Why I Left The Philippines

Note:  this post has been corrected, significantly expanded and re-published.  Part of our on-going effort to make PhilFAQS.com your best source for answers to the frequently Asked Questions about Traveling to the Philippines, Retiring in the Philippines, or just plain living here in my second home, the Philippines.

Yes, that’s right, after living in continuously in Marilao, Bulacan, Republic of the Philippines since 31 October 2006, on 1 March 2009 I boarded a plane and left.  Somewhat of a surprise, eh?

Well it was almost a surprise to me, also, but don’t worry, it was all my decision, and for those who may be wondering, I’m back, same house, same place, just newly rejuvenated in the visa department.  There were several courses of action open to me and this was the one my wife and I chose to take.

You see when I entered the Philippines back in 2006 my wife and I took advantage of the basically 100% cost and hassle-free Balikbayan Privilege Program )often called the BB program or BB stamp).  (Balikbayan means literally to return to one’s homeland).  I’ve written before about the advantages of this program, here Do I need a Visa? as well as a few other places I am sure.

The chief disadvantage of this program is, it lasts for one year only.  So when I entered in 2006 my passport was stamped with a little entry that said BB, expires 1 November 2007.

(a lot of folks get confused with how the Philippine BI (Bureau of Immigration) counts days.  It’s actually quite simple … the day you arrive in the Philippines, no matter what time it is here locally, is a day “in country”.  The day you depart, again no matter what the local time, is a day not in the Philippines, so arriving on the 31st of a month and leaving on the first of the following month 1 year later is exactly a one year stay).

During that year you really have nothing whatsoever to do with the BI.  You are just here, legally, and able to go about as you please.  A very nice benefit for those of married to Philippine citizens or former Philippine citizens.

At the end of the BB period you have several choices.

  • You can apply for a permanent residency visa, based on the sponsorship of you Filipino/Former Filipino spouse,
  • You can leave the country not later than the date stamped in your passport.
  • You can convert your Balikbayan status to an ordinary tourist visa waiver status.

Converting to tourist visa waiver status at the end of my first, free BB year was what I chose to do, strictly because it was the course of action that “fit” best with what was going on in my life at the time.

Under current rules as a A Tourist Visa or Tourist Visa Waiver holder  you can stay 24 months in the Philippines, applying for and paying for an extension every 59 days (two months under BI counting rules).   (ed. note: there is now a six month extension option as well) You can extend your stay your stay every 2 months at any BI office for the first 16 months of stay.  After month 16 you are still eligible to extend but you can only do so at the BI main office in Intramuros, Manila.

If you have been following along, and counting, my 12 months of BB status and 16 months of tourist status was up 28 February.  1 March as the date stamped in my passport that indicated when I had to leave.

Shopping and Stair Ckimbing in Macau

My wife and I decided to take a trip outside the Philippines to get me back onto free BB status.

Checking around I found the best fare deal at the time with Cebu Pacific, mainly because I wanted to fly out of DMIA, the new/old USAF terminal at Clark.  I could have saved more by buying farther in advance, but a round trip for two Clark to Macau (the former Portuguese colony next door to Hong Kong, now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China) came up to an all-in price of PhP 13,400, about $275 USD at today’s rate.

This is Cheaper Than Extending and re-Extending a Tourist Visa, For Sure.

I’ll go into the actual costs of extending tourist status another time, because it is different almost every extension period, but it’s very safe to say that the cost of extending 16 months easily comes up to more than an overnight trip to Hong Kong, Macau or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia … again especially if you keep your eye on the calendar and plan ahead, buying a ticket when rates are good.

We found a nice looking hotel in Macau, the Best Western, Taipa, five minutes from the Macau airport for about $62 USD per night through my old friends, Asia Travel … I’ve been using them for years and I recommend them, they even answer emails ;-)  Everything done online in just a few minutes.  Took longer to print out the Cebu Pacific eTicket confirmation sheet (you’ll always need this to enter any airport) than to do anything else.

I chose Clark because it is close to our home here in Marilao, has parking at the door (long term is PhP 90 per day) and not crowded.  After we went into the terminal I realized how long it had been since I had flown out of the Philippines … we made a couple wrong turns, but everything was worked out easily, people were nice and helpful and no long lines.

(All the procedures and costs of leaving and returning are detailed in a bullet list at the end of this article)



Macau was a really interesting place.  It has really kept it’s European (Portuguese) flavor much strongly than Hong Kong.  There are certain similarities between former Spanish colonies and those that belonged to Portugal, but many more differences than similarities.  being so close, you might wonder why the Philippines wasn’t a Portuguese colony instead of Mexican/Spanish.  The answer to that one is, under international law the Philippines was supposed to be a Portuguese possession … in fact the Portuguese were poised to attack Manila and make a war over the issue, but king Philip of Spain (yeah, the guy the Philippines is named after) married the right girl and also became the king of Portugal at exactly the right time and decided not to fight a war with himself … so the Philippines stayed under Spanish authority and new Espana (Mexican) rule and administration.

Because both Hong Kong and Macau are part of China’s SAR program, US passport or Filipino passport holders do not need visas in advance.  Money changing is pretty easy, you can use Macau Pataca, Hong Kong Dollars or Chinese Yuan, all of them are roughly 7 to 8 to the US Dollar.

Returning to the Macau airport at the end of our stay was even easier than getting there.  A taxi glided up to the hotel portico as we walked out the door and we were at the airport in less than 8 minutes.  Fare in either direction (always metered) is about $4 USD.

No Onward Travel Ticket Needed for BB Privilege Eligible’s

(Ed note:  Please read.  This is one of the most frequent lines of questioning I get … and yet I have written about it over and over again until it’s pretty boring, really.  It’
s also very simple)

No lines, no waiting at the airport.  The Cebu Pacific counter agents were at first worried about my status.  Many airlines seem a little hesitant about the Balikbayan program, but their own official Timatic database regarding Passport and Visa requirements for Travel to the Philippines clearly states that spouses and children of former Filipinos are allowed to travel to the Philippines with the qualifying spouse with no requirement for onward travel or advance visa.

The airline can demand to see proof of marital status … after a couple minutes of hemming and hawing I asked the counter agent if she wanted to see our marriage certificate.  When I produced it … apparently they get  a lot of people who insist they take their word for it … she suddenly smiled, looked relieved and handed us our boarding passes.  All was well … when in doubt, show.

Please Be Careful OF This Fact … Use a Reliable Source … I document MY Sources

This is a good place to interject that many foreigners have told me that the Balikbayan program privilege can be granted to the foreigner spouse traveling on his or her own, so long as they can produce a certified marriage license/marriage contract. 

It may well be that some people have had this experience, but don’t depend upon it happening.  The Balikbayan law, Republic Act 6768 (you really should read the whole Balikbayan law, it’s only a few paragraphs) clearly states that the law applies to "… the spouse and the children of the balikbayan who are not balikbayan in their own right traveling with the latter to the Philippines. …”. That seems rather explicit to me.  The law also states that:

“… Any person who shall willfully derive, obtain, receive or enjoy or cause another to derive, obtain, receive or enjoy the benefits and privileges under this Act without being entitled thereto shall be punished by a fine of not less than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00) but not more than Forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) or imprisonment of not less than two (2) years or more than four (4) years, or both at the discretion of the court. Any alien found guilty under this section shall be summarily deported upon completion of service of sentence and be permanently barred from reentering the country without the special permission of the President. …”

Frankly, for my own actions, I am going to comply with the law as it seems to be written (in my lay opinion) and not try to circumvent the intent of the law simply to try to get a free year.  When they start talking about jail and then deportation at the end of the jail term, the hair goes up on the back of my neck … no thanks.  I like playing poker, but not at those odds  Of course, as we say on-line, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), so roll the dice if you choose to.  Play by the rules, it’s the easiest path through life, trust me!

