Hoping this article will be my first of many. I’m fresh off the jet… 10 days into my tropical retirement! I hope by sharing my experiences, you will gain a fresh perspective on making the expat transition.
My Wife, a dual citizen (Filipino/U.S.) and I, a U.S. Air Force sergeant (retired 2001) married 35 wonderful years ago! Former Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, was my first assignment out of Basic Military Training School and technical school (’82-’85.) Together, over several decades, we nurtured our dream of returning to her hometown in Leyte to retire on our very own seaside beach. We did our research and planned out certain steps, saved some money, sold off unnecessary items or things we chose not to ship and asked our adult children for their blessings.
Side note: Asking our kids for their blessings for some may seem ridiculously unnecessary, whereas for us, gaining their blessings was incredibly important. Moving from California was a huge undertaking that created numerous family challenges. We wanted our children to know they were an integral part of this move, that we were not abandoning them. They could be as much or as little a part of this as they chose. My sole desire was to create ownership so that no one, including myself, would want to back out once we made the initial commitment, a five-year plan. Now that we are finally here, I hope five years turns into 25…
My confidence in the Plan grew exponentially over the last few years as I read your articles and comments, studied Mindanao Bob’s “How to Move to the Philippines Manual,” and solicited his personal consultation. I know for a fact that the advice we followed helped us avoid major trouble, saved us money and time, reduced our fear and frustration, and absolutely boosted my confidence as the final days neared. No regrets… but I must confess that I didn’t follow all of the advice, as I will share in closing.
Here are some of the steps we took and the bigger decisions we made with sound advice that worked out perfectly:
I went to the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco two days in a row – sort of a pain in the puwit – to complete all the steps to obtain my 13-A Visa. From all the available options, I chose the 13-A because I plan to stay beyond 60-days and my spouse is a dual citizen.
Bob saved us money by advising me to purchase one-way tickets. I did not need to buy a ‘throw-away’ ticket because of the 13-A Visa. Note: for others, buying a ‘throw-away’ ticket may be necessary. Thanks to Bob, I was fully prepared when the young lady at the PAL’s check-in counter raised the issue. I knowingly smiled, kindly thanked her for doing her job, explained my understanding regarding the 13-A Visa, and suggested she check with her supervisor. Minutes later, she humbly returned with a huge smile and a thumbs up and directed us to our gate. Lesson learned: Be Nice!
More than almost anything, I wanted to bring my semi-auto handgun in our luggage per TSA rules. I had previously learned I cannot own one as a non-citizen, so I legally transferred ownership to my spouse while we were in California. I shared all of this with Mindanao Bob, and he raised a red flag, “Do not bring a gun.” We followed his advice. No worries, I am planning a future article on a promising workaround.
The best advice we got from this site likely saved us thousands of dollars! My wife and I are thrilled we found a trustworthy and reliable shipping company to transport our household goods door-to-door. Our container is already in Cebu, the preferred port of entry over Manila, especially for a Visayan home. Once the contents safely reach our home, I will write about the entire process in my next article.
In closing, as promised, I didn’t follow ALL the advice I heard. You see, I was told the only place I could efficiently process my immigration requirements was Manila. To my great satisfaction, I traveled to Cebu, and completed everything in a day with ease! Here is how it worked:
On my 7th day in country (the deadline to report to the Bureaus of Quarantine and Immigration), my Nephew and I jumped on our motorcycles with my Brother-in-Law in tow, rode the 40-kilometers to Ormoc City, Leyte at sunrise, and boarded a fast craft ferry to Cebu. The Bureau of Quarantine (General Maxilom Avenue) was a scary, but short taxi ride away. I paid P300 to re-accomplish some lab work on-site, and P500 for a short exam by their physician. He turned out to be a super nice doctor who fondly knew my Tio Pedro. Two hours after arriving, we took another short taxi ride, less scary, to the J Centre Mall where the Bureau of Immigration and Annex are on the third floor. I started the application for my ACR-I card (an equivalent to the “green card” in America). I made sure I had all the required documents plus multiple copies, the application, and two 2×2 passport photos. My wife, a true homebody, didn’t need to make the trip. By going to Cebu, we saved loads of time and money, avoided unnecessary stress, and didn’t have to suffer breathing in all the pollution. We made the return trip to Ormoc City and pulled into our driveway just in time to miss a huge downpour!