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Visas – "They" said that…

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Today’s Guest Column is from Paul Keating.  Paul is retired “three times over” and with his wife, Emy, is currently in the process of moving to the Philippines this July.

A couple of items that merit serious thought when planning your move to the Philippines are visas and immigration status.  The good news:  they boil down to two simple questions:

What is a 13A Visa
  • How will I enter the Philippines?
  • How will I stay in the Philippines for the duration I choose?

The bad news:  there is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer to either question.  Finding help in answering them is a problem, too.  Many sources of information exist that can help you determine your answers:  some are good and some are not so good.  Among those sources is one who some of us know all too well:  the infamous “THEY.”  You know these covert operatives – never seen but often heard.  “THEY” find their way into just about everything.  (“’THEY’ said that …,” is their calling card.)

“THEY” can be as wrong or as right as any other source, so “THEY” should not be fully trusted or fully discounted outright.  Your best defense against a biased “THEY” is checking with more conventional sources.  This Web Magazine, Live in the Philippines, has a respectable archive of columns and comments that address these questions.  These easily provide counter-balance or support to what “THEY” said.  CAVEAT EMPTOR: “THEY” submit comments to Web magazines and blogs, too!  In our planning, my wife, Emy, and I employed “THEY,” as well as several Philippine Government sources and a few LiP articles/links.

Getting to Know You

Prior to our research, we performed a good self-check to determine just who we are, in terms of immigration.  Knowing one’s self helps to discover open paths as well as paths on which time shouldn’t be wasted.  Me? – Simple:  A retired American with a couple of honorable careers behind me, married only once (to Emy), never refused entry to the Philippines, and no police record.  Emy? – A little more involved:  A former Philippine citizen and OFW, presently a naturalized citizen of the USA, married only once (to me), never refused entry to the Philippines, and no police record.  We plan on traveling to the Philippines together.

Once we “knew us,” we limited our choices to two:  1) obtaining Balikbayan visas, or 2) applying for non-quota immigrant visas under Section 13(g) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended.  Both choices answered those “simple” questions quite handily, however differently.  Other choices, though just as valid as these two, just weren’t worth our time.

The first choice, the Balikbayan visa, is the easiest to obtain.  Requirements include being either a Balikbayan or the spouse traveling with a Balikbayan; having a passport that is valid for at least one year, and being prepared to prove that the spouse is married to the Balikbayan.  Similar to the 23-day tourist visa, there are no fees to pay until you apply for an extension at the end of its one year term.  Previous LiP articles will confirm that this is a “you get what you pay for” deal – “bare bones” entry for a Balikbayan (or couple) affording a year’s stay.

The second choice, the Section 13(g) immigration visa, isn’t easy to obtain nor does it come without cost.  Fees, medical exams, police checks, photos, forms and more forms, etc. are all part of obtaining immigrant benefits that exceed those of the first choice.  Check the previous LiP articles on Section 13 visas – they cover the specifics quite well.  You pay more, in time, effort and money, but you definitely get more benefits with this visa.

Our Choice(s)

Choosing which visa would serve us best was a “no-brainer” to me – choice 2.  The benefits of unlimited out of country travel and return (even by myself), the ability to obtain an ACR-I card which would make things like setting up bank accounts, etc., easier, no limits in out-of-country stay duration prior to return; and the ability to purchase a one-way ticket to the Philippines for our move were my primary motivators.  All the required forms were available at the local consulate’s web site, and the consulate itself was just a couple of hours away.  We could make a day trip out of it.

Emy’s “no-brainer” selection was choice 1.  Her arguments included that there was no cost and no need to visit the consulate, the ease of obtaining the visa at the port of entry, the ability to do so upon re-entry; and, hey, where would I be going alone?  Besides, she definitely did not want to be an immigrant!  Among her sources were neighbors, hairdressers, and other Kabayan.  “THEY” said that if she applied for the immigrant visa, she’d have to get dual citizenship and that the immigrant visa would ruin her U.S. citizenship.  Of course, both of these rumors are not correct, but “THEY” said …!  In Emy’s eyes, “THEY” had the stronger argument.

All we had to do now was present our arguments to each other, discuss them, and select which visa we will employ.  This proved to be a little more troublesome that first imagined.  Discussions went on for weeks.

“THEY” speaks up.

Just when I almost had Emy convinced that, perhaps, the immigrant visa might be the way to go, the “final nail in the coffin” for choice 2 appeared – in LiP of all places.  Balikbayan visa holders could obtain an ACR-I card, but only if they applied at the Manila Bureau of Immigration office.  That was it.  Selection was settled.  Arguments and voting ended with “THEY” (an impartial outsider) providing the tie breaker.

