Ways To Stay Long-Term in the Philippines — Part 3

How To Stay Long-Term in the Philippines — Balikbayan Privilege

(Updated 16 October 2019)

I’ve written several recent articles about staying long-term in the Philippines.  If you haven’t seen them you can read them here:



How long can you stay in the Philippines if you are a US citizen?

Ways To Stay Long-Term in the Philippines — Part 2

How To Stay Long-Term in the Philippines --- Balikbayan PrivilegeStaying for an extended time on a tourist visa or with many of the permanent residency visas the Philippines offers can run into some money.

How about a way that requires no forms or applications to fill up and which is absolutely free?

Interested?  It’s called the One-year Visa-free Balikbayan Privilege.  If you want to learn more, just click the “More” link and I’ll give you the lowdown.

“Balikbayan” literally translated means “Return to the Country (the Philippines)”

Although many refer to it as the Balikbayan (or “BB”) visa, this is not a visa.  It’s a program run by the Philipines Department of Tourism.

The participant gets a one-year “Privilege Stanp” in their passport which takes the place of a visa.

Here are the basics of the program:

One year Visa-free Balikbayan Stay

The Philippines’ BALIKBAYAN PROGRAM allows a one-year visa-free stay for Filipinos working overseas and for former Filipinos who have acquired citizenship in certain countries (refer to list of countries below).

The visa-free stay privilege is extended to the balikbayan’s non-Filipino spouse and children, on the two conditions that

(1) they enter the Philippines with the balikbayan and

(2) they are citizens of a country listed below.

Former Filipino balikbayans traveling to the Philippines are advised to bring either their old Philippine passport or copy of Philippine birth certificate as proof of their former Philippine citizenship.

Note:  There’s no need for a former Filipino to carry a Philippine passport as well as their new country’s passport if they chose to reaquire their Philippines Citizenship under Philippine Republic Act RA-9225

Accompanying family members of the balikbayan can bring appropriate supporting documents to show evidence of relationship:

  • For the spouse: copy of marriage certificate
  • For each child: copy of birth certificate (indicating the balikbayan as a parent)
  • For adopted children: copy of adoption papers

EXTENSION OF STAY

Visitors who are admitted as balikbayan are given an initial stay of one (1) year.

Their stay may be extended for an additional one (1), two (2) or six (6) months at the Visa Extension Section of a Bureau of immigration office.

Balikbayans who have stayed in the Philippines after thirty-six (36) months may be required to submit additional requirements.

COUNTRIES COVERED BY THE BALIKBAYAN PROGRAM

Former Filipinos who have acquired citizenship from a country listed below can avail of the one-year visa-free balikbayan stay. If the country of citizenship is not listed, the balikbayan must apply for a Philippine visa.

The non-Filipino spouse and dependent children of a former Filipino can avail of the one-year visa-free balikbayan stay if their passport is issued by a country listed below. If the country of passport is not listed, the spouse or dependent children must apply for a Philippine visa.

Andorra Greece Panama
Angola Grenada Papua New Guinea
Antigua and Barbuda Guatemala Paraguay
Argentina Guinea Peru
Australia Guinea Bissau Poland
Austria Guyana Portugal
Bahamas Haiti Qatar
Bahrain Honduras Republic of Korea
Barbados Hungary Romania
Belgium Iceland Russia
Belize Indonesia Rwanda
Benin Ireland Saint Kitts and Nevis
Bhutan Israel Saint Lucia
Bolivia Italy Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Botswana Jamaica Samoa
Brazil Japan San Marino
Brunei Darussalam Kazakhstan Sao Tome and Principe
Bulgaria Kenya Saudi Arabia
Burkina Faso Kiribati Senegal
Burundi Kuwait Seychelles
Cambodia Kyrgyzstan Singapore
Cameroon Lao People’s Democratic Republic Slovak Republic
Canada Latvia Slovenia
Cape Verde Lesotho Solomon Islands
Central African Republic Liberia South Africa
Chad Liechtenstein Spain
Chile Lithuania Suriname
Colombia Luxembourg Swaziland
Comoros Madagascar Sweden
Congo Malawi Switzerland
Costa Rica Malaysia Tajikistan
Cote d’Ivoire Maldives Thailand
Croatia Mali Togo
Cyprus Malta Trinidad and Tobago
Czech Republic Marshall Islands Tunisia
Democratic Republic of the Congo Mauritania Turkey
Denmark Mauritius Turkmenistan
Djibouti Mexico Tuvalu
Dominica Micronesia Uganda
Dominican Republic Monaco United Arab Emirates
Ecuador Mongolia United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
El Salvador Morocco United Republic of Tanzania
Equatorial Guinea Mozambique United States of America
Eritrea Myanmar Uruguay
Estonia Namibia Uzbekistan
Ethiopia Nepal Vanuatu
Fiji Netherlands Vatican
Finland New Zealand Venezuela
France Nicaragua Vietnam
Gabon Niger Zambia
Gambia Norway Zimbabwe
Germany Oman
Ghana Palau

