Nine Years in the Philippines on the Balikbayan Privilege Program
- 0.1 Nine Years in the Philippines on the Balikbayan Privilege Program
- 0.2 If You Come to the Philippines Under the Balikbayan Privilege Program You:
- 0.3 Can’t get a bank account:
- 0.4 Can’t ship household goods
- 0.5 Can’t Get a Driver’s License
- 0.6 Can’t Buy a Car
- 0.7 Can’t Buy a House
- 0.8 Can’t Stay More than a year
- 0.9 Can’t Leave the Philippines Without Your Wife
- 0.10 Can’t Stay in the Philippines Without your Wife.
- 0.11 Can’t Use the BB Privilege Because Your Wife Can’t Travel to the USA.
- 0.12 Can’t Live Without Fear Because They Might Change the Rules
- 1 Related Posts
- 2 Readers who viewed this page, also viewed:
- 3 Share this Article:
Those of you who read my blog regularly may already know that I’m now in my ninth year of living here in the Philippines, staying legally by using the Balikbayan Privilege Program, commonly known as the “BB Stamp” in my passport. No matter how many times I have written about using this program I find there are still many readers who are unfamiliar with it.
Here’s a few popular articles you may find useful:
There are also a great many readers who don’t understand the program, and also many more who have cluttered their mind with a treasure trove of “wrong” information about the program. Not knowing about something, or having the wrong facts about something is not a sin, nobody knows everything. But something I consider close to a sin is to pass on wrong information to others representing it as the truth to people who might rely on what you say.
I am far from infallible, but I do my level best at trying to present factual information rather than out-and-out opinion, or what often passes for fact, “Tall Tales” or “Sea Stories” I heard in a bar once. (the all too typical “they said”) source of “facts” that aren’t really factual.
So here are some common misconceptions about living here in the Philippines on the free, legal and absolutely simple and straight forward BB stamp.
If You Come to the Philippines Under the Balikbayan Privilege Program You:
Can’t get a bank account:
Absolutely not true. The banking regulations of the Philippines, commonly know as the MORB ( Manual of Regulations for Banks ) does not prescribe any special form of visa or any specific prohibitions against foreigners opening a bank account while here on the BB stamp. What is confusing to many 9and this applies to those on SRRV’s, Tourist, 13 Series Permanent visa and others is that many bank managers require a foreigners produce a ACR-I card from the Bureau of Immigration. For some reason many foreigners think the ACR-I card is only available to folks with permanent residency visas.
This is NOT SO. Any foreigner who is in the Philippines legally … on any visas and/or the BB Privilege stamp. may go to any BI field office and request an CR-I card. The cost is $50 USD or the Peso equivalent. No problem (and by the way this is the same cost any holder of any other visa pays for his/her ACR-I card.)
My wife an I opened a US dollar savings account and a Philippine peso savings account with out local branch of BDO two days after we arrived in the Philippines. Since I did not yet have a ACR-I card the bank manager graciously allowed me to promise to show my card after I obtained one.
Can’t ship household goods
Foreigners holding 13-series Permanent Residency visas, as well as foreigners availing of the SRRV (Special resident Retirement Visa) are authorized to ship into the Philippines, duty free, personal use property they own up to a maximum dollar value limit of $7,000 USD. Guess how what the duty-free shipping privilege of a Balik bayan Privilege holder is?
You win if you said $7,000 USD, EXACTLY the same allowance as Permanent Resident Visa holders are allowed.
In fact when I shipped our household goods to the Philippines in 2006, the shipping company in Los Angeles handed my a form to fill up, an affidavit stating the property I was shipping was mine, for personal use, and that m stated value was less than $7,000 USD. The part of the form which asked for my authority to make this shipment was a column of three check boxes, labeled Permanent Residency Visa, SRRV and Balik bayan Privilege. Just check the one which applies.
Can’t Get a Driver’s License
Absolutely not so in my experience and from the rules I have seen posted in various LTO (Land Transportation Office) (Philippine DMV) sites. If you hold a valid driving license from your home country you may visit any LTO field office which does “License Conversions” … they do not all do this, just ask the guard at the door … and come prepared with a two copies of the “Face page” of your passport and the page in your passport which shows you are legally n the Philippines. 13 – series visa, SRRV, Tourist Visa or, yep, you guessed it, BB Privilege stamp.
Got my first Philippine driver’s license in one hour at the LTO Main office on East Avenue in Quezon city. No hassle, no questions, just fork over a few hundred pesos in fees and wait for your new license to pop out of the laminating machine.
Incidentally, as an aside, the term “conversion” seems to me to be used in a different way than most Americans would think of it. You don’t have to give up your US license, you get to keep it along with your new Philippine license.
