This guide is intended for Filipinos residing in Saudi Arabia, applying for New Zealand Visitor Visa online and currently holding a Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Miles ELITE membership status.
The government of New Zealand has partnered with Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Miles program, allowing its members with Elite, Premier Elite and Million Milers status to apply on a “Special visa processing arrangements” wherein they will process your visa application with minimal requirements in 3-5 days and not the standard 20 working days processing time as published on their website (that’s what I thought!). I currently have Mabuhay Miles Elite status and an OFW in Riyadh, planning to visit New Zealand for tourism soon.
For more details, visit:
My tip on how to be an ELITE Mabuhay Miles faster is to fly with PAL on long haul flight in business class few times on the same year. Minimum miles to qualify as ELITE is 25000 flight miles from JAN-DEC of each year. I reach Elite level within 3 months in 2017 after flying from Riyadh to San Francisco via Manila and Riyadh to Sydney via Manila in business class.
Documents required for NZ visa for Mabuhay Miles Elite, as per checklist (*indicates required field):
- Completed online visa application* (print only the “Thank You” page of this form)
- Passport* (data page to be uploaded, original to be couriered at VFS New Zealand in Dubai)
- Photo* (to be uploaded online)
- Copy of Mabuhay Miles Elite card* (to be uploaded on “Evidence of Tourism Industry Partnership membership” part of online application form)
- Completed and signed Credit card authorization form* (they will deduct passport handling fee + courier return passport fee), attached copy of your credit card + passport data page. You can download this form at https://www.vfsglobal.com/newzealand/uae/how_to_apply
On the online application, there is a question “Do you have membership with one of Immigration New Zealand tourism partners?” You should answer “YES” if you are an Elite Mabuhay Miles member.
Eventhough they only asked me to submit minimal requirements, I still uploaded the following documents to support my application:
- Identification card – uploaded my SSS ID
- Evidence of “bona fide” applicant – uploaded 1 page cover letter stating my personal background, my travel plans in NZ and a summary of my travel history (country + travel dates) to establish that I am a frequent traveler (I travel 3 times per year on holiday).
- Evidence of Australian visa – uploaded my Australian Visa Grant Notice since it is still valid
- Letter from Employer showing leave approval – uploaded my Certificate of Employment showing period of approved leave and other employment details, printed on company letterhead, signed by HR and stamped
- Medical Insurance confirmation – uploaded my Bupa Travel Insurance certificate showing 1 year validity covering all countries (provided by my Employer yearly)
- Records of previous travel – uploaded current and previous visas from older passport (currently have valid US, Canada, Australia visa + used 1 UK, 4 Schengen, 2 Japan visas)
- Other country immigration status – uploaded copy of my Iqama with official English translation, to prove my legal residence status in KSA.
Notice that I did NOT submitted the following since they did not ask for it:
- Flight ticket/booking
- Hotel booking
- Bank statement/ credit card statement/ other financial evidence
As per website, “you do not need to provide evidence of available funds for maintenance and accommodation” if you are an Elite Mabuhay Miles status member.
Document format: Please note that all supporting documents must be in PDF (except for your Photo in JPG). You need to combine each document type in a single PDF file not more than 10MB size per attachment (e.g. all previous passport/visa stamps to be attached as 1 PDF file).
Payments are in AED (Dirhams) via credit card by providing signed credit card authorization form:
Visa fee: FREE for Filipinos (if you plan to visit 59 days or less)
Passport handling fee: AED 77
Return passport courier fee: AED 126
Total amount to be deducted from your credit card: AED 203
I created my RealME account at https://www2.logon.realme.govt.nz and started filling out the online visa application form. Click “save” if you cannot complete the form in one go.
I started uploading supporting documents.
I completed the whole application including all required supporting documents. It stated on the last part of my online application that it will be assessed by their Mumbai office. Night time I got an automated email from INZ Mumbai requesting me to send my original passport at VFS Dubai. Print that email as it contains your Client Number, while the “Thank You” page contains your application number.
