There has been a lot of confusion about the so-called express lane fee, to be used at the Bureau of Immigration on handling once visa.
Does the express lane fee still exist? And if so, how come some people say it doesn’t?
The Bureau of Immigration has seen a little reorganization. And when it comes to the express lane fee, and some field offices had different procedures for handing out passports and visas. Supposedly they reorganized their budgets and there was a lot of overtime that needed payout and all that made it difficult to get your passport back in a few hours.
Now, during the time I stay on Siquijor Island, I used to go to Dumaguete field office for my extension. But the (in my eyes) administrative chaos in that office last time I went it was such a bummer, and leaving my passport there did not feel right at all. Especially when they told me it would take up to 2 weeks to get my passport back.
I had to come in a week later to pay the fees and back a week later to collect my passport. Going back and forth from Siquijor to Duma with the ferry this way makes my visa very expensive.
I have been in multiple offices and I must say, I was always treated with great courtesy and politeness, but not in the Dumaguete Immigration Office. The atmosphere there is rather intimidating. And although other offices also have strict policies on how to dress and how to behave, the officers seem to be much more friendly and helpful. In my experience that is.
So I went to Iloilo, by far my favorite office to have my visa extension.
But the trigger point is: is the express lane fee still available, for I do not want to go back after 2 weeks.
Now from earlier experience, I knew that Iloilo District Office worked around the express lane fee being on hold, by using a travel agency service.
No idea how they did it, and I do not want to know, but you left the office, went outside to a lady that wrote you a ticket and you paid her 1,000 pesos and voila, within 1 hour your passport and new visa would be ready.
Since that lady also forwarded my ACR icard last time with LBC, I had her number and texted her. Yes, the express lane fee was still available at the Iloilo office.
So off I went, with a shopping list for my hotel would be right next to SM Mall and it would be great to do some shopping while staying there.
How about the express lane and all the stories going around?
In Iloilo, the express lane fee is back and available at the Immigration District Office. No need for an outside service anymore. Business as usual, the officers will ask you whether or not you want to use the express lane service. If so, you get a receipt from the cashier stating the time you can collect your passport. Which in my case was only one hour.
Now, what was up with the express lane fee? The Bureau of Immigration had some budget rearrangement, so it seems. On the website, you can find a memo about the express lane fee and budget for overtime. From now on the express lane fee will be appointed to the budget where they pay overtime from. So we tourists pay for overtime. Due to cover all the costs they doubled the price of the express lane fee.
So, the express lane is almost more expensive than your actual visa. But for me, it is worth paying since I love to have my passport back within an hour.
Your visa costs 500 per month excluding all fees and the express lane fee is in total 2500 pesos for one application.
For me, this will be my last extension.
After this, I need to leave the country and upon return, I need to go through the whole process of applying for 30 days upon arrival, 59 days and ACR1 card and so on, and so on.
What I need to sort out now is how much time it takes to get an exit clearance. The website of the Bureau of Immigration leaves some room for interpretation there since I am the holder of a valid ACR icard and I want to return to the Philippines, in that case, I can get my clearance at the airport. But ‘the stories’ on the internet from other expats say different, they all say I have to get the exit clearance in advance.