How Was The Balik Bayan Travel?

Both the outbound flight and the return flight to Clark pushed back from the gate exactly on time and both arrived a full 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  A refreshing change from flying out of Manila.

Upon our return to Clark we walked up to a line at the Immigration counter with only one other person in front of us.  Mita handed the officer both our passports and said, “I request a Balikbayan stamp for my husband, please” while I dug into our bag for the marriage certificate.  The Immigration Officer stopped me by handing me my passport.  “No problem sir, since you both have the same surname we trust you, you are good for another year.”

Out the door, a short walk to the car, fire up the mighty Mitsubishi Motors diesel digester, show the guard our pre-paid parking receipt and we were out the gate of the parking lot before 5 pm, the time the flight was scheduled to land.

But Isn’t a Permanent Residency Visa “Better” Than Using the BB Privilege Program?

The definitive answer to that question is, Yes, No, or Maybe.  There seems to be a continual “battle” among the expat community with people on both sides of the issue insisting “they” are right.  It’s a stupid thing to argue about.  Both sides are “right”.  Pay your money and take your choice, and don’t spend your life trying to tell others they have to do things “your” way.

I won’t go into yet another discussion of the merits of the BB versus a permanent residency visa, there are advantages/disadvantages for both, but when I hear people agonize and complain about the trials and tribulations of leaving the country for a fresh visa I wonder what their real problem is.

It’s Easy Enough To Leave and Return for a New BB Stamp

This couldn’t have been an easier and more pleasant trip, and one thing about the BB program you have to agree with, no matter what method you chose for living here in the Philippines, the combination of totally free and not one single form to “fill up” has to count for something.

So now I am back and good until 3 March 2010.  No need to fear I’m leaving again any time soon.  Here are a few notes/reminders for anyone planning to follow in our footsteps.  The procedures are the same no matter which airport you leave from/return to:

  • Except for people with permanent residency iCard, every foreigner who stays in the Philippines more than 60 days requires an exit clearance document to leave.  You can get this at any BI office, (bring 3 each 2×2 ID photos, white background, no glasses).  The clearance  costs PhP 310 and is good for 60 days from date of issue.  It typically takes 3 working days to process, so plan ahead.
  • Bring with you to the airport A Ball Pen, your eTicket receipt (or “real” tickets), your passport, your clearance document and, of course, your spouse and your marriage certificate or contract… unless you are meeting up with her somewhere else).
  • First stop upon entering the terminal is the Travel Tax desk.  (at Clark make a sharp ‘U’ turn to the left, it is easy to miss).  All Filipinos are subject to this fee unless they also have a US Green Card or US Passport and have been in the Philippines less than one year.  Everyone gets tagged, yes, US citizens also, if you are “in country” more than a year.  PhP 1620 each.
  • Then check in with your airline and get your boarding pass.
  • Next comes Airport Security fee … International departures all pay PhP 550 each, no matter what passport you hold.
  • Once through the security ‘wicket” you’ll see Immigration up ahead, but don’t rush to the shortest line as we did.  You need a “Departure Card”.  These are on the wall to the right at Clark.
  • Present your departure card, passport and clearance if needed to the Immigration officer.
  • Go through second (or third) security checkpoint
  • Board plane.
  • On the plane you will be given an arrival card to fill-up for Macau.
  • Upon arrival just proceed through immigration, handing over your pass
    port and arrival card.  Typically no smiles, but no questions asked.
  • Watch closely, the Immigration Officer at Macau should slip your arrival card back into your passport.  Hang on to it because it is you departure card for leaving as well. (if you lose it, you can fill up another when you depart, saving it just saves you time.)
  • Enjoy your stay … be careful in the casinos ;-)
  • Coming back is basically the same process.  If you come from Macau you will be let in the terminal with your eTicket receipt.  No taxes or other fees to pay.
  • Go to the airline counter and recall what I wrote about above.  If they seem reluctant about boarding you just stay calm, remind them that you are returning under the Balikbayan privilege program, that accompanied spouses are authorized, and show them your marriage certification.  Should be no problem.
  • Get boarding pass
  • Pass through Immigration
  • Board plane.
  • On the plane back to the Philippines you will get an Arrival card.  this is a two-part form, one for immigration, one for customs.  Do not fill up the part of the card that says for returning OFW’s … unless you are one.
  • Upon arrival proceed direct to immigration, WITH YOUR SPOUSE, politely request that the officer stamp you foreign passport with a BB stamp (I know of a few guys/gals who never asked, and thus only got a regular 21 day Tourist Visa waiver stamp … they were pissed, but hey, the immigration officer isn’t a mind reader, you don’t ask specifically for what you want, you don’t get).
  • If asked, produce your proof of marriage to your Filipino/former Filipino spouse.
  • When handed your passport LOOK At THE STAMP before you leave the counter.  This whole trip was abut getting that stamp, remember?  Don’t grab your passport and rush off because you are thinking about getting home.  You can not get Balikbayan status “after the fact”: it is a benefit granted upon arrival only, so if you can’t read the stamp (it will be just a hand-written “BB” inside the standard arrival stamp), politely ask the officer to point it out to you.  After you leave the counter it will be too late.
  • Proceed directly to the Duty Free counter to buy the passalubong that wouldn’t fit in your luggage.
  • Hand the customs man your arrival form
  • Go home and enjoy another free year in the Philippines.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Dave – Great article! I’m glad that you got away for a couple days and refreshed yourself a bit. As I read over your account of the trip, I couldn’t help but start thinking that it might be time that Feyma and I took a little jaunt outside the country. We have lived here 9 years, and have yet to leave the country even once. Living down south, I think I would likely head to Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore, since I can make a direct flight to any of these from Davao.

    Great information buried in this article, Dave. I am sure that a lot of folks will benefit from what you wrote.

    • says

      Hi Bob, thnaks for the comment. Yes, I thought I wuld write it up becuase, unlike so many things that don’t always happen exactly as we think they are supposed to, this is the second time I have entered under the BB program and it really works simpkly and well. It’s also nice to take a break evry once in a while, Now our favorite two little nephews are mad at us, they want us to go again and take them. Sami, the youngest, was born here and thus ha snever needed a passport, so I told him, “I couldn’t tkae you Sami, you have no passport”. His response? :”What’s a passport, is that one of those big luggage’s with wheels”? Kids are so, so much fun.

  2. Tommy says

    Dave i have heard of people getting the BB by just asking without having the spouse flying with them and showing then the marriage cert. is this true ?

    • says

      Hi Tommy, thanks for your question. Getting a BB stamp without your spouse being with you? Sure, I have heard the same reports probably as you have. if someone tells me something happened to them, I beliveve them unless I have good reason not to. Under the law, this can’t happen. In reality? I would not doubt that it has. Since the officers don’t seem to have to make any record of giving out the stamp, and since the officers I have dealt with over the years have varied from grumpy to amazingly helpful, I wouldn’t doubt it has happened at all. I wouldn’t write about it and then maybe have some guy not get the stamp and grumble “Dave Starr said I could do it and it didn’t work” ;-), so I only write about what the ‘book’ says is supposed to happen. As far as I know, what I write about is the “proper way” at all times.

