week, but I've read that they can take weeks to get back to you. And as you read, I didn't have weeks to wait. But even though I had everything planned out, I was met with unfortunate circumstances which leads me to my last tip.

Tip 4: Pray. Meditate. Relax. Breath.

Even with everything neatly planned out, you're bound to met with misfortune. But it's important to remember to stay calm and believe that everything will turn out alright. And if it doesn't, it's okay to be upset but you can't dwell on it for too long.

tl;dr So here's a recap of the tips just in case you didn't want to read my story. But I do hope these are helpful!

Tip 1: Contact people/representatives when questions arrive.
Tip 2: Carefully analyze all documents for proper dates and information.
Tip 3: Plan ahead.
Tip 4: Relax.


  1. Awesome idea of providing the visa tips, because many people facing problems in getting visa.

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  2. Im eagerly waiting to know the tips in getting visa. This article helped me by providing the tips.

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    1. Glad I could be of some help! I was also very confused about the visa process because sometimes websites aren't very clear about everything. I know what I wrote isn't the whole process but it's got the basics. :)

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