I received an e-mail yesterday from a reader of this blog. I am not going to identify him, because what he wrote me about is something that I believe could cause him some danger if his name was published with the information that I will be posting here. You see, this fellow and his wife are foreigners who are interested in moving here from a western country. They want to retire here and maybe start a small business where they could employ some people and contribute to the local economy. They were basically unaware of the immigration procedures involved in making their dream come true, and when the went to the Immigration Office in the town where they are staying they were in for a rude awakening.
In the e-mail which I am posting below, let me be clear that I have done some editing. I do not want to post exact details of what happened to them, because it could identify them to the wrong people, and that is not something I want to do. So, I have removed the town where they are and certain specific details that would tend to make them identifiable. Anyway, here is the (edited) e-mail that I received from them:
My wife and I have just moved to the Philippines with a view to starting a business here. We are both XYZ Citizens which seems to make it a bit more complicated.
We have been told we need a quota visa to make our stay permanent and legal to run a business here, but upon visiting the main Immigration offices in our town to find out about the visa we were unable to get past security and told to wait across the road at a restaurant and someone will see us there. Someone did come to see us and told us they can get our visa but it will cost Php 150,000 each!!!!!
I was wondering if you knew the real cost?? is it possible for us to do this ourselves or is it too complicated for non Filipinos?? if so can you recommend someone (a lawyer maybe) who can help us.
We look forward to your reply
Needless to say, this really angers me. First of all, if this transaction was purely on the up and up, these folks would not have been told they can’t enter the Bureau of Immigration and told to wait across the street! There is only one possible exception to this, and that is if the couple were wearing attire that is not acceptable in the office. You cannot wear shorts to most BoI offices here, so make sure you wear long pants. Regardless, if their attire was not in line with the requirements, they should have been told to go change clothes and return. Telling them to go off-site and somebody would come and meet them – to me that is basically confirming that this was a scam by somebody inside that BoI office. Somebody wanted to shake them down for some easy bribe money.
In my opinion, and in my heart, the Philippines is a wonderful place to live. I know that I have a great life here. My biggest problem here, though, is that the corruption is rampant. Here you have a couple who sincerely want to live here, bring some jobs for the people here and be constructive members of the society, and some government official tries to shake them down and scam them?
The next problem for our friend is this – what can he do? If he goes to try to report this scammer in the BoI, he may well have serious problems. If the person who he reports it to is also dishonest, the foreigner may end up the one in trouble! What can he do? His options are limited at this point. It would be my feeling that his best bet as of now would be to go to a different BoI Office in a different town to see if he would have more success. It would be my opinion, at least, that this would be the method that would most likely keep him safe and out of trouble.
It’s a shame when you can get into trouble for the actions of others. It’s also a shame when a nice country like the Philippines has so much corruption that literally drives away people who want to do good here.