      But if you went outside to renew your visa anyway, and you happened to ask the Immigration Officer for a BB stamp as you came Back in … and he gave it … well great. If he happened to be strict or grouschy that day the worst you could gte was the same 32 day visa stamp you were going to get if you didn’t ask … so I suppose it’s always worth a try. Would I try it? No, becuase I’m a worrywart and I would think about what might happen later in that year if I got into some sort of legal bind and someone checked and found that my wife did not pass through with me … I try to keep all my “i’s” dotted and my “t’s” crossed while living here, but in reality, would this ever become and issue? It could but the possibility is remote.

      Another thing a lot of couples have done, as in the case where the Filipino spouse is in the Phils and can’t come to the US for whatever reason, and the foreoigner husband is in his home country, is for both to fly to Hong Kong or Macau and meet and then make the short flight back to the Philippines together, pretty much insuring they will get the husband a stamp and giving him a year here with no hassles. This seems 100% legal within both the spirt and the written procedures of the program … again, my opinion only.

      But the short answer on traveling alone and getting the BB stamp? It is not illeagal to ask for somehting, if the officer says, “No, you can’t get that” then what have you lost. The rules change from time to time … until a few years back no one could get a BB stamp if they had not been out of the country for at least a year. PGMA changed that with one stroke of a pne and now you cna get the stamp even afte rone day … like everything else involving immigration, YMMV.

    • says

      Hi Rory,

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment. I don’t think I’ll be writing about Macau much, mainly because I noticed when I posted this article about my visa run it had been a solif week since I posted here … wow, didn’t realize I had been so neglectful. It’s a nice place, similar in many ways to Hong Kong except much cheaper, less crowded and has its own distinctly European (Iberian Peninsula style) flavor. It has always been a place with a lot of casinos, since it joind mainland China … again like Hong Kong, and now they have the huge venitian casino complex built a few years back, which rivals anything in Vegas ,,, actually probably bigger thna anything in Vegas … seems to be doing great too, every Venitian shuttle bus or limo I saw was full of happy winners or sad losers. Is there anything specific I can dig up for you?

  3. Laurence says

    I asked for the BB visa when I visited at Xmas……no problems….I had a copy of our marriage certificate (which is adviseable). The Immigration officer looked very serious and handed my passport back and said “I’ve only given you 365 days”. Took me a few seconds to cotton on, but then he flashed a smile and I was on my way.

    I can make the following recommendations for anyone travelling to Macau:

    Don’t book your hotel until you get to the airport / ferry terminal. There are always representatives of the hotels waiting in the arrival area and you will get a better price.

    A meal at Fernando’s on Coloane Island (near Westin Resort) is a must.

    • says

      Hi Lawrence, thanks for the comment and the tip. When we came through the Macau airport on a Sunday afternoon I was struck by the fact there were no hawkers or ‘come on’ guys in view at all … maybe they were taking the afternoon off. I’m sure we could have found a cheaper hotel but since the room clerk gave us a complementary pgrade to a realy nice suite, I have no regret at spending $62 bucks. When I used to travel exstensively in the US on government business, in most cities $60 or $65 a night as the mosy we were allowedd to spoend and I can tell you I seldom had a room like the one we had at the Taipa Best Western.

      Many folks should have a family connection there in Macau, there are a lot of Philippine OFW’s there. They are even more popular with employers than in Hong Kong, becuase unlike Hong Kong, English was never Macau’s second language so there is less chance of finding English on signs, in storees, etc. Most dual-langauge siogns are in Chinese and Portuguese rather thna Chinese and English … but hey, for those who can’t figure out that “Aeroporto” means airport, better not venture out anywhere ;-)

  4. says

    Hi Dave, we are doing the same thing as you. But what is this exit clearance certificate? Kjartan left last November and came back end of January. I never got him this clearance certificate. Can you imagine if they asked for it and he doesn’t have one?

    • says

      Hi Ellen, thanks for stopping by, I can imagine you are really busy these days … are you still in training?

      As I just told another friend on a separate but related subject, the thing I love/hate most about writing on immigration/visa issues is, no matter how much I think I understand, I really don’t know that much.

      In the Angeles Immigration office is a big notice about the requirement. I asked months ago if I needed one to leave. The answer was an assured Oh Po. So when I decided to leave, I got one. When I got to the airport I handed it to the Immigration Officer along with my passport. I suppose I should have waited to be asked for it. She cheeked it over and took it as if she had been expecting it, so that’s about my sum total of knowledge on the issue. I read the sign and did what the sign said ;-) (as you well know, this does not _always_ work here ;-))

      Now, how did Kjartan leave without one with no problem? I guess the first question would be, what status was he in while he was residing here? 13 series visa holders and SRV holder’s don’t need an ECC (Exit Clearance), there may be other categories. My post was written specifically for my status, running out of time on a tourist visa … a permanent resident wouldn’t need to leave on a visa run.

      Or, the Immigration Officer didn’t care? Or, as happens so often from what I do know about the ‘rules’ of immigration, one would really have to consult the phase of the moon chart, a comprehensive astrology evaluation, and particularly when starting from a port city, the tide tables ;-)

      I certainly confess I don’t know what would happen without it, and for 310 Pesos I wasn’t going to gamble.

      As they say, YMMV

      • says

        I am not in training – I am training now – haha – slowly they are thinking my way.

        Kjartan has tourist visa, like you. We arrived by boat and got stamped with BB status. He left and came back, got stamped with BB status again. I guess my not knowing about the departure clearance was good, or I would have gotten one myself if I had known. You are right, for P310, why gamble? Anything can happen in this country. :)

        I guess when they see a BB stamp already, they are easy in giving you the same stamp. I was prepared for a 21 day visa and if this happened, all we need to do is to go to the immigration office, with me, and get the extension (BB hopefully). This will cost us P3030 for the extension.

        • says

          OK, this clarifies some things, and of course complicates others … isn’t that always the way? One of the reasons these visas, waivers, stamps, exit certificates and so on seem so complicated and why the ‘you must’ ideas often seem to be different every time the question gets asked is, there are really so many things that seem the same that are different, legally.

          It may very well be that I mispoke (mistyped) when I said that those preparing to leave the country who are here on a Blalik Bayan stamp need and exit clearance (ECC). Maybe departing “BB’s” do not need one, and that’s why he left with no hassles.

          And, to be technical about it all … a person admitted under BB status does not, in any way, have a tourist visa. The BB Privilege” is covered under a different public law (or Republic Act) number than the tourist visa program. So there appear to be rules that apply to tourist visa holders that do not apply to BB’s.

          It’s even more complicated in some ways. A number of people who think they are on “Tourist Visas” are not. If you enter with the 21 day so-called visa stamp and then dutifully extend it when required to, you are under the “Tourist Visa Waiver” program, according to at least some of the BI’s offical documents. If, at the end of the year of BB status you decide to extend as a tourist (which is what I did at the end of my first year), among the fees I paid was a charge to convert the BB status samp to a tourist visa waiver, Technically speaking, I have never had a tourist visa.

          If a person gets the tourist visa from a Phils embassy or consulate before coming to the Philippines, they _do_ have a tourist visa, and they may extend every 59 days, up to 16 months, etc., etc., etc. But even though they fill up the same form and pay the same fees and follow the same rules, as Tourist Visa holder and a Tourist Visa Waiver holder are under a different set of rules.