Can’t Buy a Car
This has come up a number of times over the tears. I have no idea where it originated from. But the facts are there is no visa requirement at all for a foreigner to buy a car. My wife and I purchased our 2006 Mitsubishi Adventure within three weeks of our arrival in the Philippines. We financed part of the purchase via BDO as well. I was never asked to show any visa of any type.
Can’t Buy a House
Well there are two factors at work here. The first one is absolutely true, no foreigner can actually purchase land in the Philippines. But the Filipino spouse can buy land and (with or without a house on it) and the foreigner husband can have his name on the deed. This is true no matter what form of visa the foreigner is using to be in the Philippines. It’s the law of the Philippine and unlikely to change any time soon.
But there is no requirement that the foreigner spouse have any particular for of visa … being here on the BB Privilege program is just the same as being on some other form of visa.
Can’t Stay More than a year
This is another misconception I hear all the time. People say, “Well yes, the BB Stamp” is a great way to go when you first enter the country, but what if you get ill, or tied down n some other way, unable to travel, when your year is up”? “You’ll be illegal through no fault of your own.”
I can see people’s point when they start thinking this way, but just because the BB Privilege stamp itself is only good for one year does not mean that you physically have to leave on or before that deadline date. At any time you decide you won’t be leaving before the deadline, just visit the nearest BI Office and ask that your BB status be changed to regular tourist status. Takes only about the same time that a regular tourist visa extension takes, costs a few hundred pesos on top of the renewal fee, and presto, you’re good for 2 more (or 6 more) months. Painless, simple and dead legal.
Can’t Leave the Philippines Without Your Wife
This is simply not so. Perhaps some people are thinking that because you have to travel TO the Philippines with your Filipino spouse (which is true, don’t try it without her) that you must also be with her when you travel FROM the Philippines. Not so at all. You are free to leave (without travel taxes and without the requirement for an ECC) any time you choose to, within your initial one year period.
Can’t Stay in the Philippines Without your Wife.
This issue (or, more accurately, non-issue) comes up often. A couple travels to the Philippines, gets set up comfortably, and only part way into their first one year BB Stamp legal stay, the wife has some important need come up to travel. people are concerned that this would mean the husband has to pack up and travel with her.
Well, that’s not so. There is no system or program I know of, and no legal language which I can find in the several laws that cover the BB Privilege program (remember I am not a lawyer, personal opinion only), which requires that a couple “stay together”.
The wife, as a Filipino, is free to leave or stay as long as she wishes. The husband, with the BB Privilege Stamp in his passport, is free to stay until the last day authorized by that stamp .. or even to extend his stay as a tourist , see above.
Can’t Use the BB Privilege Because Your Wife Can’t Travel to the USA.
I get this misconception all the time from couples who are currently situated with the US citizen husband in the USA and the Filipino citizen wife living in the Philippines. Their thought process is, “Gee, we can’t use the BB Privilege program because the wife can’t get a US visa and travel to the USA in order to travel back to the Philippines together with her husband”.
Well here’s a thought. What if the couple met up in some other country much closer to the Philippines … a country which allowed Filipinos to travel there, visa free. There are many:
Actually, more than one couple I know of has traveled and met up in Hong Kong or Singapore and gotten married there, then boarded a plane for the Philippines with their shiny, ink-still-wet marriage certificate in hand.
At any rate there is never a requirement the wife has to travel to the USA. Flying to Hong Kong, meeting up, and then taking a discount flight on the the Philippines can be a great way to travel to the Philippines, with or without the BB Stamp being involved.
Can’t Live Without Fear Because They Might Change the Rules
This last issue I want to talk about is by far the issue I consider the least anyone has to worry about. I hear5 this mainly from people who went through the expense and hassle of getting a 13(a) permanent residency visa and seem to feel that the BB Privilege program is some how a “lesser” status, or even an only semi-legal way of being in the Philippines.
Well both the BB Privilege Program and the 13 – series Permanent Residency program are established laws of the Philippines. neither one is “better” or more “permanent” than any other. The 13 series program has been changed in many ways over the past 10 years, both by changes in the laws or by changes in procedures decided upon at the BI level.
So has the BB privilege program.
I think it’s safe to say that many other changes may happen in future years. Both programs are ‘works in progress” and the country has every right to change how programs are administered, at any time.
To decide upon on visa or another based on the fact of how likely change to that visa program may be in the future sounds a bit on the foolish or delusional side of things, to me.
I have no working crystal ball, and neither does anyone else I know of. Any program MAY change. If it changes, those under that program will do as foreigners have always done. Comply with the changes and adapt. The only real certainty in life s death, and once that happens you won’t care what visa you have in your passport ;-).
Be happy and live well., on the Balikbayan Privilege Program or any under any other visa which meets your needs.