One can, for now, get their visa extensions in the Philippines for up to 24 months without getting special permission through the Manila office.
As I start to write this, I now realize how complicated this has become. Making it even worse it seems to change based on where in the Philippines you are. So all I can speak of is the Bureau of Immigration (BI) office in Mandaue City (Cebu City Office). I’ve read that someone in Dumaguete had to fax off some documents to get approval. In Makati, I hear people are just going to BI and getting stamped with no issue. No special permission.
So in Cebu, after 16 months, the foreigner must appear before the head of the office there and file a motion for reconsideration. There is no guarantee that it will be approved. If it is not approved, then the foreigner will have another problem
Okay, so what is the law. A new immigration law passed in 2010. Now, I’m no lawyer and my experience with Philippine law is not as extensive as it is with laws of the USA but the law doesn’t actually cause REQUIRE a change of prior policy but rather allows BI to make changes in policy if they wish too. That would explain where there are different practises in different BI Offices.
Now to add just another degree of confusion to this situation, the law that was passed in 2010 is called the Philippine Immigration Act of 2009. Yes, I’m amused.
The law allows BI to grant extensions for up to 24 months where it use to be authorized to grant them for up to 16 months. However, its left up to BI. It allows it, it doesn’t require it. The law also allows for initial stays of 60 days instead of the 21. However, in Cebu, they are are still granting only 21 days initially as I confirmed with a BI Officer. That is likely true through out the country.
So in Cebu, after 16 months, the foreigner must appear before the head of the office there and file a motion for reconsideration. There is no guarantee that it will be approved. If it is not approved, then the foreigner will have another problem as there is a requirement that a visitor that has stayed over six months get an exit clearance before they are allowed to leave. So if you file for your motion for reconsideration and it is denied (P1000 in fees) you then have to pay for your exit clearance and leave the country.
I would love to hear from someone that had their motion for reconsideration denied. I know of no one but I would like to know if it happens. If the head of office has reservations, he’s going to deny it.
That also means that you must appear personally. You can’t send an agent. So whatever you do, don’t loose your temper you hot blooded American that’s use to expressing your opinion. Remember, this is the Philippines and respect is key. You may not consider your expression of anger as a sign of disrespect but I can assure you, the Filipino immigration officer will. If you disrespect them your chance of having your motion denied but your chance of being blacklisted from re-entering the country goes way up. Furthermore, your chance of spending some time in the Mandaue immigration jail will be significant.
Remember, remember, remember this is not the USA. It is the Philippines, it is Asia and the cultures of the Philippines rule here not yours. The people wont understand your cultures nor should you expect them too.
It seems to me this law is aimed at easing the demands on BI should they decide they are burdened from processing these extension. The new law is also very complex. It changes some of the powers within the BI. It may take Immigration some time to fully understand and implement it. It appears designed to give BI more flexibility.
I worked within the IRS of the USA. So I gained a little insight into how bureaucracy and those that run them work. Human nature is to make yourself more powerful in your position. It makes you more valuable to your company. The more power you have the more you can tend to get. I watched my government work this way from the inside. I think it is normal human behavior. I don’t expect anything different here.
I don’t see anything in this law that requires a motion of reconsideration to be filed. Instead, it appears to me that’s the way the Cebu City office decided to implement this.
So this may continue to evolve and confuse. One could see this as the gift it is, at leasts one has the option to stay. When asked to why you want to stay, I wouldn’t say I don’t have the money. I would say, I’d rather spend my money in the Philippines and that I don’t want to be away from my family here in the Philippines.
I don’t like uncertainty so I’m going to make my visa run but I’ll do it when terms are good to do so. The hostage crises in Manila last month has lowered air fare cost to the many places and a 40% cut to fees to Hong Kong so now is a good time.
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