          This actually makes some sense, if you think it through. The DOFA is the agency of the government empowered to issue visas. The DOFA does not manage, control or extend visotrs. The law assigns that responsibility to the BI. The BI can not issue visas. But the BI can issue waivers to visa requirements or exstend already issued visas under the law It’s no different, really, in the USA and I would even guess canada as well. In the USA, the State department can issue visas. The USCIS/INS controls visas and issue things like the United States Permanent Resident Card, the real name of the “Green card), etc. Some times there is complication and added wait times and delay in paperwork, becuase different agencies and different Public laws are involved.

          Regarding Kjartan getting the BB stamp again while unaccompanied, as they say in the HAM world, “FB – Fine Business”. I’m surprised at how many foreigner spouses have reported getting the stamp qwhen entering without their spouses. Apparently it is completely up to the discretion of the individual Immigration Officers, and even though the rules appear to say one thing, who would argue if the officer wants to help with a stamp … if the guy is married to a Flipina and especially has had the stamp priviously, it’s for darn sure I am not going to argue ;-)

          Those guys/gals are uniformed, sworn professionals, and quite literally officers of the Republic, so we have to assume they are doing the right thing.

          This can really give you a headache if you let it get to you. ;-) Myself, in a few minutes, I’m going to take a hterapy session, gonna back the car out, drive to the parents house, pick up the pamamkins and take them to SM to ride the carousel and eat some KFC. Last time I was there, Mr, Sy’s minions weren’t checking passports LoL

        • says

          Ellen (and others on BB status or with BB status spouses). A point of clarification that I have been able to dig out since the original article. BalikBayan status (meaning a BB stamp in your passport) is _not_ the same as being in tourist statsus or tourist waiver status. There different things under the law. Example, if you decide to stay longer than the one year you have under the BB law, you go to the BI and among other fees, you pay to convert the BB status to a tourist visa waiver status.

          I have official BI references that state tourist and tourists waiver status both require an ECC (Exit Clearance) after 60 days stay (fee only) and after 6 months stay require a paper ECC form complete with pictures and fingerprints. It appears that BB status does not require the ECC to leave … perhaps the reason Kjartan was able to leave with no ECC (or perhaps not, these things always seem to vary.)

  5. Lee says

    I see this info and need some clarification please….
    I had a passport stolen 2 days after returning to Philippines 1st week November 2008, and will get the new one in about a week this April 2009. I have been in Philippines since my last return in 1st week of November. I dont know for sure but I have been told that my last entry and exit shows only from a trip in june 2007 outside Philippines and back in. I have made multiple trips in and out via the zamboanga to malaysia trips..and gotten the entry and exit stamps. The last one was 2 days before my passport was stolen.

    Since I do not have the old passport anymore…how do I remedy this if that is truly what immigatration has as my last exit and entry….

    And once remedied, what is my best choice below to get cost effective visa extensions before I get married here in december 2009.
    I will note this, from the schedule of fees to get a tourist visa issued in advance:

    FEES:
    US $ 30.00 for single entry visa valid for three (3) months
    US $ 60.00 for multiple entry visa valid for six (6) months
    US $ 90.00 for multiple entry visa valid for twelve (12) months
    (For each entry, a visa is usually good for an initial stay of 59 days)
    PAYMENTS MUST BE MADE IN CASH, POSTAL MONEY ORDER, BANK DRAFT, OR CASHIER’S CHECK ONLY. PERSONAL CHECKS ARE NOT ACCEPTED.

    And these fees from the schedule of fees for renewing tourist visa waivers and tourist visas:

    TOURIST (NON-RESTRICTED) ADMITTED INITIALLY FOR 21 DAYS MAY BE EXTENDED FOR ANOTHER 38 DAYS

    Visa Waiver Application Fee P1,000.00

    Visa Waiver P 500.00

    LRF P 30.00

    Express lane fee P 500.00

    • says

      Lee,

      Thanks for visiting and for commenting, but I fear most of your questions are over my head. I have no idea what date the BI will show as your latest entry date. Do they keep a record of folks departing on the ferry and those arriving and given tourist visa waiver stytamps? I don’t know, I would guess thet do, but you are going to have to deal with the BI directly on this.

      Your unfortunate experience just gave me another taks in my list of ‘keep yourself safe’ procedures … make a copy of the stamp in your paspsort each time you enter or renew, and keep the copy in a separate location from your passport.

      As far as the questions regarding the tourist visa costs, I don’t ubnderstand what you are asking. I think you are referring perhaps to the confusing langauge about the validity dates. You can buy a single entry visa good for one single entry stay, which can be exstended for up to 24 months, 2 months at a time. Or you can pay more for a multi0entry visa with either a 6 month or 12 mnonth validity period. Each entry, however, is good only for 58 days … these are principally for folks who expect to go in and out of the Philippines often. But if your purpose is to stay in the Philippines, why would you want one? Also, these visas are only available _outside_ the Philippines, once you are ‘in country’ you can stay leagl by renewing your exisiting toursist visa or tourist visa waiver stamp ecery 2 months.

      If you entered the Philippines beginning of November 2008, you can extsend your stay legally to the same date in November 2010. The first 8 exstensions can be at any local BI office, the remainder of the 24 months can be applied for at BI headquarters, Intramuros, Manila. Sounds as if you will be married by then.

      I also sounds to me as if you are [possibly way out of status. Not having your US passport is no legal reason to excuse complying with Philippine law, so I would think hard about visiting the local BI office sooner, rather than later (with a a large handful of pesos to pay overstay fines) and getting straight with them. Didn’t the US Embassy give you a letter passport/report of passport loss when you reported the loss of your original US passort?

      • Lee says

        Hi Philly thanks for the info. Yes you did answer my questions. On the Embassy giving me a letter passport/report of passport loss when I reported the theft of my original US passort…No they did not…I am wondering if that is because I brought a required Official LetterHead with Makati Police Report indicating the reporting of the theft at the moment it occurred and placing it in the blotter the moment it occurred.

        If I need a letter from the Embassy also, then I will get that before going to BI…Do I need that along with the Police Report in Hand ??

        Also I will go immediately to the BI and settle with them. The embassy steered me wrong on that one, they recommended I wait til new passport was in hand and explain the situation and pay the November to now visa fees.

  6. Lee says

    Last but not least…should I check with Dave Starr or Justin to get some info on whether I should go to the Manila BI Office or another BI office if I want to get the best responsive negotiable amounts to pay (I am assuming I will need to do some heavy negotiating to get it to a reasonable level $200 USD or less)

    Or do you know the best answer for that one ???

  7. says

    dave,

    thanks for this wonderful info. i got plenty questions from a lot of our canadian customers married to filipinas asking why the immigration in manila is asking a lot of questions from them and won’t allow them the balikbayan stamp even if they already showed proof of their marriage to their filipina wives.

    does it have anything to do with their wives becoming canadian citizens and not registering as a dual citizen of the philippines and canada?

    one of them travels to and fro the philippines at least twice, though he wanted to stay longer – he lost his interest because of the hassle he experienced before.

    what do you think is the matter? thanks again.

    manuel

    ps. where can i find the information about the balikbayan law you mentioned here?

    • says

      Hi Manuel,
      Thanks for dropping by and for your comment. Let me try to answer a couple of your questions in the order you posed them:

      To get a BB stamp legally, two conditions have to happen. The foreigner must be married to a Filipino.former Filipino, and the couple must be traveling together. I get the idea that you are saying these Canadian clients tried to return to the Philippines to rejoin their Filipino spouses, while the wives were still here in the Philippines. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way, the law clearly says that the BB is a privilege extended only to Filipinos traveling with their spouses. I’m making a guess here, becuase I can’t be sure you are asking about spuses arriving together or foreigner spuses arriving separately from their wives, sorry, you’ll have to clarify that.

