Remember a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about a friend who was trying to open a bank account here in the Philippines? My friend was having problems opening an account because he is living here on a Balikbayan Visa. Although the law does not require it, many Philippine Banks require that a foreigner must present an ACR Card as a prerequisite to opening a bank account here.
Generally, people who live here on any kind of residence visa are the ones who have ACR cards, actually called “ACR I-cards.” I have an ACR I-card as a 13(g) Permanent Resident Visa holder. Holders of SRRV (Special Retirees Resident Visa) Visas also get ACR I-cards, as do holders of any type of visa that allows them to live long term in the Philippines. Anybody with an ACR I-card can easily open an account at any bank in the Philippines, provided they can deposit the minimum amount required by the bank.
Now, though, if you do not have a permanent visa, you generally would not have an ACR I-card. So, if you are living in the Philippines on a Tourist Visa or a Balikbayan Visa, you generally would not have an ACR I-card, and thus may encounter problems opening a bank account.
My friend, Dave Starr got a little curious after reading my article and decided to do a little research. Dave passed along the results of his research to me and gave me permission to publish it here. I told Dave it would be OK for him to publish it, but he said that since I had already started this topic, he would be happy to let me publish it.
Dave wrote an e-mail to the Bureau of Immigration Help Desk, and they replied to him promptly. Dave inquired to the BoI if it would be possible for a Balikbayan Visa holder to obtain an ACR I-card. The information that Dave got back was surprising to me.
The Bureau of Immigration replied to Dave with this information:
Thank you for the inquiry.
Only the following visa holders under Section 9(d) treaty traders visa, 9(f) student visa, 9(g) Commercial and Missionary visa, 13 Quota Immigrant visa, 13(a) to 13(g), 47(a)(2) special non-immigrant visa, and Temporary Resident Visa are required to apply an ACR I-card with the Alien Registration Division (ARD) of the Bureau of Immigration, Manila.
Also, any foreign national who intend to apply for a driver’s license or open a bank account can apply voluntarily for an ACR I-card at the said office.
We hope we have assisted you on the matter.
So, the matter is pretty clear. If you have a residence visa, you are required to get an ACR I-card. If you have any other type of visa, you can voluntarily get an ACR I-card, although it is not required.
With this information, it should now be easy for any foreigner who is staying in the Philippines to open a bank account in the Philippines. For around $50 you can obtain your ACR I-card, and once you have that in hand, you are ready to go to your bank of choice and open an account.
Thank you very much to Dave for doing the legwork on this. I know that this information is quite helpful to many people who read this site! Thanks again, Dave!