We’ll be obtaining Balikbayan visas at Ninoy Aquino International Airport when we arrive.  A follow-on peace offering was provided and accepted:  if we decide that an immigrant visa would be better for us, we can apply while we’re there.

Visaswhat would YOU say?

PaulK

Paul is a CPA and a retired tax accountant, having served companies and corporations of all sizes, as well as individuals, in public accounting practices. Prior to what he refers to as his "real job," he served a 24-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. It was during this career that he met and married his OFW spouse of 40+ years, Emy, while stationed in London, UK. (Though he pleaded for the assignment, Paul never received orders to the Philippines.) A "Phil-phile" from an early age, Paul remembers his first introduction to the Philippines in the primary grades of a parochial elementary school where, one week each year, children donated their pennies to purchase school supplies, food and other necessities for Filipino children in need. That love for Filipinos continues to this day. Calling Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte--in the far northwestern part of Luzon--home (just about as far away from Davao as one can be while still being on one of the major islands) Paul prefers a more relaxed provincial life style, and willingly shares a different view of the Philippines from "up north"!

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Bacolod Barry
Bacolod Barry
12 years ago

Hi Paul Interesting to read your dilemma. We are in a similar position to you, regarding moving to Philippines. My wife & I are visiting the Philippines in September, then hopefully moving there for good early next year. To cut a (very) long story shorter, my wife re-aquired her Filipino citizenship so I could apply for a 13a visa. I know it is more involved than obtaining a Balikbayan visa, but when I contacted the Philippine Embassy in London this was the action ‘they’ recommended to me. Agreed there is a lot of paperwork to supply, x-ray, medical reports etc,… Read more »

mike
mike
12 years ago

good luck with that balikbayan visa in manila it depends on the customs agent on duty they try to shake you down for money to get that free stamp your entitled to by law make sure you tell them you want balikbayan before you hand them your passport i had a bad experience in manila they wouldn’t stamp it balikbayan we had a big argument with the agent and his supervisor wanted money to change the stamp! we ended up having to go to immigration in mandaue city to have the stamp changed and they wanted money also! the Philippines… Read more »

john.j.
john.j.
12 years ago

Hi guys,I think you will find that if you get your visa’s in the Philippines,the x-rays and police checks are no longer required.This seems to be the case in Davao.
A lot of paperwork has been dropped,and most of what there is has to be filled in by the wife.She needs to supply a letter of sponsorship and you just need to show ability to support her.Best of luck.

Jim Cunningham
12 years ago

Hi Barry – I did the same as you last year obtained my 13a visa at the Philippine Embassy in London.I had no problem at the airport and visited the B of I in Manila for my ACR and it took me two days. Submitted application one day and returned the next and obtained the card.Total cost was around 10,000PhP fees and fix.
Best wishes.
Jim.

matt Wilkie
12 years ago

Im going through the same thoughts at the moment. Although I think I will likely go for option 2 for a few reasons.

1. my wife is already in Cebu.
2. Im in and out the country to work.
3. I want to go to immigration as little as possible..

Bacolod Barry
Bacolod Barry
12 years ago

Hi John
Many thanks for that.
Do you know if I can do this at another BI office (in Bacolod for example) rather than having to spend time in Manila, or is Manila the only main office?

john.j.
john.j.
12 years ago

Hi Barry,I dont see any reason why not,but it is the Philippines lol lol.

Paul
Paul
12 years ago

Hi Bacalod Barry – Thanks for commenting; sorry for delay in response as I’m making my way across country prior to our departure and internet connectivity is “iffy” whenever we stop for the night.

If we make it to the BI, I’ll let everyone know how my luck runs that day (or will it be days?). 🙂

I’m still in favor of choice 2, of course. Emy still doesn’t want dual citizenship, so a 13(g) would do it for us. Same benefits other than those enjoyed by citizens.

Paul
Paul
12 years ago

Thanks, Mike, I’ll need as much luck as I can amass for this move!

Have obtained a Balikbayan visa about five times, and haven’t had any problems with obtaining them. Each time was at the Centennial Terminal that services PAL flights alone. Maybe the agents there are happier with their surroundings (the terminal is much nicer than the other international terminal).

Fingers crossed! 😉

Paul
Paul
12 years ago

Hi john.j. – Looks like you’re changing my luck for the better. 🙂

Of course, the consulate in Los Angeles seems to be on the bottom of the distribution list. Going through the procedures there in the Phils now appears to be best, for now.

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