Korean Visa Application for Freelancers: Tips & Alternative Requirements

Want to apply for a Korean visa as a freelancer in the Philippines? Consider the unofficial guidelines and tips that we have below.

korean-visa-freelancer

Highlights

  • If you are a freelancer who wants to apply for a South Korea tourist visa, you may apply like a business owner would if you are registered with BIR.
  • Otherwise, you may opt to submit a copy of your work contracts and/or a Letter of Engagement to show that you are engaged in profitable activities.
  • It may help to submit supplementary documents like your Certificate of Earnings from Upwork and receipts, if applicable.
  • Since these are unofficial steps to apply for a Korean visa as a freelancer, make sure to write a cover letter for your application to note your occupation and explain why you are submitting the alternative documents. A sample is provided below.
  • To make the most out of your well-deserved break, check out the best tours and travel essentials from WAUG! We’ve got the best activities for Seoul, Tokyo, Boracay, Singapore, Paris, New York, and a lot more on our app here!

Explore more: How to Apply for a South Korea Visa: Requirements & Process in the Philippines

UPDATE: June 13, 2020


Who can I apply for a Korean visa? To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Philippines currently only accepts applications for long-term visas. Tourist visa processing (C-3) is still on hold pending the easing of travel restrictions in the Philippines.

What are the enhanced visa criteria? Those who are eligible to apply for a Korean visa must comply to these requirements and mandatory quarantine. Moreover, successful applicants will no longer be issued a visa sticker in their passport beginning July 1. Upon arrival in South Korea, they must present a printed copy of their visa grant notice instead.

What if I have a valid Korean visa? Single-entry Korean visas that were issued on or before April 5, 2020 are no longer valid. You will need to apply for a new one. However, if you have a valid short-term multiple-entry Korean visa (5 years), you do not have to reapply. Conditions permitting, it can still be used in the future. For reference, you can read the Embassy’s detailed explanation here

1. How to Apply for a Korean Visa as a Freelancer (Registered with BIR)

Filipino freelancers who are already listed with the BIR (as self-employed) may want to approach their Korean visa application like business owners would. Since, essentially, entrepreneurs who apply for a tourist visa submit their business registration and permit, and BIR-registered freelancers have these documents as well, then it makes sense to apply the same way. The following is a list of Korean visa requirements for business owners, which freelance professionals may also consider preparing:

1.1 Korean Visa Requirements for Freelancers (Unofficial)

  1. Application form
  2. One (1) Passport-size photo
  3. Original Passport
  4. Photocopy of Passport Bio page
  5. Original & photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD-member countries for the past 5 years, if applicable
  6. Photocopy of Business Registration from DTI
  7. Photocopy of Business Permit or Mayor’s Permit
  8. Original Personal Bank Certificate 
  9. Bank Statements
  10. Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316
  11. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card, if applicable

If you would like to get a description for each type document, refer to our guide here.

However, please note that the Embassy does not state that the requirements for business owners also apply to freelancers. But if you want to take this approach, I suggest that you write a cover letter to note that you are a freelance professional. You may also submit your recent and current project contracts to demonstrate that you are actively engaged in profitable activities. Here’s a sample cover letter:

Date

Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines
122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City 1634 Philippines

Dear Sir/Madam:

Good day! I am a self-employed writer who has been working with multiple clients for 10 months now.

As part of my application requirements, I prepared a copy of my DTI registration, mayor’s permit, and contracts from the time I started working as a freelancer. Here is a summary of my completed and current projects:

  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation

Attached you will also find a copy of my receipts and a printout of my professional profiles on LinkedIn and Upwork.

Last year, I went to Singapore and Taiwan as a tourist. If given the chance this year, I wish to travel to Seoul for 5 days and learn more about South Korea’s culture.

Thank you for reviewing my application.

Respectfully yours,

Signature
Name

Remember that this is only a sample, so feel free to change or add on to it as you see fit.

1.2 Tips from Filipino Freelancers 

To further help you with your Korean visa application, we’ve provided some relevant posts from this private Facebook group that’s dedicated for travelers to Korea. We love that the members are willing to share their experiences, so if you are looking for input on to how to go about applying for a Korean visa as a freelancer, you may want to check it out. Meanwhile, here is a relevant post that we’ve found:

Submit a DTI Registration

A certain John shared that his friend, who is a freelance professional, got a call from the Korean Embassy asking if he has a DTI registration. He said his friend submitted the following documents: previous ITR, BIR, receipts, other documents, and a cover letter. The friend has also been to an OECD-member country, as well as several Southeast Asian countries.

