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Dear Ireland, I’m sad but I don’t hate you, maybe I’ll see you someday

I have been to seven countries with visa requirements and never have I been denied (including Schengen). At no time did I violate my visa terms nor did I do anything in a foreign country that would require the intervention of the law enforcement. I had complete requirements and money to fund the trip. Thus, I was confident when I passed my visa application to the Ireland consulate. To my astonishment, my application was turned down. Apparently, I am not welcome to the country that calls itself the land of a thousand welcomes.

This is not a success story. If you’re looking for tips on how to get visa-approved for Ireland, I’m afraid this is not the article for you. However, I hope you will continue reading, there are lessons to be had even from failures. Who knows, you may learn a thing or two that will help you score that elusive Irish visa.

The plan to go to Ireland

Ireland is not included in my dream destinations. I have nothing against it, after all, it produced the likes of The Cranberries, Bono, and Liam Neeson. In Northern Ireland I could visit the filming locations of the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones, which I am a huge fan of. But Ireland doesn’t give me the same urgency, that excitement one feels while daydreaming about a place.

The main reason this Europe trip came to be is my friend, Pancake. She got married and moved to Ireland with her kids to begin a new life. When her despedida (going away party) ended and we said our goodbyes, just before she jumped into the Grabcar, she waved and told us to visit her in Ireland.

We all looked at each other and I said, “Tignan mo tong si Pancake, maka-request bisitahin siya parang nasa kanto lang ang Ireland.” (Look at Pancake, asking us to visit her as if Ireland is just around the block).

Yet there I was, months later, fixing requirements to get an Irish visa.

Irish visa application process

Pancake said that the Irish Consulate is strict, it would be wise to get a Schengen visa first to increase my chances of approval. I did just that, successfully secured a Schengen visa thereby boosting my confidence to get the Irish visa.

Related: A Guide to Schengen Visa Application Philippines

Prepare visa requirements

I applied for the “C” or short stay visa. This is the visa for tourism or those who want to pursue a short term study of the English language course in Ireland. It allows a person to travel the country for up to 90 days.

The requirements are pretty much the same with the Schengen visa.

Visa Application Form – Signed with my details.
Proof of financial capability – (ITR, 3 months payslip, bank certificate, bank statement).
Itinerary – Travel plans, list of destinations.
Proof of employment – Certificate of employment, letter from the employer indicating that they approved of my leave and they are expecting me to return to work on a specified date.
Travel History – Photocopy of the first page of my passport as well as the stamped pages. Copies of my previous visas.
Proof of accommodation – Signed letter from Pancake signifying her intention to take care of my lodging as well as a photocopy of her ID.
Travel Insurance, Flight Reservation, Passport sized-photo, and Birth Certificate.

Fill out the online application form

I went to the Irish visa website and filled out the AVATS online application form.

avats-irish-online-visa-application

Set an appointment

I called up the Irish Consulate to the Philippines to set an appointment at telephone number, (02) 896 4668. October 16th, I went to their office located at 70 Jupiter Street Bel Air 1, Makati. Waze directed the driver to Max’s Restaurant along Jupiter. I stood there perplexed, wondering where the hell is the Irish Consulate. I approached the guard standing by the doorway of Max’s and asked where the consulate is. He told me that I’ve come to the right place, the consulate is on the third floor.

I climbed the stairs, noticing how old the building is, then I saw the door that leads to the consulate. I was expecting that there would be a lot of applicants just like at VFS Global but there were only four other people in the room. They sat waiting in front of the glass window where a bespectacled mild-mannered lady was sitting. I looked at the other guests; they were talking about random stuff. The girl was busy fiddling with her phone, the boyfriend stepped out, the mother decided to talk to me.

She shared that she and her daughter will be going to Ireland to see her mom and that this is her second visit. I told her that I’d be going in my lonesome as a tourist and somehow she found this remarkable. I think I waited there for a good hour and so until I was called in by the lady in the window.

She meticulously checked my papers that she almost made me nervous. I wondered whether I had forgotten to include something. She told me that my documents are complete but I have to give her 4 copies of everything. She directed me to a nearby photo copy place, about 2 blocks away. But before I stepped out, I paid around 3,600 pesos for the visa fee.

