Several important changes have take place in the Philippine Bureau of Immigration rules and procedures in recent months. Here’s an update covering some of the most important ones … in so far as I can verify things.
It is important to note that I am an “unofficial source” and my information may not always be correct .. although that is what I strive for.
It’s also important to note that different offices (and sometimes even different officers) may not interpret or enforce all procedures exactly the same. Nothing I can do about that, you have to be flexible and adapt as necessary. For more information on how things often are interpreted differently, see: Do I need a Visa? and Did I Say That?. Consistently Inconsistent is the phrase you need to keep in mind. I’ve bee writing articles and attempting to help people with visa issues for more than 10 years now .. and the number one mistake I see being made is driving themselves crazy over details and scenarios that can not be firmed up before you try them.
Two people going through the airport or visiting a local BI office on any given day may, in fact, find different answers to the same question.
There’s nothing you can do about it, if you want to deal with the Philippine government you have to deal with the government as it really exists, not as you would want it to be.
But hey, this news is (almost) all good, so let’s be happy and look forward to a great 2014.
Gone are the days when you had to go home and change clothes just to visit the local BI office. The BI, working with the Department of Tourism, has decided that the former, very strictly enforced policy of “long pants” and closed toe shoe really did nothing to help the tourist trade. Hence:
Administrative Circular No. SBM-2013-007 was issued on 01 October 2013 revising the policy on dress code imposed on clients transacting or with official business in the Bureau of Immigration (BI). Policy amendments were made to maximize and accommodate visitors and foreign nationals with legitimate dealings with the BI as well as the consideration of the tropical weather in the Philippines and the usual tourist attire.
The new policy requires strict adherence to decent attire and prescribed the minimum dress code requirements both for men and women. Meanwhile, business/office attire is required for those attending hearings or official meetings.
This is a welcome improvement for all foreigners.
INITIAL 21 DAY VISA WAIVER STAY IS NOW 30 DAYS
OK now this one I thought would be easy to document, since it’s a major change for tourist convenience and it will automatically increase the stay-time of tourists, especially first-timers. In the past the “21 Day rule” meant the maximum stay without extending your stay (at a BI office) would be from say a Wednesday to the third Wednesday following your day of arrival. Under the new rule you should be able to stay from, say, a Wednesday arrival all the way through to the fifth Friday “in country”.
(The BI’s own rule for counting days is,whatever day you arrive, you begin country “days of stay” from the day following actual arrival until the day you actually leave the Philippines).
At the end of that initial 30 days you are able to extend your stay at any BI office for an additional 29 days. This is a very easy procedure for those of you not already familiar with it. You don’t have to provide proof of onward travel or any of the other “pernickety” detail that many other BI procedures require. In most cases you can be “in and out” in an hour or so.
Also, you can hire a licensed Travel Agent to do the procedure for you, typically for a fee of P500 plus the fees that have to be paid to the BI.
Standard Initial (29 day) Extension Fees from the BI website : http://immigration.gov.ph
- Visa Waiver P 500.00
- Visa Waiver application Fee P 1,000.00
- Certification Fee P 500.00
- Legal Research Fee (LRF) P 30.00
- Express Fee P 1,000.00
Total P 3,030.00
That will get you legally “in country” for 60 days total …
(But wait I hear you saying, 30 days plus 29 days don’t add up to 60. Well, they do in “BI Math”. Remember I taught you how to “BI Count” back in the first paragraph. Did you forget already?)
… from your initial arrival date. At the end of that 60 days you must either leave the country, or extend additional months as a tourist.
Up until 2013, your only extension choices were either 30 days or 60 days (2 months). Again the BI and the DOT have put their heads together and made things much easier.
Six Month Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSVVE) Available for 9(A) Temporary Visitor Visas
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) recently launched the Long-Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSWE) scheme to encourage tourist arrivals in the Philippines. With the LSVVE, foreign nationals may now enjoy longer visa extension (six months) under a single transaction. The visa costs P13,900.00 for visa-required nationals and P11 ,500.00 for non-visa required nationals.
This phraseology is used often in BI regulations and information. It confuses many people. This article has grown far bigger than I wanted it to already, and I could easily write another thousand words on this technicality.
How about, instead, I just tell you that 99% (or more) of the people reading this are “non-visa required”. Just don’t worry about it and apply the KISS principle.
The six month visa extension option minimizes trips to the BUI. In addition, it saves money because although the basic cost is the same, per month, as the 2 month visa option, it saves you “express lane” fees and a few other small fees you would have to make if you made the two more trips you would have to make is you were staying in the Philippines on 2 month at a time visa extensions.
Unfortunately, at the time I am writing this, the six month extension is only available at the main Bureau of Immigration headquarters in Manila.
But I’ve Saved The Best For Last
Total Tourist Stay Increased From 24 Months to 36 Months
Yep, you read that correctly, Up until December 2013, those visitors on Tourist Visas could extend their stay (2 months at a time) for a total overall stay of not more than 24 months.
At the end of the 24 months, the foreigner would have to leave the Philippines.
But now the maximum stay has been increased to a total of 36 months. Three full years from original arrival date in the Philippines.
This should be a welcome changed for the large percentage of visitors who complain bitterly about having to go out of the Philippines (even if only for a day) on a “Visa Run” to “restart” their “visa clock”.
“Visa Runs” will still be part of the tourist vocabulary here, but the number of “runs” required when staying “long term” is now reduced by a full 33.333%.
It ain’t perfect, but it’s certainly better.
Let me let you go here, and run off and see if I can find some more (good) Immigration and Visa news. Happy New Year.