      The Philippine spuse’s dual citizenship status has no effect on the BB privilege under the law. It is extended to Filipino and former Filipino alike.

      On your third paragraph … it really sounds again like this man was trying to travel by himself to the Philippines and gain entry under the BB privilege program. The immigration officers were then just following the law, properly … your client was asking for what he isn’t authorized to have.

      As an aside, I can’t see why the BB or lack of BB would be a show stopper to this man, he can always enter on his own as a tourist and extend as required. But the operative question is, if these clients are married to Philippine citizens, why don’t they have permanent residency visas and an ACR-I card … their wives can sponsor then, they get their card, and then they come and go, stay and depart as they wish? I mean it costs a few dollars (certainly less than a year of tourist visa renewals, and then they are finished, no hassles.

      The link to the Balaikbayan law itself is: http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno6768.htm . I put that in the article itself also, thought it was there before. Happy ticketing.

      • says

        thanks for your quick response, dave.

        his filipina wife (who is already a canadian citizen) stays behind in toronto whenever this man travel to the philippines. he is a pastor and have a congregation somewhere in davao (as far as i remember him telling me) and he always travel by himself to visit his congregation.

        it’s clearer to me now why he is having problem with immigration whenever he goes to the philippines. and you are right, they should secure a permanent resident visa when his wife travels with him so he could stay in p.i. straight for a year if he wanted to.

        thank you very much, dave. i’m gonna tell him what you just said here and point him to this article. i’m from the philippines but didn’t even know anything about this law, although i know it. i take it for granted perhaps because it doesn’t affect me whenever i visit the philippines.

        salamat, kabayan!

        manuel.

        • says

          Hi Manuel,

          Thanks so much for the further report. I find situations like this to be the case so often when I hear about people having problems. It is frequently because they are doing the wrong thing, and then having a hard time when the outcome isn’t what they wanted. Life is much simpler if you get the right visa.

          Another thing missionaries ought to consider. Missionary work, like starting and running a church, is legally ‘work’ in the Philippines. (It is in the US too, for that matter) Doesn’t matter if you are getting paid or not, there is a whole section of the Constitution and Immigration Law regarding Missionaries. You can’t be a missionary, legally, on a Balikbayan privilege stamp or a standard Tourist Visa. The requirements are here:
          http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=36
          Sad to say I have even been contacted by missionary hopefuls trying to circumvent the law on this. (I’m just a grouch I guess, but to me this seemed contrary to the whole purpose of being a missionary, but, then, who am I to judge).

          The good part of a missionary visa is, it’s like a 13 series permanent residency visa for coming and going, and one doesn’t even have to be married to a Filipino.former Filipino to avail of one … seems to me worth the small amount of paperwork to be able to come and go legally … not to mention avoiding the risks of jail and deportation.

          Let me know if I can help you in any other way, and you folks wanting tickets from and to Canada might want to look at Manuel’s web site:
          http://asiaconnectiontravel.com/
          I’m happy to meet up with a travel agent who makes good use of email, blogs, the web in general and Skype. I’m a big time Skype user and I wonder why more people don’t use it … the voice quality is often better than land line calls, certainly better than calling overseas on a cell phone, and f.r.e.e … hard to beat that.

          • says

            dave,

            first all thanks for the plug. i haven’t visited your site in a while because we’re busy right now that filipinos in canada are going back to the philippines in droves. they still have that election fever in them.

            funny thing about this guy i’m telling you about is – he again bought a plane ticket from us and insisted on getting the 6 month valid ticket. but while he’s booking, he’s giving a hint that he would be extending his stay beyond 6 months. we told him that the airlines know what kind of ticket he has because tickets are coded – even etickets.

            fast forward 5 months and 10 days after, he is frantically emailing us almost everyday and wanted us to help him extend his ticket. we contacted korean air in toronto and asked how we could help this guy but were told that he has to pay a penalty so he could extend it and that he has to do it in the philippines since he’s already there.

            we told him the message but was so stubborn that he still kept sending emails. the message we send him is always the same – he has to fix it in manila. he reasoned that he is in the province and has no time to go to manila to fix it. i don’t know what happened to him – he hasn’t emailed back 2 days before his ticket will expire. i just wish he was able to extend his ticket – of course, he has to pay the penalty.

            thanks again for the plug. this post is kinda famous. it has so many comments already.

            ps. i have an unrelated question about opening bank account in the philippines for a naturalized canadian citizen like me but is not a dual citizen of the philippines. do you have any info for that?

  8. Jaime says

    Interesting story. It seems you didn’t have to deal with buying an extra return or outbound ticket when flying back from Macau to PH with Cebu Pacific (three tickets all in all). Like I had to, when flying from Singapore. Although my wife was with me. You can only have a partial refund for the amount of the outbound ticket. There’s a non-refundable penalty fee of PHP2500. The rest of the refund can only be used for a travel fund with same airliner.

    • says

      No I did not have to buy a follow-on ticket, Jaime. I quoted and linked to the regulation, and described what I did to convince the ticketing supervisor. Each airline and each employee of each airline is an unknown quantity, so you will have to feel your way’.

      Buying another outbound ticket and then changing it, for a fee, as you did, is perfectly valid to me, if you can’t get on any other way … look at it this way, just one bi-monthly tourist visa renewal costs more that P2500, so you still did well, if you didn’t have the BB stamp, your have to renew 6 5 times… 2500 pesos for a year, un bothered, in the Philippines.

    • says

      BTW, it isn’t a “story”, it’s what occurred on those dates in 2009? Why do you use the phrasing you do, are you doubting what happened?

  9. Jaime says

    Thanks for the infos, Philly.

    You have a point about those PHP2500. Seen in that perspective they are but a tiny amount.

    Thing was not so much the money though, but the hassle and stress at the airport to get a new ticket via an internet cafe, and having a close call gate rush as result. It’s good to avoid. I’ve heard about those that had to do same as me, and others, like you, who didn’t. Guess it’s all at the discretion of the staff, this one was pretty zealous.

    I’m not sure though that he was right. As a married couple travelling together wouldn’t it be implied that I’m not staying only as a guest? Maybe you know?

    And, no, I don’t doubt your account as factual. Maybe I should have said facts instead of story? English is actually not my first language, mistakes do occur.

    • says

      OK, Jamie, sorry if I sounded ‘testy’, but this blogging on the subject of interst gets very tiresome because of people who like nothing better than to argue. I’ve been directly accused of being a liar or making up fiction more than one before, and I guess I am abith “Onion-skinned) as we say here in the Phils.

      As far as the staff being ‘zealous’. You haven’t mentioned the airline involved. I have written about this at least a dozen times … Philippine Air Lines does not follow the laws of their own country. Why? I don’ tknow, ask them, I have and they ignore me. I gave a reference in the article from the airline’s own database regrading visa requirements and it clearly states that non-Filipino spouses, accompanied nytheir Filipino/former Filipino spouse are eligible for the BB Privilege stamp. But if the airline won’t follow their own country’s rules, what can I do?

      If it was another airline, you probably just need some patience and if necessary, elevation. As I mentioned in the article, the boarding pass agent at Macau on my return said, “Sir, I can’t board you without follow-on travel.” I replied, this is my wife, I am eleigible for a BB stamp.” The agent (Filipino by the way) looked at me as if I had given her a flight plan for amoon rocket. Rather than explain any further, I said:

      (intentionally quietly … we foreigners, particularly me, always get too loud when we are stressed … more than being rude, it rattles people here so that they can’t think)

      Please call your supervisor.

