Third World Passport 101: The Secret To Successful Visa Applications

Reader Question: Hi  Trisha! My name is Patty and I’ve been an avid reader of your blog. Every time I think about traveling the word, I always get frustrated because of the Philippine passport that limits me to go to places. Like seriously, we need a visa to the countries I want to freely visit- like let’s say Australia, USA, Canada, Japan, etc. And these visa requirements are always so heavy and demanding. It’s like you have to be rich to be approved! Although I was granted a Schengen visa, it’s because my dad supported my travels. Now, I’m only about to graduate college and I have some savings of my own, but I’m scared that they might think it’s not enough for me to explore. I’M JUST REALLY FRUSTRATED WITH OUR LIMITATIONS. 🙁  I don’t want to keep getting visas because they’re costly too. I don’t know what to do about it. Sorry for ranting. Hope you can give me some advice about this. Thank you.Patty, the Philippines

It’s a pity that most of us holding a third world passport only think of our limitations and not our advantages. When I first planned to travel the world as a long-term goal, I asked myself: where do I want to go? The answer was Africa. Upon studying the visa requirements and traveling around Africa, I came to a conclusion that it is quite difficult as most of the borders are militarised. Though it is possible to apply a visa even if you are not in your home country, there is no guarantee that you will be granted a visa in all the African countries.

Last week, a friend of mine got rejected in her visa application for Austria. She then asked me how is it possible for me to always be granted a visa and I told her the secret. This time, I want to give this advice to Patty, a reader from the Philippines who’s question lead me to writing the post. So what’s the secret?

Travel to visa-free countries first.

I know the majority of third world passport holders dreams and goals consist of going to Europe. With the increase of the number of illegal immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc who are fighting for their life to get out of their countries, the visa application process to Europe and the UK have been very very difficult. I know, I know. I know that you are not planning to stay in some place illegally; that you are a law abiding citizen of your country; that you are going to comply to all the requirements — but they don’t know that. Put yourself in the consul’s shoes: will you accept all the visa applications you receive everyday? No. They have all the right to reject applications most especially if they don’t see it fit.

Why would you push it? Why wouldn’t you consider traveling to visa-free countries? Do you even know the countries you are free to visit without a visa? 

Traveling to visa-free countries is like honing your traveller profile. When applying for a visa, they will always ask for copies of your old passport to see how much you have travelled. Well, I don’t really know if you want to see that — I am just assuming because in every interview, they’ve asked about my previous travels a lot of times. For example, when I was applying for a visa to Argentina, they said it is not possible to get it if you are not applying in your home country. I insisted and said I am traveling long-term and there is no way I am going back to the Philippines just to apply for an Argentine visa. They asked me to come back after three days to see if they would consider it. Luckily, they did! I told them about my travel story because they were eager to know how I am able to live a life like this. They were very impressed with the number of stamps that I have in my passport.

The same thing also happened when I applied for a visa to Italy. I submitted an old passport full of stamps from Asia. “You’ve travelled a lot at a very young age,” they said. You see, consuls don’t have any idea of who you are so your passport serves as your resume. Though it is not a guarantee (it’s only one of the factors), I believe that having a ‘well-established’ passport really helps a lot.

If you’re new to traveling, this is the best way to establish your profile. Travel to visa-free countries first and save the others for later. I know that most of the countries that are in the list are not very interesting for you and I thought of that too! I never had any idea what Morocco was about before I went there. I only went because it’s visa-free. Today, I consider my 3-month trip to Morocco as one of the best memories of my life. I was surprised with a lot of things like food, culture and language. I also learned French in Morocco (can you believe that!)

I also want to add another advantage which makes it easier for me to apply visas: create a travel blog. I believe they are also ‘googling’ about our online presence when they are screening the visa applications. Either way, having a blog is the best resume for travellers. Whenever I tell people (or consuls) that I am a travel blogger, they smirk for a second and say, “you’re a what?” Then I will tell them about how long have I been blogging and the things that I write about. It’s a very effective conversation starter!

Having a third world passport is only frustrating when you are looking for what you don’t have. Focus on what you have (aka the visa-free countries), build your dreams from there and enjoy those countries in your list. I know you are not too encouraged to travel those countries (because no one knows about them) but every destination will offer a unique life experience. You just have to try and surprise yourself. 😉

Patty, I highly suggest that you save Europe for later and start with the countries that we Filipinos can visit without a visa. It’s hassle-free and will have long-term results. Maybe you fancy South America? 😉

Cover photo courtesy of Etsy.

Questions? Violent reactions? E-mail trishavelarmino[at]gmail[dot]com!

