Over the past couple of weeks, Dave Starr has done a nice job of looking at different visas that you can have that will allow you to stay in the Philippines for the long term. A while back, he looked at the Balikbayan Privilege program (many call it a Balikbayan Visa – including me – but the true and proper name is what Dave uses, the Balikbayan Privilege), and soon he will explored the SRRV program.
Now, before I get started on this article, I would like to say that Dave is a very close personal friend of mine. We have met in person a number of times already, and we are in contact with each other on a daily basis. I consider Dave to be one of my closest friends, period. Some of the things I will point out in this article may not agree with Dave’s thinking, but I don’t think that there are any strong feelings between us about this fact, we simply disagree, albeit in a minor way. Friends can disagree, and the fact is if you dig down, our disagreement is only small. I think we actually agree that our visa preferences are just different, and that every person has their own particular needs and wishes that must be considered in choosing the right visa on which to live in the Philippines. So, the fact that we have differences in our personal choices should not make anybody think that we don’t like each other, or feel animosity toward each other, that simply is not the case.
When I moved to the Philippines, I researched what types of Visas were available to me which would allow me to live permanently in the Philippines. After looking over the options, it was a no brainer for me, I chose the 13g Resident Visa.
13g, Bob? I thought it was a 13a?
Well, there are actually a number of different flavors of 13 series resident visas. The only difference between a 13a and a 13g visa is that the 13a is for the spouse and children of a Philippine Citizen, while the 13g visa is for the spouse and children of former Philippine Citizens. At the time that we moved to the Philippines, Feyma was a US Citizen. She is now a Dual Citizen, but Dual Citizenship was not available to her at the time that we moved here, the law came into effect in 2004.
There were a number of things that I liked about the 13 series visa, which made my decision an easy one.
- There is no requirement to ever travel outside the country on a visa run.
- It is a permanent visa that is good for the rest of your life.
- Personal feeling that the permanency of the visa kind of makes my living here more “official”.
- Very little hassle involved.
No need to travel
As I said in point #1, if you are living here on a 13 series visa you don’t ever have to make a visa run. You never have to leave the country to re-start your visa. Once you are here, this is where you live and you can come and go as you please, and only when you wish to.
On many other types of visas, you have to leave the country after a certain amount of time (the length of time depends on the visa) and then return to start your visa over again. To me, this is a hassle. If you are a person that travels outside the country frequently that may not be a concern at all. For me, I enjoy traveling, but I travel the Philippines as this is my new home and I want to explore the place, particularly Mindanao.
To date, I have lived in the Philippines for 14 years and I have never left the country during those years. So, the 13g visa that I have just works great for me.
The 13 Series Visa is a life long visa. There is never a need to renew it (if you apply for the 13 series visa in the Philippines your first year will be a probationary period, requiring you to refile after one year, then it will become permanent – if you apply outside the Philippines, through a Philippine Embassy or Consulate the visa is permanent from day 1), there is no expiration date.
Some people, in fact many, get confused about this and insist that a 13 Series visa must be renewed every 5 years. This is incorrect. The ACR-I Card must be renewed every 5 years, but not the visa. The ACR-I Card is only an Identification card, it is not a visa. It is also very simple to renew.
Personal sense of permanency
This is only a personal feeling, so take it for what it is worth. I simply feel that having a 13 series visa shows more permanency. It shows that you are a resident here, you live here and this is your home. I would classify the SRRV the same, but today we are not talking about SRRV, we are talking about 13 series visas. Other visas that allow you to stay long term are Balikbayan Visa and Tourist Visa extensions. Both require you to leave the country at set intervals. I simply feel that you don’t have that sense of permanency. Nothing wrong with that, but I feel a sense of pride in being permanent, having been accepted as an official resident of the Philippines. Is that an important thing? Probably not for most people, I just like the feeling that it gives me.
This may sound stupid to some people, and that is OK with me, but I often think of my ancestors who came from Ireland to the USA, and compare myself with them. We are on similar journeys. They had permanent visas, and then became US Citizens. I feel that I am on the same path that they took, although (so far) I have not pursued Philippine Citizenship. So, to reiterate, this is purely a personal feeling that makes me like having the 13 series visa.
Very little hassle
In Dave’s article about the Balikbayan Visa (and in some of our personal discussions) he mentioned that there are hoops to jump through and hassles in obtaining a 13 series visa. I respectfully disagree with that. Yes, of course there are things that you have to do to obtain it, but I did not find those things to be a hassle or difficult at all to obtain. No matter what type of visa you have there are hoops and hassles to some degree. If you have a Balikbayan Visa you have to leave the country every 12 months (you can convert your Balikbayan to a Tourist Visa after 12 months to extend your stay longer than a year, but sooner or later you must leave). On a Tourist Visa you have to go in to the Immigration office at regular intervals to extend, and again you will have to leave the country after a maximum of 36 months. So, there are no visas that require no hassle at all.
For me, I applied for my 13g visa through the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. I called them on the telephone and requested an application, which they mailed to me. We required five 13g visas, actually, one for me, one for Feyma (remember, she was a US Citizen at the time) and one for each of our boys. So, I filled out all of the applications, we went and had some simple medical tests done and went to our local Sheriff’s Department to get a copy of our Police Record (or actually a paper to state that we had no record). At that point, I mailed in our application and the supporting documentation. Within a few days the Consulate called me and interviewed me over the telephone and we had our visas about 3 days later. It was all very simple and painless.
Now, was it a hassle? Well, there were things I had to do, so there was some “hassle” involved. But, I did it once, back in 2000, and I have never had to do it again. I have also never had to go in and extend or renew my visa. I have never had to leave the country to keep my visa current. I just live my life and enjoy myself.
The only other requirement for a 13 series visa holder is that we must go in to the Bureau of Immigration once each year to pay our head tax. Generally, this takes about 15 to 30 minutes each year and must be done in either January or February. The amount of tax that I am required to pay is P310 per year, about $7. Certainly much cheaper than a once per year airline ticket to leave the country. Some people may enjoy going out of the country yearly, and that’s great! But, the fact is that if I want to leave the country for a pleasure trip, I am free to leave any time I wish to do so.
So, is 13 series resident visa right for you? Well, it depends on your situation and your preferences. It may be the best for you, or maybe one of the other visas would be better in your situation. The only real way to know for sure is to research the different visas and see which one best fits your needs and situation. I just felt that it was time to give a wrap up of the benefits of a 13 series resident visa from my perspective.
Whatever visa you choose, I wish you the best of luck and a happy life in the Philippines.