Thursday, March 12, 2015

Traveling To Japan With A Baby: The Required Documents

I can't believe it's been two years since I last wrote on this blog! But I've not exactly been slacking off.  Two of the most monumental life events have just happened to me --  I got married in March 2014. And then found out I was pregnant shortly after our honeymoon. 

Between coping with the pregnancy, running the household, and trying to be a good wife, this blog has taken a backseat in my life. Add to that the demands of bringing up a thriving baby boy (breastfeeding, diaper changing, bathing, rocking him to sleep, etc etc), there are days that I forget to even brush my hair, haha!

But now that the baby (darling Joshua) is three months old, and he has formed a semblance of a daily routine, this gives me a couple of hours to attend to the other areas of my life (i.e. personal hygiene, exercise, this blog -- hehe).

Anyway, I'm blogging again to start documenting the exciting travel plans we have that will commence in a few days' time: we're going to Japan! And yes, we are bringing three-month old Joshua along for this new adventure. 

As many moms (and dads) know, there are a million and one things to prepare when traveling with an infant. This post will focus first on the documents needed to bring bebe out of the country to a foreign land.

First of all, of course the little one needs a passport.

Here in the Philippines, to obtain the passport of a baby less than one year old, you need

1) NSO birth certificate

Our baby was born in December 2014. We tried to get a hold of his birth certificate in February, only to be told by the National Statistics Office (NSO) that  it was undergoing Manual Verification. 

This meant that the document was not in the NSO's system yet, and had to be checked manually. We waited one week, and then we were informed that the birth certificate was still with the local civil registry. 

They said it takes them six long months to get it to NSO. 

So if you need to travel with a baby, remember to request for this document way ahead so that you can, specifically request for the process to be expedited. 

2) Marriage license 

For out of town weddings (like ours), the wait is six months long. If you get married in the city, you can get your marriage license in as short as three months. 

3) Baby's appearance at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

According to the DFA website, you also need an affidavit stating that you will be travelling with the infant. We prepped for this too, paid the attorney's fee and all, but they didn't ask for it.

The great thing about getting a baby's passport is that you don't need to set an appointment at all. You just show up like we did at the DFA main headquarters. You breeze through to Gate 4, and then fill out the application form available at the "concierge" on the second floor.

But there's a catch. The courtesy area of the DFA -- where babies, senior citizens, and others whose status qualifies them for this privilege is about as un-baby friendly as it could get.

 First, it was hot. The aircon was on but it was not enough.

Second,  there was no diaper changing area in the bathroom. I know this firsthand because I had to change Joshua's diaper while sitting on a Monobloc chair in the banyo. It was the worst, because Joshua took the opportunity to pee at me once his nappies came off!

So there I was, struggling with a wriggling, crying baby, while also dealing with a big bulky diaper bag. There was no one else in the washroom except for a young lady, who `ignored us for the most part. Finally turned to me and said, "Miss?"

"Yes?" I said, eagerly, hoping she would offer a hand. 

"Wala bang signal dito?" she asked, referring to her cellphone's apparent weak network signal :/

Third -- no breastfeeding room! Wait as I announce this on the Breastfeeding Pinays forum I am a part of on Facebook. And see if I don't get all the self-righteous indignation that I need justify my own displeasure.

And fourth, there's still a bit of a wait because there's only one person processing the passports of all the infants and toddlers.

Josh fell asleep already because of the long lines. 

The passport release was another issue. Express processing usually took seven days. Unfortunately, the DFA was having some sort of trouble with their passport papers. They said it would take ten days for the release. Ayayayyy. We had to apply for a Japanese visa pa.

So we had to rely on someone my husband's father knew inside DFA to help us facilitate a speedier release. In any case -- it was a race to the finish line as we obtained Joshua's passport, because we still had to apply for a Japanese visa. 

The All Important Japanese Visa

To do this, you must have it processed through one of the travel agencies accredited by the Japanese embassy. The complete list is here

One of my friends recommended UHI -- Universal Holidays . They can have your visas processed in as short as three days. This is where my parents-in-law coursed their visa application. And true enough, their visas arrived in three days. 

But because Reli Tours had a branch in SM Mall of Asia, which is near the DFA, this is where we submitted our requirements.  This branch is not the most organized of branches. They are also not the friendliest. They don't have the exact change when you pay with large bills. The waiting area is cramped. And they make you wait for more two hours, and then tell you that your application did not make the cut-off, and therefore will be processed after two days. 

My husband complained, and said we had been there way ahead of the 6pm cut-off time. This way, Reli (quite reluctantly) agreed to process our requirements for the following day. In any case, we made sure our requirements were complete. They are the following:

1. Philippine Passport 

 Broken lamination of the photo part is not accepted. Must be valid 6 months prior 

2. Visa Application Form -- available online here, or at the travel agency counter. Remember: don't leave any blank spaces, instead, write N/A

3. Photo

 Specs: 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background

 Photo must be pasted in the application form

We took Joshua's Japanese visa application form photo using a smart phone and white pillow as a background

4. Birth Certificate of applicant (NSO birth certificate with ONE YEAR VALIDITY). 

5. Marriage Certificate (if the applicant is married)

 (4 and 5 must be from NSO main Office/Serbilis Outlet Center (Nationwide) 

issued within one (1) year). In case of non-record, you must submit a certificate of 

non-record together with the one from the Local Civil Registrar.

to travel date. Must have signature and have at least two (2) blank pages.

6. Bank Certificate (Original)

7. Income Tax Return (Form 2316/ 1700/ 1701/ 1702) original and photocopy. 

We applied for the Japanese visa on a Tuesday. Reli Tours asked us to check with them on Monday. On Monday, they said, call again the next day. The next day, I called them up in the morning of Tuesday. They said, call again at 6pm. When I called at 6pm, they said the passports where there already. 

But we had specifically requested that the passports be couriered to our house. 

When I informed them of this, I was made to wait several minutes. I was then asked which names were included in this request. So I told them. There were several more minutes of waiting. Finally they asked if I had paid the courier fee already (we did). Only then did they confirm that they will be sending the passports out by that evening. Kagulo. What would have happened if we didn't check to confirm whether our passports were on their way?

In any case, our passports arrived late afternoon the following day (Wednesday). 

Aaaaand, after all the hassle Reli Tours put us through, we found out the good news -- we were granted a Multiple Entry visa! Yeyyy!!! JAPAN HERE WE COME!

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