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I’ve been reading a number of posts on here and in the forum recently about visas and the ACR card. I previously covered my 13a visa application in an article in July and I wanted to use this article to clear up a matter of confusion about the ACR: It is NOT your visa, but it is required.

What is an ACR?

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It stands for Alien Certificate of Registration, and it is a form of identification issued to foreigners by immigration. What the ACR means is that you are properly residing in the country and that your details are on file with the NBI, BI,PNP, and other police agencies. It indicates that you are here legally, whether resident or non-resident.

Cost of the card is US$50, and processing time depends on your visa type (Renewals and Tourist are quicker than new visas.)

So, why is it necessary to have an ACR? Well, first off, it is the law. As a foreigner, if you are in the Philippines over 59 days, you must register with the police (This is done through immigration). The ACR indicates that you have complied with the law. Foreigners are also required to carry their passport on their person at all times. Get stopped by the police, and you don’t have your passport on you, and you can be prepared to wait at a police station, or jail, until it is brought, along with paying a fine or facing deportation. Though rarely enforced, there have been incidences where foreigners have been deported for not carrying a passport, sometimes merely by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ACR relieves you of this necessity. It looks like a credit card and you simply keep it in your wallet. The police and others accept the ACR as proof of status. Many airlines will also ask to see the ACR before allowing you to board a flight without a return ticket, you need to present it to immigration when leaving (and paying the exit tax), and you need to present the card on arrival with your passport. On the annual report to immigration, the card must be presented. If you move during your residency, you are required to notify immigration within 30 days, and your new address registered with the NBI and BI.

Nearly every bank or insurance company will require the card before you can open an account, and many landlords will want to see it. It is normally necessary when buying a car without paying cash, and is required for vehicle registration.

In other words, it is a necessary, legal requirement for living here, but it is not a visa. A visa is official permission to reside here, whether permanently, or temporarily. I believe much of the confusion arises from the fact that you normally apply for your ACR when at immigration for your visa, but they are different things.

What does the ACR look like? What information does it contain? Here are scans of mine:

JohnM

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.

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John
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John

Good information John, I’d like to add it is required to get a landline, internet, cable (in my case) and of course to open a bank account. The banks asked me for bills such as a landline in order to open the account, so it is a must have. Also when leaving the RP you must surrender the card at the airport, when you leave the RP permanetly, again this may depend on the type of visa you have, I know in my case if I leave for more than 59 days I must surrender the card or return it… Read more »

John Miele
Guest

John: The surrendering is, as you say, only when leaving for good. (I surrendered mine from the tourist visa when I applied for the 13a… Just gave it to them at the window at BI).

I use it as an official ID. Most places accept the card as valid identification.

johann
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johann

hi john! I lost my ACR i card on the 17th of march the day before i was scheduled to leave homw for my vacation.but i couldn’t change my tickets so i left the next day to sri lanka im currently on a 9f student visa i paid an exit clearance of 2800 pesos.my question is will i be able to enter the philippines with my 9f visa but without an ACR icard by paying a fine at the airport ? if so could you please tell me how much it would be ? or else what is the next… Read more »

John Miele
Guest

Johann: I’m not certain on the fine… The airline will most likely carry you since the visa is stamped in your passport. There was an article on LiP about a month ago https://liveinthephilippines.com/2011/02/lost-your-acr-card-or-had-it-stolen-this-is-what-you-need-to-know%e2%80%a6/ about replacing your ACR

johann
Guest
johann

Thanks a lot Johan!!!
hey but will i have a problem at the immigration in the airport?
will they ask me for my i card?
if i do not have it what is the worst they could do to me?
can they send me back home?
Or is there a way to pay a fine and enter the country?
some say that you cannot re-enter the country without an ACR icard if you are a foreigner is that true?
please reply!!!

johann
Guest
johann

Thanks a lot John!!!
hey but will i have a problem at the immigration in the airport?
will they ask me for my i card?
if i do not have it what is the worst they could do to me?
can they send me back home?
Or is there a way to pay a fine and enter the country?
some say that you cannot re-enter the country without an ACR icard if you are a foreigner is that true?
please reply!!!

angelica
Guest
angelica

is acr i card important to a foreigner so that he can out and enter in philippines?

johann
Guest
johann

john did you get any info about procedure ill have to go threw at the immigration atin the airport when i land ?

John Miele
Guest

Johann: I honestly don’t know if you will face a problem… I always present the card to them, but being that it was lost while abroad, you may be able to explain the situation there. I’m guessing that since your visa is valid that they will let you enter (Perhaps with a fine for no ACR), but you wll need to start the procedures to replace the card. I would definitely call immigration or the consulate where you are located now though and verify.

johann
Guest
johann

Thanks a lot John!!!

