If you are going to live in the Philippines, one of the best friends you can make are with the government workers at the Bureau of Immigration, aka BI. If you treat them nicely, they will treat you nicely. That my friends, is the Key!
One must understand that every BI Office in the country does not provide the same services. There are BI Field Offices, District BI Offices and then there is the mother of all offices, the Main BI Office in Manila.
Every BI Office has a dress code for visitors who enter to do business. For men, it has been no shorts, tank tops or sandals allowed. It has been noted recently that long shorts are now allowed and certain types of sandals. However, headgear of only a religious nature are now allowed to be worn inside a BI Office. The Philippine Bureau of Immigration is almost constantly undergoing changes to make their services to the foreign visitors and residents better. Some say otherwise, in that things are getting more difficult, however, the ones to blame are the foreign visitors and tourists who push limits with the system! Every expat does not want to play by the rules but rather, they look for loopholes and ways to save money for living in the Philippines.
First Impressions Are Lasting
Many expats visit the Philippines aboard PAL, Philippine Airlines. I have flown PAL many times over the past 27 years and it was always my favorite international flight carrier. For me, the flight over was like an in-air Filipino Fiesta! Filipinos were excited to be returning home. However, some foreigners want to test the limits on the PAL flight by drinking too much and getting involved in altercations with the Filipino passengers. Other foreigners make crude remarks to the flight attendants. Every foreigner should know that even if they have an approved Philippine visa in their passport or if they are only coming in on the initial 21 or 30 day tourist visa given at the point of entry, their entries into the Philippines are not guaranteed! The PAL flight attendants and stewards can report the behavior of an undesirable passenger to BI and upon arrival, they are denied entry to the Philippines. They are put on the next flight home and blacklisted from the country forever.
The Bureau of Immigration Office
Nowadays, I mostly go to the Bacolod BI office once per year. The reason is that foreign residents must file their annual report within the first 60 days of the year, every year. The annual fee is P310 and it is not a long drawn out affair. I am usually in and out in less than 30 minutes. Sadly to say, more times than I would like to admit, I have witnessed foreign residents of the Philippines raising hell with the BI staff. Even to the point of singing the old Tom Petty song, “No, I won't back down!” That is simply craZy! If a foreigner overstays his visa in the Philippines, yes, there is a fine. If the foreigner tries to enter the BI Office while wearing inappropriate clothing, then they will not be allowed in. Some foreigners yell that their rights are being violated. Yeah, Right! It is best, without question, to back down and just follow the rules. If there is a problem, you can discuss it in a civil manner without yelling, cursing, screaming, threatening and demanding rights that are given to Philippine citizens only!
Even though I do not socialize with the BI staff in Bacolod, we are friends, when I enter the office. They know me from my years of going in and the staff rarely have a changeover unless someone retires. I know them all, too! If foreigners try to butt heads with any Philippine government staff members, they will be on the losing end. The staff are not insensitive to problems that may arise and they will respond if you smile, speak in a normal voice tone and do not, ever, insinuate that because you are a foreigner in their country, they are your underlings! It doesn't work. It is also rude and impolite, so avoid it completely.
I have rarely had any problems in the Philippines over the past 27 years but when something minor arose, I knew how to conduct myself to get the results and resolutions I was seeking. Have a great experience in the Philippines!
I agree. Sadly for the easy to anger foreigners, the problem flows from a dissatisfaction within. They brought the anger to the islands stowed away inside them. The world is full of unhappy and incomplete individuals looking for peace of mind. Running to the islands is often an attempt of running away from destruction they have created at home. They are fairly easy to spot however as a Big Shot is simply a “small shot away from home”. I do my best to avoid interaction with such and even apologize for their rude and often insane behavior when I find myself in their wake.
Keep up these revealing posts Gary, maybe those who are capable of being touched will be.
Gary McMurrain says
Thank you much, Ricardo. I also totally agree with your comments!
Some expats are unhappy, even with themselves, and it does not take much to set them off. I saw these same type expats in Hong Kong and in China, where I was a teacher for 9 years. Their public rants and tantrums are highly uncalled for! They do not realize that this type behavior can really land them in hot water.
The Philippines is a fabulous place to retire to but one must keep in mind, this is not back home and it never will be. It is best to stay at home if one thinks they will find the same things here as in their home country. And if it is that bad here, save us all the grief and just take the next plane back home! ASAP! We don’t want to hear all the negativity of their opinion. I have Zero tolerance for expats with this type attitude and I do not socialize with them or want to be associated with them.
Have a great day!
~ Gary ~
I had lived in Cagayan de Oro in 2006 and 2007. I never had a problem in going to the BI. I knew what the rules were and abide by them. I am currently working on getting my 13A visa. I live in Texas but have to go to Los Angeles to process it. I looked at the procedure of getting the 13A visa in the Philippines as compared to getting it in the US. US is better because it is $150 plus the cost of the police certificate and they issue a permanent 13A visa. If I get it in the Philippines they only give a temporary one first for one year and then you have to apply for the permanent one.
Gary McMurrain says
Thank you for your comment, Philip, as it is very informative. Yes, it is most often true in that getting the 13a in your home country is cheaper and there isn’t the 12 month probationary period. Over the years, I only heard of one expat who messed up by getting his 13a in the USA. When he and his wife arrived in the Philippines, they were told their 13a was not properly processed in the Washington, DC, Philippine Embassy or Consulate. They had to do the process again the Philippines! They had already shipped their belongings by Balikbayan Boxes and going back to the USA was not an option for them once they moved here.
~ Gary ~
How long does it take to get a 13A visa in the USA, once you submit your application?