      When the supervisor arrived I told her that I was eligible for BB privilege and handed her my passport, my wife’s passport and the copy of our marriage certificate that m7y wife had dug out of her bag while we waited for the supervisor agent.

      She looked at the papers, said something to the agent at the counter, and zip, zip our boarding passes came out of the printer.

      Next time I will hand over the certificate along with the passports. The airlines get fined by the Philippine BI, $50,000 USD for every passenger they deliver with improper credentials to the BI ports of entry. In addition they have to fly the passenger back to point of origin, at their expense.

      How many $50,000 USD fines would you want to risk having on your record if you needed a job as a reservations clerk/gate agent? Myself, I wouldn’t want any, so I wouldn’t be ‘assuming’ anything about any couple checking in, correct?

  10. says

    @ Manuel:, thanks for coming back and for your additional helpful comments. Indeed, it’s true. A great majority of the problems people seem to have on this issue seem to be because they insist that they are going to do things _their_ way and not the Philippines way.

    Now being self-assured (some might even say stubborn, but I won’t) is fine. In fact, I’m more thna a bit stubborn myself. But especially many of my fellow Americans (and Brits, Canadians, Aussie, etc. — the ones from the most developed nations) seem to have this feeling that because their particular nations are richer and more powerful, whatever, that things are going to be different for them.

    Actually, foreigners are often treated much better than many Filipinos … out of courtesy or just that the Filipino dealing with them wants them out of his/her hair (*smile*). But in general, when it comes to government rules on immigration, you pretty much are going to have to follow them, no matter how ‘important’ your native country is.

    My own view is, just follow the rules and things, over all will go smoother. In the case of the client you mentioned, his hassle is mainly caused by his own desire to do it ‘his way’, and when it comes to pass that he can’t get that done, he’s going to go on-line and bitch about your service … just a fact of life and one of those reasons I never had an urge to be a travel agent.

    It’s a tough life from what I can see, I applaud you for being diligent and caring a lot about getting the right answers for your clients.

    Regarding your banking question … the banking law does not prohibit a foreigner from having his/her own bank account. Some banks will be very happy to sign up a new cutomer based on nothing more than his passport and a visa or visa waiver that says s/he is in the country legally.

    Some banks, however, have decided, on their own, that only a person with an ACR can be a party to an account. usually they mean and ACR-I card, not the ACR itself. Nothing you can do about that from a distance. Each branch manager makes his.her own rules. I am here on Balikbayan Privilege/stamp and I had to go to several banks before I found one that would let me open an account (BDO, SM City Marilao branch … great people by the way).

    The BI has seen this problem so often that they now allow anyone in the country legally, no matter what their visa status to pay for and avail of an ACR-I card. Costs about $50 US, and one could say, “What a rip-off, they are making me do this.”

    Agreed, but if you can’t find a bank that will accommodate you on your own standing, just consider the money one more fee.

  11. Jaime says

    Philly,

    “As far as the staff being ‘zealous’. You haven’t mentioned the airline involved.”

    As said, it was Cebu Pacific and this happened at Singapore airport. I didn’t know until after I came back that I could have told the clerk that we’re married couple, I would naturally think he understood that as we checked-in together, seeing our names on the passports. But as a singaporean he might not know of all the PH immigration laws, such as the BB stamp. Probably he just goes strictly by type of passport.

    I didn’t know that the cost for them was a grand $50,000 USD! A little understandable then that some staff would be harsh with these strict rules. Would you know if this also applies to international airliners? I’ve entered PH with international airliners on a one-way ticket before without a problem.

  12. says

    I do beg your pardon, completely my fault that I overlooked that reference to Cebu Pacific. Sorry.

    I still maintain, though, that you can’t fault a guy about assumptions. I’ve mentioned before in this issue and others, you really have to ask, simply and directly, for what you want. As I related on one of my articles about this, a foreigner friend and his Filipino wife came through NAIA a year or so back, the wife asked for the BB stamp, the officer said nothing that my friend could hear, shoved the passports back at the couple and they went on their way. Only when they got home did he notice that he had received inly the regular 21 day Visa Waiver stamp. You need to take the time and look, while still at the immigration wicket, where oversights can be corrected.

    As far as a Singaporean not knowing much about Philippine immigration laws, don’t be too jingoistic .. an expensive Filipino lawyer I went to … and a supervisory-level employee in the BI that I had a meeting with … both did not know how the BB Privilege Program worked .. so most airline clerks need careful enlightenment as well.

    The $50,000 fine I have heard of from four sources .. A Fil-Am travel agent i know well, a supervisor at PAL, a Filipino lawyer and an article a long time back in the Manila Standard IIRC. It certainly would apply to all airlines who send improperly documented passengers … the US has a similar program in place, not sure of the amount but there is a hefty fine for airlines who send people on with improper visas.

    Kind of like the idea where store clerks become unpaid employees of the taxing agencies, collecting sales tax or VAT .. airlines are ‘drafted’ to become deputy immigration officers, even if they don’t want to,

    • Jaime says

      Ah, thanks for the infos once again.

      My thinking is also that the guy can’t know all the requirements, and indeed Cebu Pacific rules are (in accordance with PH immigration laws) that “guests” ought to have return or onward tickets while entering PH. In practice however westerners are seldom asked to show such. In fact, I’ve entered PH several times with a single journey ticket (with non-filipino airliners). There has been no questions from these airliners of any return or onward tickets. So there has to be some differance here, somewhere.

      Sorry for taking up space with this detail. Wanted to know more and that’s what I got. I’ll be checking your informative blog/site now and then, that’s for sure!

      • says

        No problem about taking up space, the conversation is interesting and important. These are details that people get ‘wrong’ all the time, and then … as you related … have to ‘jump around’ and often spend unplanned money and time to fix.

        As far as you entering the Philippines on a single ticket, yes, this can happen and undoubtedly will happen in the future. However it doesn’t mean the rules are different, it means that the rule was inconsistently applied (welcome to the Philippines … or even to the world of airline flying).

        One little item on this subject to think about … because a ;guest’ was not asked to show an onward travel ticket, does that mean that Immigration doesn’t know? I mean they obviously get lists and reports from the airlines … they get passenger lists before the airplane takes off .. by fax and/or in their computer terminals. I don’t know how this works and what info they get, but the thought occurs they may be checking without the visitor knowing …

        I’ve been working with people coming to the Philippines, getting fiancee’ visas and all sorts of other Philippine-related issues for more than 10 years now, plus I have ‘lived’ most of the experiences myself.

        What always strikes me are the inconsistencies. What happens to me may not happen to you and both of us are likely to have different experiences than Joe or Fred. It’s just the way it works, and I’d be the first one to agree that it can be downright annoying … that’s why you’ll see me write, time and time again, this ain’t paradise, trust me on that.

  13. SAM says

    Hi Dave,

    A great article and discussion. Enjoyed so much read it. Kinda I always hoped for me especially finding a legal way to extend your stay in the PH..smile.

    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?

    (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.

    (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.
    :)

  14. SAM says

    Dave,

    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.

    Thanks Dave.

  15. Prettylovelyinred says

    Hi Dave, Good Day! i read your column and really helping information website am looking for some information about 13A visa? do you know what are the advantages having this kind of visa in Philippines?

