Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How I Dealt With My First Tourist Visa Rejection



Ever since I got my first tourist visa (Taiwan Visa) three years ago, I was overjoyed. For those who didn't know, the Philippine passport is not the strongest nor the weakest in the world - just right in the middle between the best and the worst. After my first trip to Taiwan, I went to Japan, Korea, and Australia without encountering any problems with my visa applications. These countries granted me a multiple-entry visa in less than a week! With that, I grew complacent. Around November last year, I booked a roundtrip ticket from Davao to Toronto via Manila without even securing a valid tourist visa first. I took the risk, but I still believe it won't be that hard since I already did this from my previous trips in Japan and Australia.

Little did I know that my overconfidence almost burned my upcoming Canadian trip to smithereens.

July 2018

I started browsing the cheapest flights from Manila or Cebu to Toronto. During that time EVA Air was the cheapest one at around $720 for a roundtrip fare. That was already a great deal since the flight includes a layover at Taipei for a few hours before flying straight to Toronto. And besides, it's EVA forkin' Air - a five-star airline, and a member of Star Alliance Group. I thought it was too early to buy a ticket, and I have to secure a valid tourist visa first.


September 2018

I started reading blog posts on how to apply for a Canadian tourist visa online. It was harder than I thought because the website was too complicated to understand. Anyway, I checked on the requirements and the needed documents for the online application. I initially planned to submit everything before the end of the month, but procrastination happened. I hate myself for being a procrastinator!


October 2018

I kept on tracking the price of the roundtrip fare to Toronto. The cheapest that I found that time was already $800. I began to panic since it will get more expensive as my planned trip to Canada drew closer (end of February to 2nd week of March). Moreover, should Canada granted me a tourist visa, I need to submit my passport to the embassy. I can't do that since I have scheduled trips to Bali and Melbourne that month. So, I decided to move it the following month.


November 2018

I got my Certificate of Employment from our HR office, the income tax return, the payslips, and my bank certificate. Since I have a trip to Sydney around the third week of November, I decided to move my application the following month (ugh). The roundtrip fare from Manila to Toronto was around $900-$1000. Around the second week of November, PAL had a year-end sale. I booked it anyway for $950 (excluding the domestic leg). For a brief moment, I was happy and relieved.


December 17, 2018

After my recent trip to Bali (again), I finalized my documents and decided to apply through a travel agent. They're the same people who processed my Japan tourist visa the same year and granted me a multiple-entry visa valid for five years. The only thing I did was to submit all the required documents and paid a hefty amount of Php 7000.


The verdict: January 11, 2019

I finally got a letter from the embassy. It was a big NO. I was still working at that time when I learned the bad news. It was indeed hard to maintain my composure at work. I was still in denial, and I thought my agent was playing a practical joke on me. I went home and read their decision letter. It said:

I have determined that your application does not meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations. These may include but are not limited to: (i) the information in the travel and identity documents; (ii) the reason for the travel to Canada; (iii) the person's contact to Canada; (iv) the person's ties to his country; and (v) the person's ability to fund his entire trip to Canada.

I bawled so hard after reading the letter. I have to let it out. It felt awful, and at the same time, I was ashamed to myself.  Days before I received the letter, my agent told me that the decision letter was on its way to Davao from Manila. They still didn't know the result, but I already assumed that I got a visa grant. I called up someone whom I could trust and is knowledgable in this field. I continued to cry because I didn't know what to do next. I thought I couldn't apply again for the next six to eight months (okay, I just made that up because the letter didn't say so). More so, I need to submit my biometrics in either Cebu or Manila. That means additional expenses to the already expensive visa processing fee. The following day, I didn't go to work to comply with my reapplication online. I gathered all the documents and updated some of them. While browsing the files that my agent submitted on the first application, I realized it wasn't enough. So, I added more documents to refute the embassy's claims. I even asked my friend from Toronto to provide me a letter of invitation (actually, I already made one and just sent it to him to have it signed) to have a higher chance of approval.


January 17, 2019

After submitting my application online, I waited for 24 hours before I got the Biometrics Instructional Letter. The following day, I went to Cebu to submit my biometrics and photo at the VFS Global office. Then, the agony of waiting starts.


February 5, 2019

Two weeks have passed, and I still haven't heard from the Canadian embassy. I kept on checking my email to see some updates, but to no avail, there were no new messages regarding my application. I told myself that if ever I got denied for the second time, I was ready to let it go, just like unrequited love. At least, I tried to refute their claims by giving them additional documents. Like what my friend told me once, "I don't see any reasons why they'll deny you again even if you've given them more documents to support your claims."

Five minutes before three in the afternoon, I received an email from the Canadian embassy. I got nervous. I remember my heart was pounding so hard on my chest. It felt like it was beating a thousand beats per minute. My hands became clammy, and time slowed down for a bit. After downloading the PDF file, I finally got a sweet YES from them. They granted me a tourist visa, and they requested me to submit my passport to finalize my application. A surge of emotions came through. After all, my roundtrip tickets from Davao to Toronto via Manila didn't go to waste!


In Retrospect

This experience was truly humbling, and I can't be thankful enough to those people who comforted and cheered me up. You won't be automatically granted a tourist visa if you have one from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Italy). Every nation has its own immigration rules, and Canada is known to be one of the most stringent in the world.

If ever you get denied on your tourist visa application, it is okay to cry, to feel disappointed and frustrated, and to be mad. It's a whirlwind of emotions I tell you. Read the letter and understand the reasons why you got denied on your first application. If you're allowed to reapply ASAP like me, gather all the required documents, and make sure you comply all of their requirements. If possible, submit all supporting documents even if they're optional. You have nothing to lose.

Applying for a tourist visa in the Philippines is already a part of the journey. It is normal to feel anxious while waiting for the final verdict. I don't recommend buying a round-trip ticket before securing a visa, but it's really up to you. If your round-trip ticket costs less than two thousand pesos, then it won't be that heartbreaking should you be denied a visa. In my case, I spent almost $1200 all-in roundtrip fare from Davao to Toronto via Manila without securing a tourist visa. It was a huge gamble, and I will never do it again. One thing is for sure, no one can stop me from exploring the world even if I carry a brown passport.

Toronto, see you in two and a half weeks!

6 comments:

  1. Europe na next!!! Congrats on the visa and enjoy Canada. :D

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  2. Ahaii nisakit akong heart pag ingon nimo ni "bawl" ka in crying. I feel you being rejected. Naa lang jud diay to kulang. I am sure mas sweet ni imong canada trip because of the pain u went thu during the visa processing. Congratulations for the visa and happy trip, renz!

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    1. Thanks mommy! I'm sure my Canadian trip will be a blast.

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  3. Hapit nako masakitan pagbasa nako $950 ang ticket tas di magamit! Buti nalang you were granted one. Congrats Renz! Will wait for your travel vlogs and photos! :)

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    Replies
    1. If you include the domestic sector, it's $1200. Glad it didn't go to the drain. Thanks, Far! :D

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