Rajeev
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Rajeev

Hi Johann, I recently lost mine abroad too, what did you end up doing trying to get into the Philippines? Hope for a quick response. Thanks!

Michelle
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Michelle

Hi John! Thanks for the informative article. It certainly has much more content than the BI page itself. I wanted to know though how long the process works, from submission of paperwork to actually getting the ACR card. It looks fancy enough to assume that it won’t be handed out to you in a day. I know it cost 50 USD and you need your passport with you and 3 2×2 pictures… (those I lifted from the US Embassy website, the BI page dont even mention it!) Also, what if I go somewhere outside the Philippines for a short vacation… Read more »

John Miele
Guest

Michelle:

If you are on tourist visa, it is same day, within a few hours. If on PR, it takes a couple of weeks (For the extra clearances)

As to leaving, you are supposed to give the ACR to immigration if it is for a tourist visa. If you return and stay over 59 days, then yes, you need a new one.

John Power
Guest
John Power

I use mine sometimes as an ID. But usually use my drivers licence. I needed it when I applied for a bank account, but not for landline or cable.

hudson
Guest
hudson

Hi John,
All Good info. I imagine it’s the equivilent of a “Green Card” here in the US. If I’m there visiting for a three week period of time, is it worth my while to get one? I want to open a bank account there, but I need an ACR card.

John Miele
Guest

Hudson: You are required to get one only after 59 days… Honestly, I’m not even certain if you can get one on a shorter stay. As to opening a bank account, that will be a tough task on such a short visit. My suggestion is probably BDO, Unionbank, or Chinabank as most likely, if you open the account in someone else’s name and they add you as an authorized signer on the account. I think you may still require an ACR, though. I know that when we opened Rebecca’s Metrobank account, they would not add me to the account without… Read more »

Steven
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Steven

I don’t believe you can get an ACR card until you have been here 59 days, or you arrive on a visa which is for longer than 59 days (eg, a Balikbayan visa waiver)

For banks, none of the local banks will open an account for you without the ACR card. Period. You can however open US dollar accounts at most of the banks without this. I know Citibank and HSBC will do this.

John Miele
Guest

Steven: That was sort of why I wrote about Citibank. As to HSBC, I have had severe issues with them regarding my Middle East accounts.

Steven
Guest
Steven

I also have friends who have had severe issues with HSBC, both in Philippines and abroad. I currently bank with Citibank in Philippines and have found them to be a lot more user friendly than some of the local banks, although have also had quite good success using BDO, especially as their mall branches are open on weekends.

Weng
Guest
Weng

Hi, can my husband apply for acr card when we arrive in the Philippines even though he didn’t stay for 59 days yet? He always get a one year visa because of the balikbayan visa waiver. I hope you can help me with this question. Thanks.

Weng

MindanaoBob
Guest

The rules are that you are not able to apply until you have been in the country for 59 days. However, I have heard of many instances where people were able to get one earlier than that. I would encourage your husband to just go apply when he wants to and see what they say. They are inconsistent in the way that they enforce the rules.

Randy W.
Guest
Randy W.

John M

Is it difficult to transfer money from an account at Bank of America in the US to a dollar account at Citibank there. Also can you get your 13a visa the same time as your ACR Card. Thanks so much for all the good info you provide its been a big help. Have a nice day.

John Miele
Guest

Randy: BOA used to be difficult, then they were easy, and now back to PITA after I changed addresses (Changes for wires need to be done in person in the States.).

As to the ACR, last step after 13a approval is being directed to the window for the ACR at BI (If you apply for 13A here… If you apply at a consulate, you need to obtain it at immigration after arrival).

Katrina
Guest
Katrina

All I can say that ACR looks more stylish than a US Greencard! LOL. I know they’re not th same but yeah….hehehe

@hudson. General rule is that if you stay in the Phils for not more than 21 days, you don’t need a visa. So I suppose you don’t need one?

MindanaoBob
Guest

I don’t know about that… the thing I hate about the ACR cards is that they squish down your picture height so that your face is like twice as wide as it should be! 😆

Katrina
Guest
Katrina

I dunno which is less aesthetic, a that picture(Now I think the Philippines needs better image editor) or a greencard(more of white card since the color is white, not green! LOL) full of non-alphanumeric characters. LOL

But as for the design, the ACR looks more appealing to me. LOL

John Miele
Guest

Katrina and Bob: My picture is really squished…Couldn’t really figure out why. I suppose that it really doesn’t matter, though.

jonathan
Guest
jonathan

Informative article John. I have not seen an ACR card before. With regards to the picture
maybe they are using the same technology from NBI. My picture is also squished on the NBI Clearance document everytime I have to get one. Lol.

