Working in the Philippines. This article was originally published nearly 4 years ago and it is sad to see how little has changed. Even though the future for conventional jobs as we used to know them gets worse every years, the vast majority of people just want to sit in their bar stool and botch about how they can’t find a job. Wake up and smell the coffee guys and gals.
(Please do me the favor of at least READING this article before you send me the inevitable “I want a job in the Philippines” query. My prose may be far from entertaining and YOU MAY NOT GET the ANSWER YOU WANT … but I write from reality, not a dream world. You want answers about the Philippines, then you should be dealing from reality as well. If you, as an American, want a job in the Philippines, what are your own answers to the questions the visa process poses?)
Fair enough. Essentially, I write these articles for you, the reader. In fact a while back I had a somewhat nasty comment from a gentleman who told me I was a liar, apparently because he was reading an article about traveling to and living in Davao and he was not seeing finding much information about jobs for foreigners in Davao City.
Well I’m really sorry to have caused him displeasure, but I have never written an article about jobs for foreigners in Davao City and it is highly likely I never will.
Why I’ll NEVER Have a Job in the Philippines
The reasons for this are actually pretty simple, and not misleading or malevolent as the gentleman seemed to imply.
- ==>> I don’t have a job in the Philippines and I don’t want a job in the Philippines.
- ==>> If you actually take the time to read what I write about jobs in the Philippines, you don’t want one either.
- ==>> I often go to places for sightseeing, visiting friends, etc., … things more difficult if I did have a job. Apparently I am not keeping my nose hard enough to the grindstone. I don’t think I need to apologize to anyone for putting in my 40 plus years of work so that I can now enjoy what God chooses to give me.
Get a grip, people, a job is sometimes a necessity … if you refuse to consider better alternatives … but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of why you are living. Nor is it the best way to make a living, in my view, of course.
Never the less, jobs, jobs, jobs are what so many of you are fixated on … so after a few articles on the disadvantages of working here and why there is no special program that pays you American wages in the Philippines because of your skin color, I will lay out a few things you have to consider in the search for that elusive job.
Best Way For a Job
First of all, the most intelligent and likely fruitful way for an American to find a job here in the Philippines is to target an American firm who is operating here and find a job with that firm … in any country you can. Then work your way into their Philippine operations.
Does this sound like a slow process? You bet. However it is the way that a majority of the foreigners working here who are making Western style wages got to be here.
An example that jumps to mind immediately. Several giant US banking firms … the ones whom you pay your taxes to in order to support bonuses for incompetent management … the ones that are considered ‘too big to fail’ … have expanded their “back office operations” here. Some have added thousands of jobs in the past year.
These are not “call centers” per se, but are often termed BPO centers .. Business Process Outsourcing centers. When you stick your ATM card in a machine in the US, or visit a teller at your US bank to cash a check, there is an excellent chance the “business process” of handing you your money, updating the various accounts involved and so forth are actually handled by people and computers here in the Philippines.
The customer service phone for your bank may be answered in San Antonio or Lincoln or Providence or where ever, but the actual guts of the process are being done here.
IIRC correctly, one huge BPO center here run by Bank of America, is processing transactions for more than 3,000 US banks, aside from their own BoA business.
The Top Ten BPO/Call Center Firms in the Philippines are US-Owned Companies
I also spent a pleasant weekend a few weeks back at the “Techno Hub” in Quezon City where several of my nieces work as call center agents. The occasion was a huge “family day” celebration where they hosted the families of all the employees at that site, and although I didn’t meet any, I’ve been told on good authority there are a umber of foreigners working their … the parent company is HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation), one of the major US (correction, British) banks operating in the US who didn’t piss all their money away and then come begging for a handout.
I know there are more than a few foreigners working there in positions well above the entry level, because I came across a bulletin board laid out in sort of an org chart where it showed pictures of the executives and little bio-paragraphs about each person to help the “rank and file” get to know the chain of command. Out of about 50 foreigners I think I saw 5 or so who were obviously US, majority were from India, Pakistan, China and the UK … but there are Americans working in these BPO companies for sure.
It is often difficult to find US businesses with operations here in the Philippines, perhaps because many businesses consider that information sensitive, but the fact that finding them is difficult does not mean that it might not be very lucrative, job-wise.
Second: Lets assume you do the work to find a job you can qualify for and are able to sell yourself well enough to get at least an interview. Here are the basics of what has to happen next.