The issue was that John’s friend did not submit a DTI registration, which is an essential requirement that proves his occupation.

A member of the group made a comment saying that his friend should have explained why he has no DTI registration to submit.

Here’s the post’s text: 

John: Hi po, I’m posting po for a friend. Sabay kasi kami nag-apply ng visa last November (2019) and kanina tinawagan siya ng Korean Embassy at tinanong kung may DTI ba siya. Freelancer siya. Bali nagpasa siya ng previous ITR niya, BIR, receipts, and other supporting documents. Gumawa din siya ng cover letter explaining the reason kung bakit wala siyang (latest) ITR. 

May naka-experience na po ba ng same scenario? Nahiya siyang magtanong sa tumawag kung may possibility bang ma-deny yung visa application niya. 

Travel history: Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia. Thanks po sa sasagot.

Macutay: Sana nilagay niya sa cover niya kung bakit wala siyang DTI, like kakasimula pa lang (in process). Kasi kung ano nilagay mo na work or business dapat meron kang documents to prove.

John also shared in the comments section that his friend actually submitted a cover letter that details why he has no DTI to submit. Moreover, he added another comment saying this friend submitted his mayor’s permit.

Curious to know the result? John’s friend eventually got approved! Here’s a screenshot of his update that he shared in another post:

how-to-apply-korea-visa-freelancer

The comment reads:

John: OMG! I’m sorry to hear that. Bakit kaya iyon ang reason nila? Medyo same kayo ng bestfriend ko. Sabay kami nagpasa and na-approve naman…

Submit your BIR Certificate of Registration

However, we’ve also found another post from a freelancer who explained that there’s no need to submit a DTI registration if a Certificate of Registration (COR) from BIR is already on hand:

korean-visa-freelancer-philippines-waug

April: I applied po sa Travelpros. Hinihingan din nila ako ng DTI since self-employed ako, pero I explained na hindi na siya kailangan. Enough na ang COR from BIR and that I have friends na same case tapos COR lang din ang pinasa. Ayun, tinanggap naman po.

Emma: Iyon din ang sabi ko doon sa agent, pero para walang maraming usapan, I decided to get na lang [DTI registration]. Anyway, maghapon lang naman yung proseso. Although it had caused me stress. Nagka-gastroenteritis tuloy ako.

2. How to Apply for a Korean Visa as a Freelancer (No BIR Registration)

But is there any other way for freelancers to apply for a Korean visa aside from submitting a DTI registration and business permit? What if you have not yet registered with BIR? Let’s consider how other freelancers approached their application:

Below we see Joanne sharing that her family’s Korean visa application was approved. Joanne and her husband are both freelancers, who opted to submit their respective COE’s. Here’s the post (The full post contains the application details of Joanne’s other family members, but I hid them in the screenshot since they are irrelevant in the discussion):

Joanne: Praise the Lord! Approved kaming lahat na family! See you soon SoKor! Salamat sa group na ito for tips! 

Date submitted: October 18, 2019

Application received: October 21, 2019

Approved date: ABOEX Travel and Tours in Mandaluyong City

Travel date: December 23, 2019

Family Members: 

Me: Freelance (work-from-home)

  • ITR without BIR stamp
  • Bank statement
  • Bank certificate
  • COE with income
  • Birth certificate (Original)
  • Marriage certificate (Original)

My husband: Freelance (work-from-home)

  • Letter of explanation why no ITR
  • Proof of payroll from his employer
  • Bank statement
  • Bank certificate
  • COE with income
  • Birth certificate (Original)

From what Joanne shared, it looks like she and her husband applied for a Korean visa like employees would, even if they are freelancers. For reference, here’s the official list of Korean visa requirements for those employed, if you want to apply in the same manner:

  1. Application form
  2. One (1) Passport-size photo
  3. Original Passport
  4. Photocopy of Passport Bio page
  5. Original & photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD-member countries for the past 5 years, if applicable
  6. Original Certificate of Employment (COE)
  7. Original Personal Bank Certificate 
  8. Bank Statements
  9. Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316
  10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card, if applicable

Again, the Embassy does not make an affirmation that the requirements for employees also apply to freelancers. But based on her post alone, I think here’s how she made it work:

Submit a Letter of Engagement 

For the purposes of this article, or to distinguish freelancers’ Korean visa requirements from those of employees, let’s refer to Joanne’s Certificate of Employment (COE) as a Letter of Engagement. 

