Visas: Staying Legally in the Philippines
Visas are legal necessities that all foreign nationals must obtain to be able to stay in the Philippines. First of all, one must be aware that there are two basic categories of visas here: Immigrant and Non-Immigrant. Immigrant visas allow foreigners to stay here as residents while Non-Immigrant are temporary visas that expire after a significant amount of time.
For those who are coming here for the first time, it is most likely that the passport you brought along with you got a 21-day stamp at the airport. Others have prepared beforehand and obtained a 59-day visa at the Philippine Consulate in their home countries before traveling to the Philippines. Either way, these are both considered Tourist Visas under the Non-Immigrant Visa category.
Staying for up to 16 months is possible on a Non-Immigrant Tourist Visa. Foreigners do that by going to the Bureau of Immigration Office every two months and getting a visa extension. You must however, leave the Philippines after this duration but you can always come back to do the whole process again. It gets pretty expensive but this is the most common way for foreigners to stay here for a longer period of time.
For foreigners who are not married to any Filipinos, there are still other options for staying long-term or permanently in the Philippines, but these are quite expensive. The SRVV or Special Retiree’s Resident Visa allows you to become a permanent resident of the Philippines without having to marry any Filipinos. This would appeal to most people who want to stay single and free and to other foreigners who are already married to someone in their home country. The major setback of the Special Retiree’s Resident Visa or the SRRV are the financial requirements:
- With Pension
- (1) 50 years old and above – the required time deposit is US$10,000.00 plus a monthly pension of US$800.00 for a single applicant and US$1,000 for couple.
- Without Pension
- (1) 35 to 49 years old – US$50,000.00 time deposit
- (2) 50 years old and above – US$20,000.00 time deposit
So basically, if you are 50 or older with a monthly pension of at least $800 US and can spare $10,000 US as a deposit to a Philippine bank (you cannot withdraw it), then it might be a good deal for you. Should you not have any however, you will need $20,000 US. If you are under 50 (and at least 35) and don’t have a pension, you are going to need $50,000 US.
Other options for persons not married to any Filipinos would be a Working Visa, a Student Visa, or the new Special Visa for Employment Generation (SVEG). All these types of visas are Non-Immigrant and temporary. They can however, be attained for longer periods of time and renewed without having to leave the country. Unlike the Tourist Visa, there aren’t any fees or a need to get a visa extension every two months. Working Visas and Student Visas are self-explanatory.
A Working Visa, Sec. 9G, is for pre-arranged employment. Most of the time, the company that hired you will get and pay for your Working Visa (if you have a special skill that they need). If not, it’s up to you to get the Working Visa and you will need the following: a notarized promise of employment, an Alien Employment Permit (or AEP), your employment contract, a few other tax-related paperworks, about P20,000 and a lot of patience. Keep in mind that if you quit or get fired, not only does your job end but your Working Visa becomes void as well and you will have to pay about P8,000 to get it converted to a Tourist Visa. For a Student Visa, Sec. 9F, you will need the following: an official Notice of Acceptance (NOA) from a University or College, multiple medical examinations, FBI clearance, some other notarized documents, about P10,000 to P15,000 and again plenty of patience. Of course, if you fail your course or drop out of school your Student Visa becomes void and you will have to pay about P8,000 to get it converted to a Tourist Visa.
What is the SVEG (Special Visa for Employment Generation)? It’s a new visa created under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration which gives a foreigner who employs at least 10 Filipino employees the right to stay in the Philippines for as long as he/she keep up with the regulations of the visa. As with the Working and Student Visas, the SVEG may put you in a precarious situation because if your employees drop below ten or if you violate one of the details of the SVEG, your visa may be found void. Besides the former requirements, maintaining the SVEG visa may get pretty expensive.
If you are a foreigner in a special situation, there may be a special visa for you (see below). For foreigners who are not married to a Filipino citizen however, the above are your only options.
For a foreigner married to a Filipino citizen, you are eligible for two of the most convenient visas available: the Balikbayan Visa and the 13(A) Resident Visa.
The Balikbayan Visa is similar to the 21-day Tourist Visa stamp that you get at the airport, in the respect that it is also stamped at the airport upon entering the country (it’s not a visa in which you apply for at the BI office) and it’s free. The difference is that instead of staying for only 21 days, you get to stay in the Philippines for one year. You won’t have to pay for anything and you never have to visit the BI office. The requirement for the Balikbayan Visa is that you must be the spouse or the unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a Filipino citizen. You must also show satisfactory proof of your relationship to the Filipino citizen, and he/she MUST be traveling with you. Even if you are married to a Filipino, but if your spouse is not physically with you when you enter the country, then you are not eligible for the Balikbayan Visa. In addition to the above, should your spouse be physically with you but your marriage certificate is absent then you are not eligible the Balikbayan Visa.
The 13(A) Resident Visa is an Immigrant Visa available to a foreigner who is married to a Filipino citizen. If you are planning to move to the Philippines permanently, then you should think of acquiring this visa. It’s permanent so you never have to leave the country to renew or to extend it and citizenship in your home country will be retained. You need to bring to the BI office the following: an authenticated copy your spouse’s birth certificate from the National Statistic’s Office (NSO), a NSO authenticated copy of your marriage certificate, a notarized letter from your spouse petitioning the BI to allow you to receive the 13(A) Resident Visa, a copy of your passport and again, patience. The cost can run from P10,000 to P15,000 or more depending on how easy or difficult it is to get all your documents. After you submit all these, the processing time might be from one to two months or longer. If the application is approved, you will get a Probationary 13(A) Resident Visa which is good for one year. If you don’t get into any trouble within the duration of a year, you can convert your existing visa to a Permanent 13(A) Resident Visa by going back to the BI office and paying about another P10,000 in fees and handing in the required documents (pretty much the same documents as you submitted the first time).
OTHER TYPES OF VISAS:
9G Employment Visa
- Work visa
- Non-immigrant foreigner
- Multiple entry privileges
- Employer sponsored
Special Employment Generation Visa (SVEG)
- Special visa
- Non-immigrant foreigner
- Multiple entry privileges
- Employ at least 10 Filipinos
Special Investors Resident Visa
- Invest $50,000 in tourism, or
- Invest $75,000 in general, or
- Retire with right to residency
- Multiple entry privileges
Immigrant Quota & Non-Quota Visa Non-immigrant Visas in the Philippines
- Temporary Visitor’s Visa (9a)
- Transients Visa (9b)
- Seaman’s Visa (9c)
- Treaty Trader/Investor Visa (9d)
- Diplomatic Visa (9e)
- Pre-arranged Employment Visa
Special Non-immigrant Visa in the Philippines
- Oil drilling companies
- Philippine Economic Zone Authority Registered Enterprises
- Board of Investment Registered Enterprises
- Special Non-immigrant Visa for Employment Generation in the Philippines
Multiple Entry Special Visa in Philippines
- Foreign Personnel of Offshore Banking Units under Presidential Decree
- Foreign Personnel of Regional or Area Headquarters of Multinational Companies
Special Resident Visa in the Philippines
- Special Investors Residential Visa
- Special Investors Residential Visa in Tourist-Related Projects and Tourist Establisments
- Special Investor Retiree Visa
- Subic Special Investor’s Visa
- Subic Special Retiree’s Visa
Other Non-immigrant Visas/Permits in the Philippines
- Subic Special Working Visa
- Temporary Work Permit
- Special Work Permit
Immigrant Visa in the Philippines
- Quota Visa
- Non-Quota Immigrant
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