RETIRE IN THE PHILIPPINES. The Philippine government makes it quite easy to live permanently in the country. It has fewer restrictions than we have seen reported by other Southeast Asian countries. We have seen several complaints about the hassle retirees get in Thailand. There are basically four ways that the foreigner can live in the Philippines. Let’s start with the Special Resident Retirement Visa.
SPECIAL RESIDENT RETIREE VISA (SRRV). This is a top option if
SRRV holders are exempt from ACR, I-card, exit clearance and re-entry permit requirements. You get a special photo ID card and a pretty PRA visa with tropical island motif is inserted into your passport.
There are several other categories of SRRV visa for those who are younger or do not have a pension. Please see the table below.
Are SRRV holders exempt from the Bureau of Immigration Exit Clearance Certificate requirement. The answer seems to be yes, another advantage of the SRRV. See an update at http://myphilippinelife.com/exit-clearance-certificate-ecc-required-for-srrv-holders/
In reading this keep in mind that it applies to what the PRA now calls the “SRRV Classic”. While most new SRRV visas are now the newer “Smile SRRV”, the SRRV “Classic” is really the best bet for retirees with a pension. The Smile SRRV which requires a $20,000 deposit seems more geared to younger and more more business-oriented Chinese and Korean applicants rather than retirees. More information at the Philippine Retirement Authority website. Also check http://www.philippine-embassy.de/bln/images/ConsularSection/VisaServices/pdf/special.resident.retirees.visa.srrv.info.pdf which is seems to be the SRRV FAQ which used to be on the PRA website but seems to have disappeared.
For those interested in the pension-based SRRV visa, here are a few things I’ve learned.
The pension-based SRRV allows a foreigner at least 50 years old who has a monthly pension of $1,000 or more to have permanent residence visa in the Philippines in exchange for keeping a $10,000 deposit in a Philippine bank, a $1400 application fee and a $360 annual fee. It is an excellent option for a foreigner not married to a Philippine citizen. One can argue about whether it’s a good option for those married to a Philippine citizen. I got a 13a in the Philippines, a relatively simple process.
If you live in the Manila area and are married to a Filipino, then 13a route is a wise option. Some provincial Bureau of Immigration (BI) offices will handle your application without any trips to Manila, but from what I’ve learned, the “fees” can run P40,000 to P150,000 for the probationary 13a with more when one applies to have the probationary status lifted. The 13a visa does require an annual report at a BI office (where you will confirm your address and pay a small fee - about P500).
Here’s a few SRRV facts:
NOTE: The only real glitch to an application can be with pension documentation. Most suggest to send a benefit statement to the PRA and they responded by email saying it is acceptable to them. The PRA management seems very anxious to provide good service but they sometimes have difficulties making it happen quickly. So follow up and be patient.
OTHER PHILIPPINE VISA OPTIONS FOR THE FOREIGN RETIREE VISITOR VISA. The foreigner can arrive on a visitor visa. On arrival you’ll be granted a 21 day visa. Be sure you have an ongoing ticket out of the Philippines to show immigration officials if they ask for it. The visitor visa can be renewed for another 38 days at an immigration office. Further 59 day extensions can extend your stay up up to sixteen months. After that, you’ll have to leave the Philippines and return to begin the cycle over again. This approach is followed by many long-term expats, although the visitor visa is not intended to allow permanent residency in the Philippines. This alternative involves multiple visits to the Bureau of Immigration and payment of fees. Some travel agents will take care of visa extensions for a fee.
BALIKBAYAN VISA. The foreign spouse and minor children of a Philippine citizen qualify for a special one year balikbayan visa — really just a stamp in your passport. There are no fees or paperwork. On arrival in the Philippines, tgive your Philippine spouse your passport and a copy of your marriage certificate and let her request the balikayan visa from the immigration officer on your behalf. The granting of the balikbayan privilege is discretionary with the immigration officer.
No visits to the immigration office or payment of fees is required, but you must leave the Philippines before the end of your one year stay. Then you may return to the Philippines more or less immediately and request another balikbayan stamp good for another year. Your spouse must be with you when you return, otherwise you’ll be given a 21 day tourist visa. Please note that the only documentation you’ll receive as proof of your balikbayan status is a small arrival stamp in your passport with a smaller stamp saying “balikbayan 1 year” or sometimes the regular arrival stamp with “BB” (for balikbayan) hand-written on it.
The balikbayan privilege is a great option for expats married to a Philippine citizen. It’s totally free of charges and totally free of visits to immigration offices. The only hitch is that that each year you have to pay for a round trip out of the Philippines for both you and your spouse. This can be a very enjoyable requirement as long as your health is good enough to allow for such travel. There are many pleasant and economical options. Watch for special offers from the airlines.
TIP: Rather than leaving the Philippines at the end of the year, the foreigner can report to an immigration office and request that the balikbayan status be converted to a section 9a visitor visa. Then you’ll be required to make regular visits to the immigration office and pay fees, just as you would as a regular visitor. Not every immigration office may be familiar with this procedure so be sure to allow enough time to resolve any snafus.
SECTION 13a or 13g PERMANENT RESIDENT VISA. If you’re married to a Philippine citizen or former citizen, you qualify for permanent residency in the Philippines. This is similar to the “green card” status of foreigners living in the US, but retaining their foreign citizenship. With this visa you can stay in the Philippines as long as you want. My advice to to apply for permanent residency at the Philippine embassy or consulate in your home country before you arrive in the Philippines. The process in your home country is quite fast and simple and the permanent resident visa you receive really is permanent. You’ll need to stop in Manila for further processing, but that can be done in one day.
If you apply in the Philippines, you’ll likely need at least three trips to Manila. Of course you can combine your trips to the BI office with other business or pleasure in Manila. If you live near an airport with good connections to Manila (as we do in Iloilo) you can fly to Manila and return the same day.
On the first visit, you’ll submit your application. That trip may be made at your convenience. Each of these visits may include multiple steps, going from window to window and so forth, so get to the BI office early in the morning. That way, you may be able to accomplish more steps and avoid additional trips or overnight stays in Manila. The second visit will be when you’re summoned for an interview with an immigration attorney. The date of that visit will be fixed by the BI. The third visit is to receive your visa. If anything goes wrong, such as communications problems, not paying attention and being organized, more than three visits to BI are a definite possibility.
If you live deep in the provinces, this can involve considerable inconvenience and expense. If you apply in the Philippines you’ll only receive a probationary visa good for one year. At the end of the year you have to reapply to make your visa permanent — more trips to Manila. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration seems to really be making an effort to make the process of obtaining a visa more painless and less subject to requests for “additional payments”. A friend recently went through the entire process (including five visit to BI) and said that he was not asked for, nor did he pay any “gratuities”. Dressing neatly and being polite is recommended (you must wear closed toe shoes - sandals). The BI has greatly improved their website at: http://immigration.gov.ph/ Check it for the latest updates.
Article by Greg Pasden. American Expat, Best Selling Author of 'Like Winning the Lottery'. All rights reserved.
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