How long can you stay in the Philippines if you are a US citizen?
(Updated 3 November 2018)
I’m a US citizen and I want to know how long I can stay in the Philippines if I decide to retire there?
Simple Answer — A Long Time.
Now, how long is a “long time”? Well in contrast to the USA, where visitors (if they can even GET a tourist visa) are normally limited to a 90-day stay, with no extensions, the Philippines is a dream country for international nomads for overseas retirees.
Apply The KISS Principle
Let’s start with a US citizen (or a citizen of any of the many visa waiver countries listed here). The simple news is, you need only two things:
- Your passport (valid for at least 6 months at the time you enter the Philippines).
- Proof of Onward travel within 30 days of your arrival in the Philippines.
That’s all? Yep, that’s all you need to get in the door. From that point onward I’ll show you how to stay here in the Philippines legally for up to 36 months. There are other visas you can get which let you stay even longer (up to the end of your life), but this is the KISS section, so let’s just stay with the initially free to anyone tourist visa.
Often confused with a round-trip ticket back to your home country, this requirement probably adds more confusion and mystery to the tourist visa program than any other requirement.
What the Philippines is looking for is a degree of assurance that you, the visitor, will leave the Philippines before your free upon arrival tourist visa waiver stamp expires.
The way they have chosen to give them this assurance is to require all visitors to show evidence that they will leave the Philippines within 30 days of their arrival.
It’s hardly a perfect system, but it is the system we have, and it’s really not as big a deal as many people make of it.
Ways To Show Onward Travel Proof
- Round Trip Ticket: Staying true to our “KISS” principle, the simplest way is to purchase a round-trip ticket with your departure date not more than 30 days from your arrival date. Nothing to it and your airline or travel agent will be happy to take your money for this. But it is by far the most expensive way to deal with the issue, and it hardly serves those who want to stay for a longer time.
- Full Fare Refundable Ticket Out Of The Philippines: When we search for airline flights we naturally always look for the cheapest fare. But “name brand” US airlines (and many other countries airlines) offer “full fare, refundable tickets”. They cost a LOT more than basic economy tickets, but it really doesn’t matter. You are going to charge such a flight to your credit card within 30 days of the flight date, and then after you show your paid for ticket, you cancel the reservation and the charges to your credit card are reversed before your credit card bill is due. (be sure to check the airline’s policies and rules on refunds BEFORE you make the purchase.)
- Throwaway Tickets: This is the preferred method of many travelers. Go to an airline’s online site and purchase a one-way ticket out of the Philippines (Manila to Macau is often the cheapest fare), and show that paid for flight when asked. Then, just don’t take the flight. Easy and quite cheap, probably less than$80 USD.
Once you get into the Philippines using one of these methods, you will never have to show an onward travel ticket again when you wish to extend your tourist visa stay or change to another type of visa. It’s a “one-time” requirement.
Throwaway Cost Comparison.
Now the idea of paying for something and not using it really seems “wrong” to many of us. But when it makes sense, it makes sense. Let’s do a comparison for a fictional reader here, we’ll call “Fred”.
Fred lives in Kansas City and wants to go to the Philippines and perhaps stay … for as long as several years.
If Fred decides to use option 1, and purchase a round trip ticket and then just not use the return half of his fare, if he flies to the Philippines on 15 January 2019 his round trip ticket will cost about $1583 USD, if booked today on United Airlines.
If Fred decided to take the throwaway ticket route, he could purchase a one-way ticket today for 15 January for $1050 USD, saving more than $530 USD. If he purchased a throwaway ticket from Clark airport, the Philippines to Macau, China, at the quoted price today it would cost under $50 USD, including all taxes and fees.
So a one-way ticket from the USA and a throwaway ticket for a trip outside the Philippines would cost Fred less than $1100 USD and he would be free to extend his visa and stay in the Philippines for at least 36 months.
I’ve heard many people say the cost difference between a round-trip and one-way ticket isn’t that much. I can assure you it is worth the “hassle” of a throwaway ticket.
If booking a ticket for yourself online seems too complex for you, there are several providers who will do the job for you, just Google.
Staying In The Philippines As a Tourist
OK, now we have beaten the onward travel issue to death, and we’re currently in the Philippines enjoying life when we remember this whole article was about how long you could stay on a US passport.
If you look at the stamp the Philippine Immigration Officer placed in your passport you will see a date which shows your last legal day in the Philippines. But you can fix this easily. Just go to the most convenient Bureau of Immigration Office (see map here) and renew your visa waiver.
Renewal Is Simple And Fairly Cheap.
Just go to the office with your passport, tell the officer you want to renew your visa waiver, and she or he will hand you a simple form to “fill up” (that’s how we say “fill out” in the Philippines).
Hand in the form and your passport when told to, wait for your name to be called by the cashier and when called, pay the fee.
You can renew at any office for 60 days, or at the main office in Intramuros, Manila, for up to 6 months. The cost is less than $30 USD a month (in the equivalent Philippine Pesos, of course).
Rinse, Wash, Repeat
You can repeat this process as many times as you wish, up to the maximum stay of 36 months. What happens then?
Well, that’s the beauty of Philippine Immigration rules. If you reach your maximum stay and you still want to live in the Philippines even longer, no problem.
Just buy a ticket out of the Philippines (again, Macau is often the cheapest international destination), and return immediately to the Philippines.
The “36-month clock” then starts over again, and you are good to go for 3 more years. Easy Peasy.
There Are Other Ways To Stay Even Longer
There are a number of other options for foreigners to stay long-term in the Philippines.
Some depend on marital status (such as being married to a Philippine or former-Philippine citizen).
Some depend upon military veteran status.
And some focus on making a savings deposit or starting a business which employs Filipinos.
I’ll cover more about these other options in the future, but in this article, I mainly wanted to show how simple it is for a foreigner to stay at least three years at a time in the Philippines
I don’t believe there is another country on earth which make s long-term stays for foreigners as easy as the Philippines does.
So, now you know How long can you stay in the Philippines if you are a US citizen?