Saturday, July 18, 2015

A guide for extending your stay in the Philippines

Bureau of Immigration Main Office on Magallanes Ave, Metro Manila, Philippines (Photo from BOI gallery)

He writes... 

The Philippines is one of more than 160 countries that do not require US passport holders to have a visa to enter the country. Other visa-free countries include Canada, Malaysia, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. This visa-free condition encourages tourism, but there’s typically a maximum amount of time before one would need to obtain approval from the governing immigration agency to extend one’s stay. For the Philippines, that maximum is 30 days, and the Bureau of Immigration is the agency that approves extended stays.

Last October 2014, I temporarily moved to the Philippines to join Kira to finish up the final details of her US visa application. I had to file extensions to be able to remain in the Philippines for the planned duration. Luckily, there was a satellite office for the Bureau of Immigration at the SM North mall near our place. 

Philippine Immigration limits the total time of extensions to six months. But for shorter durations of stays, here is a quick reference guide that outlines what to do and what you need to extend your stay in the Philippines.

To stay in the Philippines past the initial 30-day period: 
  1. Print and complete the application form
  2. Obtain one (1) 2x2 color photo of yourself with a white background (basically a standard passport photo)
  3. Obtain one (1) photocopy of your passport bio page.
  4. Obtain one (1) photocopy of the passport page with the latest stamp of valid entry or extension of stay.
  5. Bring your completed application form to the nearest Immigration office or to the Main Office
  6. You will be applying for what they call a “Visa Waiver,” which allow you to remain in the Philippines for another 29 days.
  7. The total fee for the Visa Waiver was Php 2,030.00 (about $46.00). 

To stay in the Philippines beyond the Visa Waiver period, thus 59 days: 
  1. Repeat steps 1-5 above 
  2. You will need to apply for what they call an “Extension of Authorized Stay Beyond 59 Days.”
  3. The total fee for the 59-day extension was Php 5,557.00 (about $126.00). 

Thankfully, I didn’t need anything beyond the 59-day extension to remain in the Philippines for the time that I needed with Kira. If needed, I could have extended my stay for up to six months.

Philippine Immigration takes its enforcement responsibility quite seriously. Their latest enforcement tactic for removing illegal aliens from the country is a citizen-reporting system, in which they reward Php 2,000.00 (about $45.00) to each Philippine citizen who texts (yes, text via mobile phone) information leading to the “successful apprehension of overstaying aliens.” It’s a sobering thought that by not following immigration rules, I could have been one text message away from deportation.

International travel is one of the marvels of life that provide experiences of a lifetime. But vigilance should be at the top of every US traveler’s to-do list, and the website of the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, furnishes guides for travelers on visa requirements of particular countries, safety and security concerns, and important alerts. Interestingly, for US travelers to the Philippines, the State Dept. discouraged public transportation such as trikes, MRT, LRT, and jeepneys, and advised to only use taxis. Perhaps it was because I was with Kira, but thankfully public transportation worked out just fine for me. #

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