A step by step guide to visa processes and tips for Freelancers
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You tend to question your sanity more than once when you’re trying to get a visa for 3 different countries, so you can travel to all of them for the summer. I’m that crazy person questioning my sanity.
Over time, you learn the ins and outs of the visa process and come to understand how you’ll be granted ones as well.
Coming from the Philippines, you’re only allowed to travel to 61 visa-free countries as opposed to a Spanish passport holder who can go to 175. The irony, however, comes with knowing you were a part of Spain for 300 years.
But I’m not complaining. I’ve learned not to complain with these things especially because my want to travel is strong and, well, it’s become easier for Filipinos to travel around the world now.
Aside from being able to travel constantly, I am also a freelance writer. And well, to be candid, that makes it more difficult to get first-world country visas as you cannot quickly guarantee your return to the Philippines (since many Filipinos are known to illegally overstay).
So, after a certain point, I’d have to have graduated from college and applied for a visa as a freelance writer.
I graduated a year ago. And fortunately, I haven’t been rejected a visa yet.
For this post, I’d like to say I usually tick off the ‘self-employed’ box when it comes to whatever form I should fill in, as many freelance Filipinos should do.
Before choosing visa-required countries, you must have these:
The most important one, in my opinion, is how you should have proof you’ve travelled extensively to visa-free countries (i.e. Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore). The purpose of this is to show the embassy that you’re a traveler and you do plan to return to the Philippines. On another note, you’ll also have more opportunities to travel longer in visa-free countries since Filipinos can stay up to 30 days in them.
Other than travelling, you’ll also have to show legal documents that prove you won’t migrate illegally. I hear from a lot of my friends about how afraid they are of applying for visas because they might get rejected despite having stable jobs. But in many cases, they do grant you a visa as long as you have a respectable, stable job which guarantees your necessity to return.
As a freelancer, that’s not usually the case. You have to fight tooth and nail to prove you are not a.) going to illegally overstay, and, b.) show you’re financially capable of providing for yourself while abroad.
One of the many things I did as a college student that helped me a lot this past year was to invest my money in the bank. My initial investments would almost double after a year and they serve as a good gateway for your bank account when you need to provide a certificate.
Another thing you can do is to save a lot. I know, I know. It been said time and time again. But hear me out: when you need a bank certificate, the embassy will be able to note all the transactions you’ve made for the last six months. To counter this, make sure you have at least a monthly deposit to your account, so they know you didn’t come up with the money out of nowhere.
Since I find clients on Upwork, I make sure to have a weekly deposit in my bank account from all my earnings. This way, I’ll be able to track my own income on a weekly basis and prove to the embassy that it’s a steady stream. But take note, you don’t have to do it on a weekly. Just make sure money comes in and out on a monthly basis and you’ll be fine.
After ensuring your financials are safe for the certificate, make sure they equal to certain amounts that will prove you can pay your entire stay in any country.
For the Schengen Visa, I’m going to assume you can show half a million in your bank account. Maybe more if you’re applying for a USA one. And maybe less if you’re applying for visas in Asia.
As a freelancer, it’s going to be difficult to prove you’re not leaving the country and migrating illegally to others. Which is why besides your bank statement, you’d have to go all out with your ties to the Philippines. This would additional documents such as your taxes, loans, insurance and investments, and practically anything which will prove you’re coming back.
In case you haven’t noticed it yet – the general theme for every visa process is to ensure you’re going back to your home country.
There are several countries where you don’t have to go to the embassy to submit your documents (i.e. New Zealand) while you should in others (i.e. USA). And so, if you’ve followed the requirements dutifully, you shouldn’t have a problem.
However, if you’re applying for a visa which requirements you to make an appearance, I have two ideas on how you can win that short interview. As a rule, in the embassy, I’m not allowed to go in to specifics about the entire process. Which is why I’ve decided to touch base on how to act in front of the consuls instead:
Look professional. Make sure you wear office-appropriate attire with your hair swept up (for women) or gelled (for men) and your face showing. They’re going to double check how you look during that day alongside your passport and visa application photo.
Pro tip: For women, make sure to wear subtle but elegant jewelry as this triggers the assumption of class.
Bring your winning smile. Even if you’re feeling nervous during the short interview, you also have to show that you’re not afraid of the outcome. So, smiling a lot and making direct eye contact with the consul tends to put them at ease with your application.
Pro tip: Smiling makes you seem more friendly and approachable. Make sure you to also respond as natural as possible to your interviewer.
If you’ve got everything covered, I would also like to show you my own personal hierarchy of difficulty level when it comes to applying for visas and where it’s common for Filipinos to travel to:
Asian countries: Japan, Korea
Both don’t need an appearance. The Japanese visa only takes a week max to process while the Korean visa varies from person to person. Usually, it doesn’t take longer than two weeks.
Africa: South Africa
Quite possibly one of the easiest visa processes in my experience! But one reason why it doesn’t come first is because you should submit your documents in person at the embassy. After which, you’ll need to wait 10 working days for your visa. Take note: Mondays and Fridays are considered holidays in Africa and the embassy as well.
Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
For both visas, you don’t need to personally submit your documents. Personally, I love visiting Australia and would love to go every chance I get. However, you’ll also need to bring proof as to why you won’t overstay. This could be in the form of showing all your bank accounts, investments, and net worth. New Zealand is also much stricter in the visa process as many Filipinos now tend to stay there.
Note: I was a student the first time I applied for an Australian visa and now that I’m working, I’ve been granted a 2-year multiple entry visa. So, it’s really possible
South America: Brazil, Guatemala
There are many countries in South America that don’t require a visa or only issue one upon arrival. I hear that visa requirements aren’t as difficult per country but you’ll have to apply on individual embassies as well.
Take note, if you have an active US Visa, you don’t need to apply to about half of the countries in South America including Brazil and Guatemala.
Europe: Schengen countries, UK
For Europe, it’s a little tougher than other countries but I find the entire visa process to be more relaxing than North America. With this said, you don’t need to show up to the embassy for submission. However, each country in the EU has a corresponding (but unsaid) price determinant which would allow you to enter their country.
It also depends on when you plan to apply for a visa since I was advised by a tour guide to apply for the French visa when I planned to go last summer 2016. Now, I’m being told it’s easier to enter through Spain. So, it really depends.
North America: USA, Canada
If you have an active US visa, you don’t need to make an appearance for the Canadian one. Other than that, this is the most tiring process out of them all. I can’t go into specifics but you’ll have to arrive early to the embassy just to make sure you’re not far in the line. Plus, you’ll also find out right away whether you’ve been rejected or are getting a visa.
Since I applied as a student, I have a 10-year multiple entry one for USA while I have yet to receive a multiple-entry visa for Canada, as a freelancer.
At the end of the day, you’ll have to put your best foot forward and hope for the best. Just remember, the entire point of all these visa processes is to prove that you’ll return to the Philippines and not overstay.
Note: All countries listed above require visas if you’re a Filipino. You’ll have to check with your own embassy which countries you need visas to.