Thursday I sent my passport by UPS courier. Fri/Sat weekend, VFS Dubai is close so they received my passport on Sunday 11/03/2018.
Received sms from my bank that the amount of AED203 was deducted so it means they got my passport already at VFS and will start processing my visa application.
Received email update from VFS, passport status as “under process at INZ Dubai” indicating reference number so I could track it down from their VFS Dubai website.
Received email update “processed application is in transit from INZ Dubai to VFS”, followed by “processed application is couriered via **Aramex”. Don’t be deceived, this status is for your passport return delivery only and not your visa application status.
Received SMS from Aramex, status “out for delivery”, after 2hrs passport was delivered to me
***From 15-21/03/2018 I tried calling their hotline +6499144100 in New Zealand to follow up my visa application as it is the only way to know the status. Minimum waiting time per call is 2hrs. At one time I was on hold for over 2 hours as I was queued at caller#85 then at #15 my line was cut so I need to dial again. I was caller #97 and waited another 1.5 hours, then at #67 the phone rang and cut. Another time I called early 8AM KSA time then at exactly 10AM I reach as caller #2 then the line was cut. I said to myself, I’m done! Take note, I was calling from Saudi Arabia. I tried another call on 22/03/2018 and was able to speak to INZ staff after getting on hold for 2hrs. She told me that my visa has not even started processing so I told her about the streamline special visa processing for PAL Mabuhay Miles Elite and the lady have no clue about it so she put me on hold again for 5mins to verify. Then she told me that my application will now be processed under streamline processing. All I need to do is wait for update by logging in to my RealMe account or email from INZ. She also provided me the name of a case officer from Mumbai assigned to process my visa.
eVisa was emailed to me, it can also be downloaded from your RealMe account (no visa label in passport like my Australian visa).
Result: Visa approved Multiple entry valid for 4 months only (honestly, I was not so pleased as I normally get longer visa validity from other countries)
As you can see, it took 5 working days from receiving passport at VFS Dubai and back to Riyadh, but visa issuance took another 16 days. Processing and visa issuance could be much faster if applying in Manila and visa validity could be longer if applied from Manila. I’ve read a lot of bad comments in TripAdvisor about slow processing being done in INZ Dubai which most of the time processing is being diverted to INZ Mumbai. I think they have to look further into it. In my case as Mabuhay Miles Elite, they have failed to process my visa within 5 working days as per their INZ Tourism Program partnership agreement. My conclusion is this agreement is only applicable if you are applying in Manila. If I didn’t make the calls to follow up, they wouldn’t do a thing for it and INZ staff is not even aware of this streamline processing arrangement if I didn’t inform them.
Immigration New Zealand should improve their system in the future and make it fully online. Sending the original passport at VFS Dubai should not be required for eVisa application (label-less visa like Australian visa). It would be more convenient and risk-free if they hire the service of the local VFS in Riyadh instead of VFS Dubai. Tracking the status of online application should be made easier online. As of this post, the only way to track it is by calling INZ hotline +6499144100 in New Zealand. I emailed also but got automated reply from firstname.lastname@example.org saying they will reply after 1 business day but got nothing. I tried emailing INZ Mumbai office since they are assigned to process my visa at email@example.com but got no reply. Although in general, applying visa to New Zealand online is pretty easy. However, the recent closure of their overseas offices and lack of staff handling visa application within NZ resulted in huge delays and inconvenience. I regret applying from KSA, I should have just couriered and submitted my passport at VFS NZ Manila instead.
**How to track your passport delivery status via Aramex (without having shipping tracking number). Go to https://www.aramex.com/track/shipment and track “By Reference”, select Reference Type “By Consignee reference”, then type the Reference Number given to you by VFS (it should look like DUAC/xxxxxx/xxxx/xx) then type the origin country (United Arab Emirates) then select the date covered by your search, then click “Track”. It will display the exact whereabouts of your passport and it will also display the Aramex tracking number so you can track it next time using the tracking number. OR you can just wait for SMS from Aramex.
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