When I moved here to the Philippines, I got a 13(g) visa, which is a resident visa that entitles me to live here permanently. It is a great visa for me, because I reside here, and I don’t travel outside the country. If I didn’t have a resident visa, I would be required to leave after one year under most other types of visas. Upon entering the country, I was issued what is called an “ACR” or “Alien Certificate of Registration.” It is a big yellow card (the size of a sheet of paper) that has my photo, and all the information about my living here.
About three years ago, the system was changed, and instead of having an ACR, you were to have an “ACR I-Card” which is a credit card sized plastic card with a data chip on it. You could go to the Immigration office, to the Airport or any other Port of Entry/Exit and they can scan the card and get all of your Alien data. It’s much simpler, easy to carry in your wallet, etc. At the time, you were not mandated to get an I-Card, but encouraged to do so. Last year, the Government demanded that all Aliens get their I-Card by no later than August 15, or face deportation. They extended the deadline several times after that, but it is now final, since earlier this year. Feyma, our kids and I all applied before the August 15 deadline last year to receive our I-Cards. So, it has been nearly a year since we applied.
To date, our second son, Aaron has his I-Card, but none of the rest of the family have them yet. When we applied, we were told that the cards would be available in 3 months or less. Now, 10 months later, we are still waiting. At the time of application, we were required to surrender our ACR paper records, and we were issued a small paper receipt, and told that this would show that we had applied for the I-Card as we were required to do. I was afraid of loosing the small paper receipt if I carried it with me, so I put each of our 5 receipts (one for each of us) in an envelope and placed it in my desk. In addition, I scanned each of the receipts and stored the digital file in my computer, for safe keeping.
Last February, I was taking a trip to Zamboanga City, Tawi Tawi and Basilan. I don’t carry my passport with me, because it has never been needed before, and I am a resident after all. I was traveling on only domestic routes, not leaving the country, so I saw no need to carry a passport. Feyma told me that maybe I should bring that receipt with me, just in case it was needed. I am lucky that I did, because in Zamboanga City airport I was stopped by the immigration people. They asked for my passport, I told them that I am a resident of the Philippines, and don’t carry my passport for domestic travel. Next, they asked for my I-Card, and I told them that I didn’t have one, because it was not sent to me yet. They pulled me aside and gave me a shaking down. I showed him the little receipt that the Davao Immigration office had told me would be adequate, and they didn’t know what it was, and kept asking me where my I-Card was! I was on the verge of being jailed or deported. Luckily, a Filipino friend that was with me convinced them that I was legitimate, and just waiting for the Government to send me the I-Card. It was kind of a scary incident. What if I didn’t have that little receipt with me, as normal? I could have been in real trouble.
The thing that I am getting at here is that the Philippine Government really needs to get into gear and get the I-Cards out to those who have applied! I paid $50 for each I-Card that my family applied for. There is no question that all of our paperwork is legitimate. The Government just needs to get the I-Card made and sent to Davao. I really consider this an important matter, and hope that they will get the system working properly soon.