Visa-Free Entry to Korea for Philippine Passports - Confirmed!

MAJOR UPDATE (14 Apr 2016): Japan visa is no longer accepted for transit to Korea.
Source: http://embassy_philippines.mofa.go.kr/english/as/embassy_philippines/visa/announcement/index.jsp (Entry 30)
Visa-free, for real!

(I initially wrote about this when I found out late last year, but this year I finally got to personally prove it!)

One day a few weeks ago, I left Narita International Airport in Tokyo to attend my high school reunion on the following day in my hometown of Manila. But this was no direct flight; I had a stopover for a few hours at Seoul's Incheon International Airport. Normally (and tragically), Philippine passport holders need a visa to visit just about any first-world country (the struggle is real), with the exception of Singapore (thanks to an alliance among Southeast Asian nations). Since last year, I knew for a fact that in addition to flights to Jeju Island not stopping over at mainland Korea, Philippine passport holders can also enter Korea visa-free provided that: one is in possession of a valid Japan* visa and has a confirmed departing flight (not boarding pass, which means the policy isn't exclusively for layovers; besides, what kind of layover lasts for 30 days?) to that country within 30 days. (Link to the Korean Embassy Manila website's post below). However, I was in the opposite situation because I actually came from Japan and will be going to the Philippines, which made me unsure if I can be extended the same privilege.

*or US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand visa

NO VISA NEEDED! Arrival and departure stamps taken at Jeju Island through a direct charter flight I took in 2014.

VISA REQUIRED. Stamps taken at Incheon Airport, back in 2013 when there was no such policy visa-free policy yet.

As I walked toward the long lines forming at immigration, I saw an attendant dressed in a traditional Korean hanbok and approached her. She had a flag of China pinned on her outfit, so I explained my predicament to her (in Mandarin, of course.) She told me to just fall in line because the best person to know how to handle my situation would be the immigration officer (IO).

Of course, I was not about to risk embarrassing myself by facing the IO and be asked where my Korean visa was and be turned away/detained in preparation for deportation. So I asked her where the immigration office was and luckily, it was located right beside the queues. So I went inside and spoke to the first officer I got a hold of. I showed him my two boarding passes which clearly states that I arrived in Seoul from Tokyo and will be leaving Seoul for Manila.

He basically said it was fine, but for some reason was really skeptical about what I can do during a layover of over two hours. (Then again, IOs are trained to be skeptical.) He looked at the clock and asked me, "What can you do in two hours?" I wanted to respond with: "Um, Mr. Immigration Officer, you underestimate me. I think the question you should be asking is, 'What can't I do in two hours?' "

So the first thing I blurted out was: "Shopping!" He replied by asking what exactly I wanted to buy. So apparently, my inquiry had turned into an interrogation. I mentioned "food, clothes..." whatever basically. He argued by saying all the duty free shops can be found within the transit area, which means not having to go through immigration. But now that I knew that I had the chance to actually visit the country, I was intent on making full use of it.

We were just going around in circles so I just thanked him and left even as he shook his head wondering why I wanted to enter his country so badly. I went back to fall in line. It was the moment of truth when I was the next one in line.

As usual, I handed over my passport and my onward boarding pass. I didn't have my Japan visa since it was on my old one, so the IO asked to see a visa or residence card. (FYI: having only a tourist visa works just fine, and having a residence card implies that you have a visa.) They took a photo and biometrics, stamped and wrote "transit from Japan to Philippines" on my passport, and I was set free! I couldn't believe it! 



I got the stamp! Not that it matters, but let's do an analysis of my passport stamps anyway for the benefit of those who would want to look further into it. (From top left going down): 
- I departed from Narita Airport in Tokyo on May 29
- I arrived in Incheon Airport in Seoul on the same day
----- I could have stayed for 30 days, until June 28
----- "TS" (Transit Status) "il" -> "pil," written in Korean, which stands for Japan (ilbon) -> Philippines (pilipin)
- I left Korea on the same day
- I arrive in Manila Airport (NAIA) on the same day
- New record: I can now say that I've been in three countries in one day! Haha

The bottom line is: you can enter Korea visa-free (for at most 30 days) as long as one of the above-mentioned countries is your origin OR destination, with an applicable visa of course. Since I was going to Manila from Tokyo, it was pretty obvious that I already had a Japan visa.