John Miele
Guest

Jonathan: That would make sense if they are using the same equipment. My guess is that the picture is squished in making the layout with all of the information on the card (There is really quite a lot). I suppose that a larger, squished picture is easier to see than a smaller, non-squished picture in actual perspective.

mrtawanan
Guest
mrtawanan

It’s also possible that the picture is squished because the ones who prepare and print the ID cards were not properly trained on how to crop and maintain the aspect ratio of the pictures. In a way this defeats the purpose of the ID since if your picture was squished too much then you might not look like the same person on the ID’s photo.

Hopefully, the poor quality is not a result of someone cutting corners so he/she can pocket some money.

David L Smith
Guest
David L Smith

Hi John
I have been to Phil a few times and was unaware i should carry my passport with me all the time. It looks like i have been lucky not to be involved in any drama that needed police attention. Can i just carry the card now and put my passport away in a safe place or is still advisable to have both available when i go outdoors….

John Miele
Guest

Alf: You can carry the ACR instead of your passport… I keep my passport secure at home.

Steven
Guest
Steven

Carrying your passport is generally the rule wherever you go in the world, but it is rarely enforced, unless or course you get into trouble and they are looking for a reason to kick you out.

If you have an ACR you are not required to carry the passport… the acr will do, although, it never hurts to carry a photocopy of your passport with you.

John Miele
Guest

Steven: Agree, but I have a pp copy in case it is lost or stolen (and it makes replacement much easier at the embassy)

Jim
Guest

Hi John – Good article but one thing you forgot to mention is the small print at the bottom of the finger print side of the card as its very important for all card holders.
Regards.
Jim.

John Miele
Guest

Jim: You are correct… I mentioned the bity about change of address and showing the card to police. The annual report is also mentioned. It is, as you state, important and explicitly stated on the card.

Dave Keiser
Guest
Dave Keiser

I have been here two years, on a Balikbayan status. We fly out to Guam once a year. No one has ever said anything to me about an ACR card. I am assuming it is not required if you are here on balikbayan status. Is this correct? I could ask my local immigration office, but other expats have told me that they don’t know what they are doing, and constantly give out wrong information. Inflated fees are the order of the day as well.

Chasdv
Guest
Chasdv

Correct,you do not require an ACR-I card if you are staying on a Balikbayan Privilege,as its not a Visa.

John Miele
Guest

Dave: It is not required, for the moment (things change rapidly with immigration), however, on BB status you need to still visit immigration for exit clearance before you leave. The I card is voluntary for BB privelege status. Getting the I card will still make bank accounts easier and will relieve you of the exit clearance rule.

sugar
Guest
sugar

John, good info. So that an ACR. When the ex bf lived here, I went with him to BI. I was kind of duh with the whole thing. We lined up, and all I know was that pay this pay that, stamp this stamp that, show this show that. And then he can stay longer. But that was like 7 years ago. I guess he doesn’t need that one now! By the way, you have saintly name . He he.

John Miele
Guest

Sugar: It is a hassle, a bit, but nothing as bad as Filipinos deal with in getting their visas to travel abroad.

DanielY
Guest
DanielY

The so-called US “GreenCard” is really an ARC (Alien Registration/Residence Certificate) if you look at its heading.

John Miele
Guest

Daniel: It is effectively a similar thing.

Roselyn
Guest
Roselyn

Hi John: Excellent article. You mentioned that you have a 13a Visa. I am researching getting a 13a Visa for my husband when we retire. I am contemplating of taking the early retirement from the University that I worked for. Is it advisable to apply for the 13a Visa for my husband through the Philippine Consulate offices in the U.S. or is it better to apply in the Philippines when we get there?

John Miele
Guest

Roselyn: From my understanding, the tradeoff for abroad vs. here is a question of time vs. paperwork. Here, less paperwork is required, but it took me four visits to BI. From what I understand, abroad is much quicker, but you need medical, police clearances in addition. There is old information on the Net that 13a issued abroad skips the probationary period. That used to be the case, and was an advantage to doing it abroad, but as of now, all 13a are probationary regardless of issue, so that benefit no longer applies.

Roselyn
Guest
Roselyn

Thanks John.

wayne
Guest
wayne

John great article,I am like Dave I enter the PI on a bulikbayan status,we stay 5 to 6 months
and then return to USA for 6 months.Will we have to have to turn in the ACR card every departure and apply for a new one every time on our return,we will be doing this every year.And also we have a place in Samar can i get the card there?

John Miele
Guest

Wayne:

For BB, the ACR is voluntary, but there are benefits to getting it (as stated in my response to Dave)

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