New readers will want to refer to my recently update article on Why I Left the Philippines.
A reader, (thanks, Sam), left a couple great comments, full of questions that many people aside from him want to know, so decided to make another article out of it.
Also, in case anyone has been living under a rock, you already know that we have a new President-Elect here in the Philippines, Mr. "Noynoy" Aquino. Many of the provisions we currently rely on under the Balik Bayan Privilege program are not part of the law itself, but are administered under Executive Orders issued by the outgoing President, Ms. Gloria Arroyo.
Executive orders do not automatically cancel themselves when a president leaves office, but a new president often "cleans house" quite early in his/her term. I have no knowledge of, not even heard any rumors of, changes Mr. Aquino may make after he assumes office … but I’m just bringing the issue up to encourage people to be aware over the next few months … significant changes might be in the offing.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get on to Sam’s questions, shall we?
… However, there are two things that wondering me about your situation, if I understand/read it well which are-
(1) Why airline clerk at Macau airport refused you to board at first when you have had a US passport? I mean, regardless of your marriage to a Filipina or previous stay in the PH, airlines can take you to PH because as a US citizen you could have allowed 21 days stay with or without your wife accompanied with you. Then why clerk refused you to board on a plane? Is there something I’m missing in your story or didn’t read it well? I mean, it was not like that airline was taking someone who shouldn’t have been taken to the PH because you are allowed to go to the PH without any visa or without your Filipino spouse anyway being a US citizen then why airline clerk stopped you at first?
Sam, the reason the airline initially did not want to board me was a very common one. I had no evidence of "follow-on" or return travel within 21 days of my projected arrival in the Philippines. Philippine law requires that airlines enforce this rule. There’s a tremendous amount of argument and contention that circulates around this issue, including more stories than you can shake a stick at regarding folks who did not have onward travel confirmed … but the fact and the law remains … to board a plane to the Philippines with no Philippine visa in your passport, you must have onward travel (back home or on to another country). One legal exception is, as happened with my wife and I, if the foreigner is accompanied by his Filipino or former-Filipino spouse, and otherwise eligible to use the Balikbayan Privilege program, then the airline may carry you … which they did.
(2) I’m greatly curious as to why you have not applied for immigrant visa (13a) so far given how dearly you love living in the PH given your length of stay in the PH. I mean, I see you have suggested to some to get this immigrant visa than going thru all the hassle and more expensive route of extending stay. I’m sure you have your reason for not having applied for this visa which you don’t have tell if you don’t want but I’m very curious as to why you didn’t obtain this visa for yourself.
Number One, most honest answer? I’m lazy.
Number Iwo answer? I’m cheap. Zero Pesos is the lowest fee I know of, and that is what a balikbayan stamp currently costs.
Number Three answer? Any time I can avoid setting foot inside a Bureau of Immigration facility, I do. Read my blogging colleague Claudette’s account of getting a 13(a) visa for her husband. And remember, she’s not only Filipino but a legal professional and a fellow government employee with the folks whose behavior she comments on.
Eventually, I’ll get a 13(a) visa. But, under the present conditions, I see no reason to. By all means, if you are still in the USA, I recommend you get the resident visa through the Philippine Embassy or the Consulate which serves you state of residence. I had every intention of doing it this way myself, when we moved to the Philippines in 2006 … but personal issues and time requirements came together in a way that didn’t work out for me.
(3) Can you please tell me the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining immigrant visa (13a)? I’m a US citizen, married with a green card hold Filipina wife, living together in NY, who visited very first time to the Philippines two months ago with my wife and completely fell in love with PH. I’m planning to visit PH again in this December for at least 5 months but I will not be arriving to the PH with my wife because I’ll be going there from another country while she will go there from NY. So I know that me going there alone means obtaining only 21 days unless I obtain tourist visa and then usual extension until its enternity which might make me bankrupt…lols. Thus, I’m contemplating to obtain this immigrant visa. Any info, procedure and any other information about this visa will help.
Well, I’ve written at least a dozen articles that touch on this issue in one way or another … try the search box in the right-hand column for more info, or look at the related articles list at the bottom of this page.
There are advantages to the Balikbayan privilege stamp and advantages to getting a permanent resident visa, but most of those advantages are not chiseled in stone. Even for the same couple under different situations, sometimes a 13(a) or 13(g) visa is best, sometimes a BB Stamp is much better, easier and cheaper.
My wife and I travel at least once a year. We (so far), always travel together. So for us, at this stage of our life, and under the present rules of the BB program, it’s best for us. It’s not the best deal for everyone, though, as you point out … if you need to travel without your spouse an BB solution doesn’t work at all.
So which one is best? As we like to say here in the Philippines, " ‘Sup to you". Use the legal method that works for you at the time, and run with it .. don’t over analyze the issue. If you have to change to a different method later, fine … I used to wear skinny, shiny double-knit pants, but I changed to loose, relaxed Docker’s look and feel and they now suit me better.
Could you please tell me what kinds of fees I should expect in the PH, at BI office and at the airport at the time departure, if I would be an immigrant visa (13a) holder and would leave the PH after 5 months of stay? I have heard of the requirement of everyone to have ACR-I card now if one would be staying in there for more than 59 days. And, I also know that immigrants are required to pay exit fees and might other fees as well which I’m not sure of.
If you come to the Philippines with a 13-series visa in your passport … as we have pretty much decided in this discus
sion is the best for you and tour wife at this moment, you will likely have to visit a BI office upon arrival. You’ll get instructed on your requirements by the Philippines Embassy before you leave the States. Will you have to pay them anything upon arrival? No, so far as I know.
When you leave after 5 months, probably the only thing you have to pay for is the standard 500 or 600 Peso Airport Security fee … Us passport holder … or Green Card holders too, are exempt from Travel Tax for stays of less than one year. Your ACR-I card takes care of other items like exit fees and such.
Now one or two other thoughts to wind up the article here.
There’s a very easy way for you and your wife to legally enter the Philippines free under the Balik Bayan Privilege program. Coordinate your travel so you meet in Hong Kong or Macau or Singapore, and then take a cheap flight to the Philippines together … just as my wife and I did from Macau. Might not be doable, but it’s a thought.
Second, you mentioned that your wife is a US LPR (Legal Permanent Resident … i.e. Green Card). Take care that she doesn’t stay too long outside the US. Although the law says she can stay away as long as one year, Filipinos have regularly reported being hassled by US Immigration over stays outside the US as short as 6 months. Also, the time she stays outside the US is not credited to her required three-year residency in the IS while married to a US citizen for her naturalization … which ought to be the goal of every Phil-Am couple in my view … makes life a lot simpler.