ASEAN is the Association of SE Asian Nations. It includes the Philippines. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN is sort of like NATO and ANZUS, a treaty organization that bonds the countries involved in many ways. NATO and ANZUS are more military related treaties, wheras ASEAN includes economic ties, cultural ties and other relations between the group of SE Asian Nations. It is a pretty active organization too.
The other day, I was reading some Philippine News online, and came across an article that indicated that ASEAN is considering the possibility of issuing a joint visa, which would cover travel to any of the ASEAN member countries. At first, I was thinking that this is really a convenience for travelers, and a good thing for foreigners who live in the Philippines, or other countries in the region, who don’t have residence visas.
You see, the vast majority of foreigners living here in the Philippines do not have a visa which legally allows them to stay here on a permanent basis. Most people that I know who are expats here stay here on a tourist visa. You see, when you enter the Philippines on a tourist visa, you can stay for 30 days. However, you can also continue to renew that visa for a period up to 2 years, which means that you can basically live here for 2 years without having to leave the country. Most people will make what they call a “visa trip” out of the country. In other words, they will go home to visit family, or many will just take a short hop to Thailand, Vietnam, etc. for a few days holiday, then return to the Philippines. When they re-enter the Philippines, the clock has been re-set and they can again stay for up to 2 years before needing to leave the country again. In my case, I have a resident visa here, so I do not need to make visa trips, because I can live here permanently without ever needing to leave.
Now, going back to this new ASEAN joint visa which is being considered, there would be a single visa that would cover all of the countries in the ASEAN organization. So, instead of getting a visa for the Philippines, then a new visa when you go to Thailand or Brunei, you would just get one visa and be able to visit all ASEAN countries. Sounds great. One thing, though, was not mentioned in the article. It would seem to me that you could no longer take a visa trip to Thailand or any other ASEAN country, because the visa would not “re-set” – instead, you would still be covered by the same visa all along! Now, as I say, this area is not covered in the news article that I read, but it would only seem logical to me. Since you are not issued a new visa when traveling from country to country in ASEAN, it would seem that you would have to go to a non-ASEAN country to re-set your visa. I would say that Thailand is probably the most popular place where ex-pats go for their visa trips.
What do you think? Wouldn’t this new visa actually end up making life more difficult for these “unofficial expats” instead of easier? Certainly, it will ease regulations and red-tape for a normal tourist, but not for somebody living here.
What is your opinion?