If you are living in the Philippines on some sort of permanent visa, like a 13 series visa or an SRRV, feel free to skip down to the next major section, Philippines Alien Employment Permit (AEP). You already have the right to work in the Philippines … but not yet the permission. If you are a foreigner outside the Philippines, or here in the Philippines on a non-permanent residency visa, you must first gain the right to work here by beginning the process of getting a
Philippines Working Visa (9G)
A foreign national (not on some form of permanent residency visa) wishing to work in the Philippines must obtain a work visa (9G). This “9(g)” is a Philippine working visa for foreigners entering the Philippines to engage in a lawful occupation.
As a general rule, the company doing the hiring must show that the services of the alien are indispensable to the management, operation, administration, or control of a local or locally based firm.
The company who proves this employee is essential must be the one to petition the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) to issue this visa to their proposed employee. In many ways this process is roughly analogous to the US H1 family of working visas, which allow foreigners to come to the US and work because they posses special skills, such as language abilities, which are difficult or impossible to find on the US labor market.
Unlike many other countries who will only allow petitions for employees outside the country, for long-term assignments, this visa may be applied for from within the Philippines. But it always involves the prospective employer asking permission from the government for the prospective employee. Over the years I get the idea that many folks think there is just sort of a general ‘license to work’ permit that you can apply for and then roam the Philippines seeking employment. Not so.
A Working Visa “Belongs” to the Company Who Petitions You
Again, think about the situation from the US perspective. How many voters would support just issuing a license to work to any foreigner who applied for one. Would be very popular, in my opinion, right?
(like everything else of this nature, I highly recommend you seek professional advice on this before you do anything. Information you acquire from lay person’s web sites (like mine, in particular 😉 is just personal opinion. When you need competent legal assistance, you should seek it. Here is one excellent law firm that specializes in foreign worker visas, there are many other competent ones I am sure).
OK, now for those of you not here on permanent residency visas, we have covered the basics of getting a visa that lets you enter the Philippines for gainful employment. Now, let’s make you and your permanent resident brethren legal to work here.
Philippine Alien Employment Permit (AEP)
An Alien Employment Permit (AEP) is a document issued by the Department of Labor and Employment that allows a foreign national to work in the Philippines. This is normally applied for in tandem with a 9(g) pre-arranged employment visa and applies to foreign nationals seeking employment in the Philippines. In lay terms, the visa provides the right to work here, the AEP provides the specific permission to hold a job.
An employee must be petitioned by his/her company and it must generally be shown, to the satisfaction of the government that:
No person found in the Philippines is willing or competent to perform the service for which the foreign national is hired.
I set this sentence off in bold specifically because it so often seems to be ignored by foreigners seeking jobs in the Philippines. I first published this article nearly a year ago and in that time I don’t believe I have come across a single person interested in “getting a job” here who has read the article … specifically that paragraph above, which come directly from Philippine law. Many times people will write me and ask for help in finding a “job, any job”. Well, under the law, there is no way that is going to succeed. There are literally millions, and I do mean millions of Filipinos here in the Philippines … often with impressive educational qualifications who are looking for a “job, any job.”
If you expect to find a legal job here, you absolutely need to tighten up your search criteria, and make your qualifications more specific. Example. Suppose you have years of experience as a truck driver. There is no possible way I could think of to get around that willing and competent clause. There are probably millions of professional class license holders here, driving trucks and busses for very low wages, and frankly the actual driving experience you acquired in the US is likely more of a liability than an asset here.
But if you’ve held a commercial driver’s license for a long time, for example, and have instructed other drivers, it might be very easy to qualify you as, say, an instructional supervisor/course developer at a commercial driving school. The Philippines is a huge market for education, both academic and practical courses, and many schools are required to have senior staff with a certain number of years of education, particular trade qualifications and so on. Sell your uniqueness, not your desperation. “Begging” people don’t have much appeal with business managers.
AEPs are valid for a period of one (1) year, unless the employment contract, consultancy services, or other modes of engagement or term of office for elective officers, provides for a longer period. So, if you can score, say a 5 year contract, your AEP should be good for 5 years.
Now what if you start working for one company and then later, something better comes along? This is something that happens often, because it is only human nature and good business practice as well to keep the better jobs for people already “on the ground” here. They are a much better bet to succeed in a more demanding job as well.
Permits of resident foreign nationals are valid for multiple employers provided they report changes in their employment status and the identity of their employers to the DOLE Regional Office which issued the permit. So yes, you can change jobs, but note that you better keep the DOLE up-to-date on where you are working, or you are liable to be looking out the plane window watching the Philippines fade off into the distance.
OK, there’s a couple thousand words on the basics of how you can work on clearing the legal hurdles regarding working in the Philippines. if you want to work for, on average, one fourteenth of the wage you would command in the US, common over, the weather’s fine, the cost of living is low and the people are friendly. Still interested in Working in the Philippines.