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha is an ambassador of Girl Rising, a global movement for girls' education and empowerment. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway


  • September 28, 2015

    I cannot agree with you more, Trish! I’ve lived in several different countries and traveled a handful of others–all with a Philippine passport. My story is a little different because we left the Philippines when I was only two and lived in mostly American-influenced countries (Palau, Guam, CNMI) and the U.S itself. But the point is, I always held a Philippine passport (and currently still do) but it has never stopped me from traveling.
    I can attest that a well-stamped passport is useful when applying for visas (among other things) because it shows a good track record. When I applied for my Japan visa it was pretty hassle-free because they saw that I had traveled to at least five other countries. It alleviated some of the suspicions that unfortunately we as Filipino travelers get because of the reputation for working illegally. It shows that maybe I really do just love to travel.
    Being (politely) persistent without being pushy can also get you a long way. Consulate/embassy staff have a reputation for being bureaucratic (sometimes power-tripping) curmudgeons, but remember that they are also human beings. Be sincere and honest, and don’t be afraid to give them an insight into who you are and why traveling is so important to you.
    Stay awesome, Trish! And to Patty and all the would-be wanderlusters out there, stay wide-eyed and dreamy and good luck on your adventures!

  • Nikki
    September 28, 2015

    Hi Trish! This is a very helpful article. I’m also dreaming of traveling to different places. I fancy going to Europe and US but I think going to visa free countries is also exciting. Imagine cultures that I could absorb! I am in love with culture and I want to learn about it more. Stay awesome and keep inspiring women like me! 🙂

    Thank you for the new perspective in life that you’ve shared with us. I learned a lot from your blog. Hope to see you on the road somewhere, someday.

  • October 12, 2015

    Yes, I totally agree with that! It’s true that the border patrol will always be vigilant. They have no idea who you are, and will most likely be suspicious of someone from a 3rd world country to a 1st world country just merely to travel. We can’t do anything about their prejudice, lest we get kicked out. But it is the best idea, as you’ve mentioned, to travel to visa-free countries, rack up those stamps and prove that you are indeed a traveler, and not someone with plans to stay illegally.

  • Venny
    October 22, 2015

    Hi, Trisha!
    I’m glad that i find this post.
    I am Indonesian, and i think we are on the same boat if we talk about Visa.

    I couldn’t agree more about your trick. I also have a list of country that we can visit without visa and i cannot wait to check out there.

  • October 31, 2015

    Bieng from India, i find it really of great help. Have marked “Travel to visa-free countries first.” in bold. Thanks.

  • October 31, 2015

    I feel so lucky to be able to hold a Canadian passport and that I have not really had to deal with anything like this yet. Very fortunate that they look at my passport and shrug me off… I cant imagine feeling stressed about whether or not I will get into a country. Its such a difference, and not fair at all as we are probably so similar…. It is interesting and I fully see it to be true that having a passport full of stamps is like a traveling resume….its always interesting to be put into perspective.

  • Chris
    November 1, 2015

    Such a great help for many.

    Your passport truly is a travellers CV or resume! 😉

    Remember, a blog doesn’t have to be for profit either, if someone is daunted by the prospect of such a thing

  • November 2, 2015

    I bet so many people will find this post really useful!

  • Mar
    November 2, 2015

    I’m sure this is very true though if you have a lot of stamps from undesirable places that can also play against you ?

  • November 2, 2015

    I think in addition to the strength of your passport, what also plays a big role is the strength of your currency. If that’s rather weak, you can’t possibly do much about international travel even to visa-free countries, because the flight fare is such a large portion of your cost. In that case though, you could always start domestically. There’s always going to be plenty of excuses, but it’s upto us eventually to find a way 🙂

  • November 2, 2015

    Coming from the UK, we definitely take it for granted that we can (with research and applications) can travel pretty much anywhere in the world. We nearly didn’t have travel cards for Cuba as we were leaving from Colombia. Luckily we managed to get it sorted through the airline at the airport. I like how you use a reader’s question for an article, this will help others in the the future too!

  • November 4, 2015

    Interesting post and interesting to see travel from the perspective of a different passport. Passports are actually a relatively recent invention (after WWII I think it was) before that you could just travel. What a novel idea!

  • Eunice
    September 6, 2016

    Hi Trisha, I keep stumbling upon your social accounts and this is the first time I have read about your blog. The way you write is very inspiring especially to travel enthusiasts like me. It’s quite a shame as I myself work at a travel agency and you have travelled far more places than me. I first saw your posts on Kimi and Camie’s snapchats about your trip to Israel and it was amazing! This post is very informative. And yes you’re correct they always and will always ask if you have travelled before. that’a the problem with me I’m most of the time pessimistic I always think I’m limited to just travelling around asia. And that is why I failed. A lot of people are now travelling to South America googling visa free countries for PH passport holders and the likes. So thank you! You gained a follower!! 🙂

  • John
    August 23, 2018

    I am lucky to hold a US passport and I do appreciate my fortune. It is too bad that when you meet consular officers, you are at an immediate disadvantage just for being phillipina. As you have shown, there are ways to mitigate this.

    If you do ever reach the point of getting a US visa, you can then travel visa free to about 23 more countries, including Mexico.


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