The Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines is stepping up
It is my belief that the Philippines is one of the visa friendly countries in the world. It is so easy to get a visa and a visa extension in the Philippines.
With a list of 157 countries to get a visa upon arrival when showing a (6 months) valid passport and an outbound ticket, it seems to be open for almost every tourist in the world to enjoy the beaches and city life in the archipelago.
But it is not as easy as it as anymore. The website of the Bureau of immigration reports almost daily denied access or people whose visas have been terminated due to visa violations.
This does not mean that the Bureau of immigration has hardened its heart for tourism. on the contrary. The immigration officers are more hospitable and helpful than before while the immigration law becomes clearer for everyone and there is good guidance from the top.
For example, the dress code for visiting the Immigration office has been eased up a lot. Were you not allowed on sandals or in a sleeveless shirt before, you might now be granted access anyway. Although I have witnessed a tourist in Iloilo being denied access because of his casual clothing.
So it does pay off to dress properly and check out the dress code for the office of your choice.
Just the other day, the Bureau of immigration has issued an announcement on the Annual Report.
It was known to many that you have to report to the Bureau of Immigration between January 1 and March 1, to be registered for the Annual Repor by paying a 500 pesos fee.
This year the penalty for not showing up in time is revoking of the visa, ‘for strict compliance’
Other years the Immigration Officers in every office would implement the Annual Visa Fee whenever your visa extension was due. Like, you would come in in October and you apply for a 6 months visa, the Annual Report would already be included so you do not have to come back to the office on an extra trip. That is very kind, but the way I read the notice now is that that will not happen again. It is really a counting of heads in the first quarter of the year.
If you do not show up in time, you will be exiled from the Philippines. I remember one time my visa was due in April and the Annual Report was then, including the fine for not reporting in time. Now that option is left out.
I would strongly advise everyone to go for the Annual Report
With the Bureau of Immigration stepping up and implementing the Immigration law as it should be, many people working here, owning small businesses on a tourist visa, may have serious problems and are at risk of not being allowed back in the country. Although many of those businesses are in name of a Filipino, the income you earn is earned in the Philippines and unless your Filipino business partner is your legal sponsor you are violating the visa rules. There are stories going around of young business owners not allowed back into the country after a visa run because the proof of income they give is not valid for the immigration officer to explain the long duration and no employment or massive savings in the motherland.
Another thing when staying on a tourist visa for the maximum period of three years and returning immediately afterward is that you have to have your story straight. I remember telling them I was a retired writer. And the computer file said: Travel blogger. In my mind, that is the same thing, but for the immigration officer it was confusing, I had to give an explanation.
Make sure your story is valid and continuous and that indeed you stay in the country on the right visa
It is my belief it is a good thing the Bureau of Immigration is following up on its own rules and regulations. It must be nicer for the officers to work from clear directions and instructions, other than before where the Immigration law was interpretable per office and officer, there seems to be much more clarity in the offices and also more knowledge.
Would you come in with a general visa question before 2018, you sometimes had to wait for them to look up the answer or ask the senior officer, now they are very well informed and the story seems the same in most offices.
(I type most, for I have visited multiple, but not all, so I cannot be sure)
When staying in the Philippines beyond 59 days, it might be wise to bookmark the news page of the Bureau of Immigration website, for their website is updated regularly with announcements and notifications regarding the Immigration laws, fees and visa regulations.
Another sign the Bureau os stepping up, they do update the website now regularly. As is the Facebook page which has become a well-informed medium for Foreigners to check.
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