By Investopedia.com’s definition, a letter of engagement is a document that “defines a business relationship between two parties” and is “intended to briefly but accurately describe the services to be delivered, the terms and conditions, the deadline or deadlines, and the compensation” agreed upon. 

Going by this definition, it is safe to say that a Letter of Engagement, when simplified, indicates the basic information that a Certificate of Employment does, such as position, compensation, start date, etc. Here’s how a simplified version may look like:

CERTIFICATE OF ENGAGEMENT

Dear Sir/Madam:

This is to certify that [full name of freelancer] is engaged by [company or client’s name] as a freelance [position] from [start date] to [end date/up to the present]. He currently receives a monthly payment of [amount] for his services.

This certification is issued upon the request of the aforementioned party for visa application purposes.

Issued this [xth] day of [month] [year].

Signed by:

Client
Position

Looks quite similar with an employee’s COE right? However, in essence, know that a standard Letter of Engagement shows a freelancer’s business relationship with an enterprise (or individual), whereas a COE implies an employer-employee working relationship, which freelancers (especially those who are working on a one-time and short-term project) do not have.

Joanne did not share the details of her “COE” (except that it indicates her compensation), but if you want to prepare one as a freelancer, feel free to use the sample certificate of engagement above. The hardest part would probably just to get one of your clients to sign it for you. (If you’re working on a long-term project with a client, it should be easy to get one!) If they agree, request to have the certification printed on their company letterhead to show their email address and landline number. Also notify them that they may get a call from the Embassy to verify your engagement.

To reiterate, since this is NOT an official procedure or requirement provided by the Embassy, make sure to write a cover letter stating that you are submitting this type of document. Here’s a template that may work:

Date

Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines
122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City 1634
Philippines

Dear Sir/Madam:

Good day! I am a freelance web developer who has been working with multiple clients for 10 months now.

As part of my application requirements, I prepared the following: (1) a letter of engagement from my current client to certify my present occupation; and (2) a copy of my previous contracts:

Below is a summary of my professional activities:

  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation
  • Client name/Contract title: Start date – End date, Compensation

Attached you will also find a printout of my professional profiles on LinkedIn and Upwork.

Last year, I went to Japan and Malaysia as a tourist. If given the chance this year, I wish to travel to Seoul for 7 days and learn more about South Korea’s culture.

Thank you for reviewing my application.

Respectfully yours,

Signature
Name

3. How to Apply for a Korean Visa as a Freelancer Without an ITR

If you are a freelancer without an ITR to present, you may also refer to this guide to write your letter of explanation. 

When your Visa Application is APPROVED

Start booking your tours and travel essentials from WAUG! Here are some of the travel essentials to make your trip to South Korea more comfortable and memorable:

Final thoughts for freelancers

As you may have realized, there’s no official or standard procedure that you may refer to if you want to apply for a South Korea tourist visa as a freelancer. Some approached it like business owners would (by submitting a Mayor’s permit and DTI registration) and others did it just like how employees would (by handing in a Certificate of Employment or Letter of Engagement). There could even be more ways to apply for a Korean visa.

But one thing is clear: the goal is that you want to demonstrate to the Korean Embassy or Consulate that you are actively involved in professional and profitable activities as a freelance professional over time. So whatever requirements you submit, or however you want to write your cover letter, ask yourself if you are able to demonstrate that you have strong economic ties in your country. More importantly, look at the bigger picture: does you overall background (financial capacity, travel history, etc.) support your cause?

If, at this point, you have other ideas in mind or would like to get some professional advice, feel free to ask any of the designated travel agencies that process Korean visa applications. Their years of experience would surely help. 

Finally, we wish you well in your Korean visa application as a freelancer! If you have any input to share for other applicants, please do so in the comments section below so we can help other travelers.

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