  16. daniel says

    hi my friend that was really great article but my problem is im iranian passport holder which meaning i cant use visa on arrival for philppines i need to apply again for that in philippines embassy anywhere so i would like to know if im exit here and going somewhere as u told us and what if it take long proccess for my visa again what should i do there lol my money will be finish haha i have plan to do that only in 5 days i dont have enogh budget for stay more that 5 days so whats ur suggestion my friend ? tnx

    • Philly says

      I don’t have an answer for you, Daniel … I have no idea how to handle that situation, sorry. You should address your question to the Philippine Department of Immigration folks, they have a “help Center” on their web site. http://immigration.gov.ph

  17. Jake says

    Hi Dave,

    First-time poster, thanks for all your hard work and help.
    I have two questions:

    1 – You said the exit clearance is only 310? Is that because of the new rule that everyone staying 6 months has to buy an ACR I-card. Because I think it was 2800 before, is that right? And are Cebu and Manila BI offices the ONLY 2 places you can get an exit clearance that you know of?

    2 – About the 1620 travel tax, if you pay that to the airline as included in the price of your ticket, will they make you pay it again at the airport? What kind of proof do you need to show them it was paid with the ticket. I am asking because it happened to a friend of mine, that he was forced to pay the 1620 travel tax twice, once with his ticket, and again at the airport.

    Thank you Dave,
    Jake

    • says

      @Jake (ID 4132): Thank you, Jake, for being a reader and for helping our little community with some questions.

      The article you have the questions about was written 2 years ago when I left the Philippines in the same status as you are now … I was on a tourist visa and had been here just over 14 months. I asked at the Angles City field office of the BI what i required to leave the country, they said you need an ECC, so I filled up the form, provided a picture and fingerprints and I believe they charged me only P310. One of the hazards of the game of providing information is that things never seem to stay the same. At that time tourists were not required to have an ACR-I card. The ‘game’ is already totally different. According to the published info I have seen regarding the ACR-I card, an exit clearance is included in the fee you paid for the card. Thus I would check directly with the BI, becuase every person’s situation is unique … but my _guess_ is, you don’t need a separate ECC, you already paid for one, and from what I understand, they take your ACR-I card from you when you leave as a toursit. If you aren’t near a local BI office, they have an excellent email “help desk” service on their website … write giving the details of your status and ask them directly there.

      As far as the “old” method of the paper ECC, I never heard that it could not be done at any BI feld office or “sub port” as they sometimes call them. When I last left in February of this year, through Terminal One at NAIA, I noticed there was a clean, organized office off to the side at the Immigration checkpoint with signs that said they processed foreigner clearance documents. Don’t know the ins and outs of that either, but it appears things are much modernized.
      (I was departing under a Balikbayan privilege stamp on that trip and apparently didn’t require any papers or clearance aside from my passport. Less than one year stay, so no travel tax due for an American citizen, either).

      Your second question, regarding the double payment of the travel tax. I bought a ticket to Macau from Cebu Pacific, and they did not charge me travel tax. I went directly to the Cebu Pacific counter to get my boarding pass and the passenger service agent tipity tapped on her keyboard, looked at her screen, and said, “Travel tax is due, sir, go to the Travel tax desk at the airport, and paid, went back and got my boarding pass.

      Cebu pacific and other Philippine airlines _DO_ collect travel tax upon ticket sales in some cases (as in the case of your friend). He _should_ have had some receipt/proof of payment from the airline who charged him, or the airline should have been able to provide proof at the airport. Why did it not work that way? Hey, I only live here, I can’t say.

      My advice to you, and any others in a similar situation, ask before you part with your money. You have lived here lonbg enough by far to know that you are entitled to an Offiial Reciept for everything. If you are buying a ticket online, and the tax situation isn’t clear, call and ask before you pay, ask for a receipt with the email you are gouing to get to confirm payment, and if you don’t get it, clearly, go to the airport early enough to take the situation up with the airline’s service reps.

      I find life here is pretty confusing from time to time, but usually, if you stick to what you know is your right, _AND_ you can keep from shouting, getting obviously angry, etc. (this one of my big problems, I write it here frequently as a reminder to me, more than for any other reason ;-)), you can usually get your way. But it sure does require patience. Also, remember, every employee, airline or government, has a supervisor. If they seem to be giving you the run-around, don’t get mad at them, just politely, but empatically ask for their supervisor. What happeend to your friend was wrong, and it could have been crooked, but I’m willing to wager it was an oversight on one ot more people’s part, and he could have worked it out with the airline before he paid the tax over again. But he may have not had time or patience left to spend … I know the feeling.

      Enjoy your trip.

  18. says

    Dang…this has been hashed over about a billion times, but with all the fees, passport types, airlines and other things, I got confused.
    I just have 2 direct questions.
    First of all though, I am in Samar and here under balikbayan status (May 2010), my wife and I plan to go to Korea in May 2011. 1. Do we or do I have to get an “exit clearance”? 2. Where do I/we get it if the answer is yes?
    Sorry if this was actually already answered, but I’m reading this at 0300 and I’m about ready to pass out now.

    • says

      @John Jackson (ID 5290): Hi John, thanks for being a reader and for dropping by with a question. For those who don’t know hium, John runs another excellent blog about living in the Philippines at: texaninthephilippines.com. Recommended.

      The answer to your question, John, seems to be that balik bayan do not require an exit clearance (ECC). This is based on my personal experience (I’m getting ready to stra my 4th year on BB status in a few days, been out of the country twice during those years, once on tourist status, once on BB. When I was a tourist, did need an ECC (I believe six months is the cutoff date on tourists … more than 6 months requires an ECC, more than 1 years also pays travel tax.

      But as a BB leaving the country I was not even asked about an ECC. The immigration office checked and commented, “OK, less than one year, no travel tax”, and off I went.

      I know of several other balik bayan foreign spouses who have also departed in the past year and they were not asked about an ECC, either.

      Wish I could see this policy written somewhere, but I have not been able to find it. You closest immigration office, (BI Subport they are also called) can fill you in and also process the ECC, or, they have a special booth set up at the airport in Manila (Terminal One) for ECC, overstay fines and other issues. It was open past midnight when I went though last February.

      I’m going to immigration on Monday, I’ll try to get a reading from them on this issue. Hope this will help set your mind at ease. It’s always great to have a fellow blogger drop by … as I say to every judge or mayor I meet, “It’s an honor, your honor”.

      • says

        Yes this does put me a bit more at ease. I will be completely at ease once I have actually been through the process personally though.
        You say if we are here ‘less than a year’ we don’t have to pay travel tax? We arrived May 17 2010 and plan to leave May 4 2011. Do you think or know if that is consider ‘less than a year’ or do they go by the month? Did you find out anything interesting at immigration?
        No problem with me dropping by. I’ve still got lots of things to learn about living here and need all the help I can get. Drop by my blog sometime and leave a comment, maybe something there can help you.

        • says

          @John Jackson (ID 5383): The ‘year’ for Philippine Immigration is 365 days. You should _not_ have to pay travel tax. Understand that is done at a separate window by a separate agency, so they may have not gotten my memo LoL.

          What I found out at immigration was the rumors I’ve heard about being able to extend the Balikbayan stamp for a fee is not really implemented. there is no directive out to the field offices to put this into effect, so if someone is on Balik Bayan privilege and wants to extend, your only option today is to request conversion to a tourist visa waiver status and buy 60 days extension (and buy an ACR-I card, required for all tourists in-country over 60 days). Cost me P6728 on Monday, I have to go back this coming Monday to pick up my I-card.