I had just a little over two hours in Seoul, and I was determined to make the most of it!

HELLO KOREA 2015! I never thought I'd visit Korea three years in a row!
Then again, I said that about Singapore too. :P

Actual link to the Korean Embassy Manila web page here (bottom part).


Comments

  1. Nice blog whats the stamp on the next page May 31?

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  2. Thanks! They are for the return flight two days later.

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  3. Hi! My family will also be having a layover at Incheon airport for 6 hours. Ive read in different blogs that IOs dont let Filipino citizens get out the airport. But i still have my hopes up. Its a return flight from Tokyo to Manila (so we have Japan visa). All of us also have one-entry visa which we used March 2015. Do you think that will help? We're planning to explore Incheon on our own instead of the transit tours they offer. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Pat! If it's a layover in Korea to or from Japan, it is assumed you have a Japan visa - just like I did! So you don't have to worry about it, just tell the IO you're on transit and they will let you through :) It doesn't matter if you've had a previous visa to Korea though.

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  4. I got through it on a breeze! I have a multiple entry Japan visa and heaps of stamps/visa from Africa and South America. I was able to join the free tours arranged at the airport. No further questions... Yayyy!!

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    Replies
    1. OMG awesome! Feel free to share your blog post :)

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  5. Hello,

    I just wanted to ask,kailangan ng friend ko pumunta ng jeju, pero wala ng flight so ang nangyari manila-incheon-jeju. Kailangan pa ba niya ng visa?

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    Replies
    1. Hi, transferring in mainland Korea for a domestic flight means going through immigration so YES, he/she needs one.

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  6. Hi wanna ask something. I will be leaving philippines next year for toronto via korea (seoul). My concern is, do i need a transit visa or none. Since my ticket is booked from cebu to seoul to toronto. Thanks for shedding light. God bless!

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    Replies
    1. Hi! As mentioned in the post, if you have a Japan or US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand visa, you don't need a transit visa. You may check back with the nearest Korean embassy for the latest update to be sure. Enjoy your trip!

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  7. Hi thanks for your post. Anyway, I just want to ask if it's ok to transit in Seoul even if my Japan visa is "student visa"? As far as I know they will only allow if u have permanent visa from the said countries. Please advise. I'm leaving tomorow from Nagoya-Seoul then Seoul to Paris.

    Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Hi, actually even just a tourist visa is fine so student visa should be fine too. Good luck!

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  9. Hi! Thanks for writing this. I will be flying from Manila to Frankfurt with stopover in Incheon. Do you think they will ask me to have a tourist visa? Just wondering since you failed to include Schengen visa or EU national visa in the list? Thank you!

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    1. Hi, I didn't include those in my post due to the fact that they were not on the list by Korean immigration. In this case, you won't be able to have the visa-free transit. But you may check the Korean embassy's website for the latest updates. Enjoy your trip!

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  11. Do you know if a boat ticket from Busan to Fukuoka, Japan and plane ticket from Fukuoka to Manila are valid documents to let you enter Korea with just a Japanese Tourist Visa? Thank you!

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    1. Oh I understand now. Korean immigration will most likely not care about how you leave Japan, just how you leave Korea. I am unsure if showing a boat ticket will be honored by Korean immigration so please call your nearest embassy to be sure. Thanks!

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  12. How do u go to jeju ? what kind of airlines do u get ?

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    1. Hi Anna, there are no direct flights to Jeju Island from Manila. So if you don't want to get a visa, your best option would be to fly to Hong Kong and fly Cathay Pacific to Jeju :)

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    2. So, it would be Manila-Hongkong (transit) - Jeju. is it ok ?

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  13. Great information! For everyone who need to know about price of Taxi in Manila airport, please contact with GoAsiaDayTrip - the most trusted airport transfer and day tour company in Southeast Asia.

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  14. Hi there is am planing to go in Korea for 5days and another 5days in Philippine do I need to get an another visa for transit I am traveling to from Toronto to Korea round trip and I will buy another ticket korea to Manila round trip...

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