Does The Balikbayan Privilege Program Really Work?

Well, I’ve been living in the Philippines for almost 14 years now (I’ll hit my 14th anniversary in just about 2 weeks from the time of this writing).  I’ve always been on the BB program or on a tourist visa obtained by converting the BB Privikedge to a Tourist visa at the end of a one year stay.  So I feel confident in staing it certainly does work.

Is The Balikbayan Privilege Program Really Free?

Absolutely.  No cost to apply, no annual reporting (head tax) fees, no fees for an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) when leaving the country, n $50 USD ACR-I card requited (although you can get one if you want to pay for one).

Sounds Too Good To Be True, Are There Drawbacks?

Well, only a few that I have seen.

First, unlike when I came here years ago, you basically can’t convert your US driver’s license to a Philippine license.  Conversion now requires a visa longer than a one year term.

Second, the married couple and their children must enter the Philippines together.  They can depart separately if they wish to, but they must be together to avail of the BB Privilege.

Third, and this is the drawback you have likely heard the most negative comments about is the fact that the BB privilege is only good for a year stay, and if you want to continue living here in the Philippines you must leave the Philippines and then return to “reset your clock”.

This can be a pain, and of course, it will always cost you something to depart the Philippines and then return, but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as airfare both ways, ground transport (taxis, etc,) hotels, meals abroad and such.

Here’s One Couple’s Recent Story

They decided to go from the Philippines Clark, a good choice for cheap flights) to Singapore and then return.  Singapore is a good choice of destination, only a bit over three hours from the Philippines, but OMG it is expensive there, especially if you leave the airport and stay in a hotel before your return flight.

If you don’t go to a hotel, you are faced with hours and hours of literally “staring at the wall” at the airport.

I don’t want to sound too critical of my blogging friend’s choices, but here’s a much better way, if anyone wants to try it.

Clark to Macau and Return … No Hotels …  Almost No Waiting

Plan your BB “reset trip” this way:

Fly from Clark to Macau.  Cebu Pacific has one flight per day from Calrk to Macau.  It leaves Clark about 1030 pm and arrives in Macau at a bit past midnight (on the next day, important for the sometimes applied rule that you must leave the Philippines for at least one day).

After passing through immigration at Macau airport, walk down one flight of stairs to the departure area and check-in at the Cebu Pacific counter for your return flight to Clark.

After passing through outbound immigration and security screening, board your return flight to the Philippines (it’s the same plane and crew you just arrived with) and it will return you to Clark a bit before 0300 in the morning.

After passing through Philippine Immigration and getting your brand new one-year Balikbayan Privikedge stamp, either drive home on empty roads or go to a cheap hotel in Angeles City for a rest, secure in the knowledge you have “worked the system” to its full advantage.

Fares vary by the day of the week, but they are all displayed on the Cebu Pacific website,  Usually for can make this trip for under $100 USD per person.

Because of the way the reservation system works, you can’t book this as around trip.  Book your return flight to Clark and then book your outbound flight to Macau.  The two one way fares will e the same as if you had been able to book this as a round trip.

You don’t need to purchase any luggage allowance or even a reserved seat. (they will assign you one when you check-in). The only extra I would recommend is a p400 hot meal on your return flight )or on both flights, because flying always makes me hungry.

So now you know a bit more about the Balikbayan privilege and how you can renew it.  What else can I tell you about How To Stay Long-Term in the Philippines using the Balikbayan Privilege Program?