I had the documents xeroxed, went back to the consulate and passed them all to the lady. Just as she inspected my original documents, she was very thorough in checking the duplicates. Once satisfied, she advised me to go check the status of my application on Visa Decisions page of their website; processing time is up to 8 weeks. Unlike the Schengen visa, I didn’t have to surrender my passport.

Wait for the visa decision

Each week I checked the website, my confidence slowly diminishing each time I didn’t see my application number. Pancake’s faith was unwavering, she assured me that I would be approved; I wasn’t so sure. All visa decisions are posted on the site for everyone to see and I observed that the difference between approval and rejection is significant. There are more refusals, the common reason indicated is that the applicants weren’t able to justify that they have a reason to come back to the Philippines.

Note: As of January 2019, the reason for denied visa application is no longer shown in the website.

One week after, there are still no words from the consulate. December was fast approaching, I still haven’t booked my ticket to Europe because I didn’t know which ticket to buy; is it Ireland or is it France?

My friend, Agnes messaged me that there is a mail for me in the lobby of the apartment. It was a long brown envelope, the same one that I used to carry my papers for the visa application. I opened the envelope and saw all of my original documents inside. Attached is a letter from the consulate; my heart sunk, my visa application was refused.

It listed all the reasons why, the gist is, I couldn’t prove my ties in the Philippines. It bewilders me that despite my COE, ITR, and a letter from my employer they implied that I would not return.

Dealing with the blow of the rejection

My first reaction, as anyone dealing with rejection, was one of anger and disbelief. How dare they insinuate that I would overstay in their country? First of all, I wouldn’t even think of going there if it wasn’t for my friend. Second, I have been to several countries already, not once did I ever think of hiding there and not returning to the Philippines. They could easily prove that in my passport and travel history.

I have a job, one that I am good at, one that I love, I have every reason to come back. I don’t even have a friggin’ Irish boyfriend and the only thing that my friend is shouldering is my accommodation, the rest of the trip, I will finance on my own. I have shown them proof of my financial capacity, I have more than enough to cover for it. What the fudge is wrong with them?!

If they didn’t want me, fine, I don’t want them too. There are other European countries I could explore, not my lost.

These are the thoughts that ran through my head. Outside I looked cool and collected, inside I was seething in fury. I just couldn’t believe it.

When I’ve cooled down I have started seeing things from a different perspective. First of all, Ireland doesn’t own me anything. They could accept or reject tourist as they pleased and they don’t have to explain themselves. It’s their prerogative, I am a foreigner, if they thought my documents are not enough to make a case for my application, then there is nothing I can do about it.

Once I’ve made this assessment, or reflection if you will, I felt shame. The reason I was truly hurt was my ego. I had been overly confident thinking that my past travels are enough to speak for my intention. I realized that just because one is well-traveled doesn’t mean he/she could get anything that he/she wants.

I cannot make demands to be allowed in a country, I can only make a request. The embassy is free to say no, I can only respect their decision.

The Irish consulate allows denied applicants to make an appeal within two months of the date of refusal at no additional cost. I opted not to pursue it anymore because it took them a while to make a decision, I’m afraid they would make me wait some more. I no longer had the luxury of time to wait as the date of my trip was drawing closer.

Final thoughts

Nobody is comfortable sharing their failures, but I think it’s necessary. Life is also about losing as much as it is about winning; the latter is rewarding, the former makes us learn. This experience reminded me…

…to be prepared. The Irish Consulate obviously requires more than a complete set of documents. I should be more prepared should I attempt to apply again next time. I must make an effort presenting a solid proof to make a good case. I shouldn’t just rely on past experiences; to consider each application unique and plan accordingly.

…to be humble. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, I should keep myself in check and steer myself to the path of humility. It is good to remain optimistic and to believe in myself, but when faced with defeat, I should accept it with grace.

to be willing to change perspective. Life is not merely black and white, situations and circumstances vary and the reasons may not be obvious the first time. If I remain stubborn with my beliefs without trying to see other’s perspective then I will never learn. And what is life if not a series of learnings and experiences?

…to look at the silver lining. In this case, the silver lining is Austria. Ireland didn’t happen but it gave me an opportunity to visit this equally gorgeous country where I experienced snow for the first time.

… to rise up when I fall. Lastly, failures happen to the best of us. If met with defeat, I am allowed to be sad, but I should keep going on.

Dear Ireland, thank you for serving me these lessons. Maybe it’s not yet our time to meet. Maybe someday we will.

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