Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Living in Korea: How I Got My Permanent Resident Visa

(Note: This post is NOT to be used as a reference for Korean Immigration policies. This is just to share my experience in applying for a permanent resident visa in Korea.)

After I finished my sixth year in South Korea, I was told I could already apply for a permanent visa since I held an E-7 visa continuously for six straight years. But at that time, I was required to present a TOPIK Level 2 certification, which I didn't have. TOPIK stands for Test of Proficiency in Korean, and I needed to pass at least Level 2.

But after my tenth year, that TOPIK Level 2 requirement was waived; I no longer needed it in my application for a permanent visa since I was told I completed a ten-year continuous stay in Korea under the same visa type.

So, I went to the Seoul Global Center in Jongno, Seoul, and with the help of the Filipino staff Robely, I was able to get the list of documents I needed. Robely helped me call the Immigration hotline 1345, who then enumerated to her the required documents and faxed to her the forms (other than the application form) I needed to accomplish. 

These are the standard requirements I submitted:

1. Application form with photo
(Download application form here.)

2. Passport and alien registration card

3. Current employment contract

4. Your employer's business registration 

5. Apartment rental contract (if the contract is not in your name, there's a document in Korean to be signed by the person who is the signatory to the lease contract of the apartment you live in).

6. Any postmarked letter addressed to you at the current address where you live. (The address should be the same as the one in the apartment rental contract.)

7. Letter of guarantee from a Korean citizen. (There's also a prescribed form for this letter written in the Korean language).

8. Latest income tax return (You can request this from any National Tax Service office. Your previous annual income in Korea should be 100% more than the per capita income in Korea.)

9. Transcript of records from my university with apostille. (In my case, I requested my transcript from my university and I had it apostilled with the Commission of Higher Education of the Philippines, which then sent it the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (DFA) for authentication. After claiming it from the DFA, I asked a friend in Manila to bring it to the South Korean Embassy in Manila for authentication. I gave an authorization letter to that friend so she could request authentication on my behalf.)

10. Clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation of the Philippines (I applied for the clearance at the Philippine Embassy in Seoul and had the application sent to the Philippines. And when I flew home for a vacation that year, I visited the nearest NBI office to facilitate the process. The clearance was released days after and was claimed by someone whom I authorized.)

11. Processing fee of KRW230,000

Other than the standard documents required above, I also submitted these documents which I thought could help in the approval of my application:

12. Photocopy of my Korean bankbook (I photocopied the last page and the information page that included my name, signature and bank account number).

13. The latest statement of pension plan balance from the National Pension Service. (This statement is sent to any pension plan holder in South Korea, or you can visit their office and request for your latest statement).

14. The latest statement of investments from the securities firm to which my annual severance payments were deposited. 

15. Certificate of Award from the Seoul City Mayor when I won in the Seoul International Essay Writing Competition

16. Certificate of Appointment as a World Korea Blogger from the Director of Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS)

17. Letters of blood donation result from my numerous blood donation at the Korean Red Cross over the years. (Since I didn't have any certification from the Korean Red Cross, I submitted these letters as proof that I was a regular blood donor. These letters are sent to the blood donor days after the actual bloodletting; it contains the blood tests done on your donated blood.)

Note: You can add more documents, e.g., scholastic diplomas from Korean schools/universities, certificates of awards in Korea, certifications from your volunteer work in Korea, certificates from competitions you won, and other achievements in Korea. I wasn't married, so I wasn't required to submit any marriage contract.

I submitted all those documents in mid-November and I received an SMS on my phone late December (about 36 days after) advising me that I could already get my new alien card. So in my case, it took about 36 days for the processing and approval of my application. 

                              *  *  *  *  *

As I mentioned above, this post is only to share my experience in applying for a permanent residency visa in Korea. Do visit the Korean Immigration website for official policies:

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Creative Masks @ Bacolod City's 2017 Masskara Festival

When elaborate masskaras start to be displayed around Bacolod City in the Philippines, it only means one thing: it's the Masskara Festival!

My mom and I stumbled upon this display of masskaras while we were at a local mall in Bacolod City, and were impressed with the creativity and ingenuity.
                (A feng shui masskara that would 
           probably balance the energies of your face)

The Masskara Festival was organized in 1980 when the city of Bacolod and the province of Negros Occidental needed 'something' to raise the spirit of the city and the province from the gloomy atmosphere brought about by the tragedy of the sinking of M/V Don Juan and the decline in the prices of sugar, which is the main product of the island.

The maritime vessel M/V Don Juan carrying passengers from Bacolod City and Negros Occidental sank upon its collision with a tanker. About 700 Bacolodnons and Negrenses perished. That time, everyone in Negros Occidental knew someone who knew someone who died in the tragedy. It was a very sad year.
        (This is the most elaborate masskara I have 
              ever seen, and probably the one that 
                 would break my neck if I wore it)

   (This one looks like an elegant peacock from afar)

              (Black feathers and gold motif)

Then came the idea of the Masskara Festival.

The organizers of the festival thought of naming it mass-kara, a combination of the word 'mass', meaning crowds, and 'cara', the Spanish word for face, because if you're attending the Festival, it will be crowd of smiling faces, capitalizing on Bacolod's reputation as the City of Smiles.

              (This looks very Carmen Miranda)

               (This masskara looks very irony)

And with the masks came the competitions such as masskara costume-making, street-dancing, and Masskara Queen, a beauty contest. All these inspired by Venice's masquerades, Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, and New Orlean's Mardi Gras.

    (This reminds me of a Venetian mask costume)

             (Looks like the creator used recycled 
               materials to create this masskara)

             (The creative masskaras on display at a 
                           Bacolod City mall)

So, if you're attending the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City this week, with or without a mask, you'll definitely be wearing a smile all week long!

Have fun!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Chicken Inasal @ Bacolod City's Masskara Festival!

It's the Masskara Festival again in Bacolod City in the Philippines next week. And aside from the colorful and creative masks that you'd definitely want to try on, the Negrense cuisine should also be in your must-try, or in this case, must-eat list!

And on top of that list should be chicken inasal!

And for every tourist that takes a bite of the most famous Negrense barbecue, I am sure that the memory of that bite - a bite of the chicken barbecue marinated in vinegar, lemongrass, soy sauce, calamansi, brown sugar, ginger, sweet lemon soda, and black pepper, and basted with annatto oil, salt, calamansi, and margarine will definitely stay on longer than the colorful mask.

So if you're like me who's dropping by Bacolod City soon for the Masskara Festival, you'll not only enjoy the flavors of the Negrense cuisine, but will also keep coming back for more! :-)