The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday soft launched the Philippine e-Visa system, starting with Chinese tourists in Shanghai, China.
DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Henry Bensurto Jr. said the system will be beta tested at the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Shanghai and would eventually be rolled out to the rest of the Philippine foreign service posts across China.
The DFA earlier hoped to fully implement the system to cover other nationalities, including Indians by the end of 2023.
“(We’re starting with the PCG in Shanghai because) among all, it has the highest number of applicants in China,” Bensurto told reporters during the launch.
“We’re beta testing because we’re testing the water, we want to be gradual, especially since it’s our first time and it’s an uncharted water for us, therefore, prudence dictates that we do this in a calibrated way,” he added.
While the system is still under beta testing, he said any potential applicant in Shanghai can already access the website and that “no cap” would be set in the number of applications the PCG will accept.
The e-Visa system will only cater to applicants applying for temporary visitors’ visas for the purpose of business and leisure.
“As we develop our knowledge of this, then it will slowly expand to other aspects of the visa,” Bensurto said.
The soft launch was led by DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo and Information and Technology Undersecretary David Almirol Jr. at the DFA ASEANA office.
Manalo, meanwhile, expressed optimism that the new system would encourage more tourists to visit and experience the Philippines.
He added that this move toward digitization of visa services is also aligned with the Philippines’ commitment to initiate 13 of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ master plan on connectivity.
“This endeavor is a compelling reminder that our whole-of-government approach is critical in reinvigorating the tourism industry and balancing the country’s national security and economic interests,” he said.
Through the website, applicants may already fill up the application form, pay for the visa fee, submit via courier or personal appearance their printed and signed form along with their original documents, and wait for their e-Visa to be sent.
An applicant, however, may still be required to undergo a face-to-face interview by the visa officer at the discretion of the embassy or consulate.
Chinese nationals may access the Philippine e-Visa website via https://visa.e.gov.ph. (PNA)