          Would have been as cheap for me to fly to Macau and come back the next day, but I didn’t have that option as my wife and I have personal business going on that interferes with travel right now.

          I did get confirmation also that Balikbayan do _not_ require an ACR-I card and also that balikbayan do _not_ need to file the BI annual report … the one they love to put out letters about that emphasize ALL foreigners. They mean to say ALL who are not on BB Privilege stamp. .. Angeles Immigration refused to take my P310 for annual registration … “Come back next February, sir, you’ll be here 1 year as a tourist then and you will be required to file”.

          Anyway, if my wife and I flew together to Macau (essential to get my BB coming back, and we stayed at the Venetian and saw a performance of Cirque du Soleil and then went to a poker table, probably the cost would come up to a bit more than P6728, ya think? :-)

  19. JC says

    Hey Philly,

    Great blog post and great blog! Tons of information that helps EVERYONE! it’s so great to search on google with questions that you have and up pops different blogs, articles, etc., that are truly helpful in getting clarification.

    I had a question that I can’t seem to solve:

    I’m here on BB status with my wife. We’re from America. We are planning to go to Macau next month to renew our BB status 3 months early. We’re thinking about taking Cebu Pacific… any opinions on them?

    My question is, do I/We need an outbound ticket to another place once we get to Philippines? I read that in order to get BB status we do need an outbound ticket to somewhere else before the BB Status expires?

    Coming here from U.S., we actually had a roundtrip ticket; from U.S. to the Phil, and then from Phil to the U.S. a year later. The travel agent said that roundtrip ticket is required so that’s what we did…. so was just wondering if we needed another ticket out of the Phil on a BB Status?

    Hope you can help!

    • says

      Hi JC, thanks for contributing. In the interest of brevity, though, can I ask you to please re-read the article you’re commenting on? Basically everything you just asked is covered there …

      —>> My wife and I used Cebu Pacific from Clark to Macau and return. Highly recommended.
      —>> Cebu Pacific did not require an onward travel ticket to return to the Philippines once we notified the supervisor at the check-in counter at Macau that we were traveling to the Philippines under Balikbayan Privilege and we showed our NSO authenticated marriage certificate.

      When you say:

      … I read that in order to get BB status we do need an outbound ticket to somewhere else before the BB Status expires …

      It would be helpful to know where you read that information. If it is authoritative, then it is a complete change in the way the Balikbayan Privilege law is being applied and people need to know.

      —>> Regarding the travel agent requiring you to buy a round trip ticket … there are three possible reasons that jump out:

      1. Perhaps the agent didn’t know the law. I quote a reference in the article above, the Timatic database and it hasn’t changed to my knowledge.

      2. Perhaps you came on Philippine Airlines. It’s my experience Philippine Airlines refuses to follow the laws of the Philippines regarding the Balikbayan Privilege. I never recommend them.

      3. Perhaps the agent was greedy. A round trip ticket costs significantly more than a one-way, and if you do not demand your rights, who else is going to look out for you?

      Let us know how you make out. My wife and I do enjoy Macau. And by going out before your year has expired, you’ll save enough on travel tax to pay for the airfare on your next trip. Godspeed.

  20. GH says

    Hi Phil,

    I came to the Philippines in Jan 2011 and had to leave and come back because my time was almost up (here for a girlfriend who is not yet my wife).

    I was told that, in fact, only Cebu and Manila Intramurus can process the ECC now and the airport is no longer allowed to issue the ECC. Both the immigration office here in Negros told me this and the information office from Manila told me, and the officers at Intramurus told me this as well (I wanted to make completely sure before buying the plane tickets to Manila just days before my flight. They said that you can only request the ECC 10 days before your flight! but mine was good for 15 days after the processing, as said the date on the paper). Anyway, that doesn’t give much leeway to foreigners. If it takes 3 days to process and you must get it no longer than 10 days ahead of time, that only gives a few days, plus they aren’t open on the weekend. So you basically only have a 4 day window to get the ECC.

    When I called them, the information office told me it would only take 1 hour to process, so I booked a flight in the morning to Manila and a flight back in the evening. When I got to the immigration office in Intramurus they told me it normally takes at least 2 days to process, sometimes 3. I kept telling the guy my flight back is later tonight and I stay in another island, he just told me that he will “try to help.” I ended up getting it back at around 5pm (was there at 8am), so I almost missed the flight.

    There has been a lot of changes in the Intramurus office over the past few months. Everything seems to take a much longer time. The lines are longer everywhere and the processing time is much longer. When I went, they were telling people that they should just come back the next day for a simple Visa extension processing which use to only take 1 hour (I use to stay near Manila, so I went to Intramurus quite often in the past).

    For wanting more foreigners, they are definitely making it as expensive and time consuming as possible and making things even more complicated at the immigration offices.

    • says

      Nothing you would get any argument from me on, Gary. It just never seems to get any easier, that’s for sure. Godspeed.

  21. Fritz Reinders says

    Phil

    For those asking about Travel Tax there is a Travel Tax Primer with full info on who, when & how much at:
    http://www.tieza.com.ph/pages-travel-tax-primer.php

    One of the little known features is a refund of overpayments that can be applied for during the 2 years following the date the tax was paid. Cost of applying for the refund is P200

    Philippine citizens with Permanent Residence (resident alien or dual citizen) in a foreign country are supposed to get a Certificate of Exemption (P200) when using a Philippine passport at departure. This applies to all countries not just the US as you said in your original post
    OFWs with POEA issued documents get a complete waiver as their work documents double as proof of exemption from travel tax & their spouse and children get a special reduced rate.

    As you have noted so many times the actual experience will vary with many getting out without Travel Tax by simply presenting their foreign residence documents, but the Primer explains the way it is supposed to work :D

  22. says

    I love the information I get from your site. Puts to shame the next to useless government websites. Would you know if leaving the country before the BB expires and returning alone also, before the BB expires allows you to enter based on the BB visa? Or will you need to be constantly accompanied by your spouse every time you re-enter the country?

    • says

      Hello Crew,

      Thanks for the kind words, but I have to say, the majority of my information here comes from government websites … although perhaps I can explain it a bit better than they do.

      Of course, regarding the Balik Bayan privilege, the real experience is what counts. When it’s all said and done there are a hell of a lot more people writing about the Philippines who are ‘saying’ rather than ‘doing’. I’ve lived more than six years in the Philippines on a BB or a BB converted to a tourist visa (in order to stay longer than a year). I’ve entered on a BB stamp four times now, and rather than make conjectures about what ‘might” happen, I’ve documented every entry here:
      http://philfaqs.com/get-there/a-few-more-thoughts-on-onward-travel-and-throwaway-tickets/

      Now regarding your question on travel in or out without your Balikbayan sponsor (normally one’s spouse). You can leave any time you wish on your own, but you can not legally renter without your spouse being with you..

      Some have been able to get the stamp “solo”. But it’s not legal. And some have had some issues with Immigration for attempting to do so. I would not recommend it. Bring your wife along she’ll enjoy the trip.

      If a foreigner is going back home, perhaps, somewhere his wife can’t get a visa to easily, a workable ‘stop gap’ measure is to fly back via some nearby hub where Filipinos CAN go without a visa … like Hong Kong or Macau, and have your spouse meet you there (cheap flight0 and you fly back to the Philippines together.

      But reentering on your own without a spouse, BB stamp already in the passport or not, I don’t recommend it. YMMV.

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