A common question I see in expat forums is ‘How long can I stay in the Philippines if I am married to a Filipina?’. Guys, just getting hitched to a Filipina doesn’t mean jack when it comes to immigration! I’ve seen overstayers try to get hitched to avoid deportation and they still end up on a plane back to their home country as if nothing happened.
How Long Can I Stay in The Philippines if I’m Married to a Filipina?
If you’re an American or other western national then you may stay for up to 36 months on a tourist visa. You can get a tourist visa good for 29 days when you first arrive. After that, you may extend it into a 9A tourist visa for 29-59 days. At that point, you may apply for a Long-Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSVVE) which will allow you to stay in the country for six (6) months. The benefit to being married a Filipino national is that you may apply for a 13A permanent resident visa if you’re a national from an eligible country. This visa is considered permanent although you must file a report with the Bureau of Immigration once a year and it can be canceled upon the request of your spouse.
How do I get a 13A Permanent Resident Visa?
The Philippines has a reciprocity agreement with many nations that states if an immigrant’s home country allows Filipinos to gain residency through marriage than The Philippines will grant the same courtesy in the form of a 13a Resident Visa. You can check the list of eligible countries here.
However, the 13A residence visa is not automatic after stating your vows. The Bureau of Immigration has additional requirements in order to apply:
- Your marriage is valid & legally recognized*
- A clean record in both The Philippines and in your home country
- You can’t have any dangerous, contagious, or loathsome disease (this includes HIV)
- Proof that you have a stable income and are able to support yourself and your family
- You entered the country legally in the first place
*same-sex marriages are not currently recognized in The Philippines and therefore don’t satisfy this requirement
The above list was just to apply. Even if you meet the qualifications there’s no guarantee that you’ll be approved. Once you are deemed eligible to apply there are additional steps you must take in order to get the visa.
- Your spouse must write a letter and have it notarized on your behalf. This is because just like in The United States, the Filipino citizen is actually the one requesting the visa on your behalf, not you.
- General Application Form duly accomplished and notarized (BI Form No. MCL-07-01); (Notarize at BI. They have photographs available there for 4 for 100 pesos).
- Your Filipino spouse needs a Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA also referred to as the NSO) authenticated copy of their Birth certificate. I’ve heard it takes a bit of time to get this.
- PSA authenticated copy of the Marriage Contract of alien and Filipino spouse or authenticated by the Philippine embassy/consulate nearest to or in the place where the marriage took place. Expats report this step can also take some time.
- Bureau of Immigration (BI) Clearance Certificate (They give you this at immigration when you file the application).
- A plain copy of your passport that shows the dates of arrival and authorized stay. While doing this process you need to extend your tourist visa before you make the copy.
Which Nationalities Are Eligible for a 13A Visa?
The following foreign nationals are currently eligible to apply for the 13a Permanent Resident Visa.
*Limited to Filipinas married of these nationals
**Provided that the marriage took place before 24 April 2001 or the couple has been married for at least five years.
How Much does a 13A Marriage Visa Cost?
Additional Fee for ACR I-Card
1 Year – + US $50
Should I Get a 13A Marriage Visa?
It is advisable to get off the tourist visa if you plan to stay here for longer than one (1) year. The reason being is it’s getting harder and harder to do things like getting a driver’s license or open a bank account on a tourist visa. In a way, the Philippines is right to do this because after all, a tourist visa is just that, a visa for tourist. That means you’re supposed to come, take some pictures, meet some pretty ladies and then leave. That’s why you’re required to have an onward ticket when you fly here without a permanent visa. On top of that if you’re the type that often finds himself in conflict with others it’s easy to deport you if you’re on a tourist visa. See: Why Americans Get Deported from The Philippines
- Much easier to get loans and such. Even if in the spouse’s name, your income can be shown.
- Easier to buy insurance.
- No need for a ticket leaving the Philippines. You can come and go as you please.
- After the one-year probationary period, the visa is permanent (Though you need to renew your ACR I-card every five years).
- You are complying with the spirit of the law (This is a technicality, but if you come as a tourist, it is expected that you leave.)
- No need for visa runs.
- You are subject to an exit travel tax each time you leave. This is in addition to the terminal fee that everyone pays. (I checked with immigration. On a “permanent” ACR, the exit clearance and re-entry permits are part of the I-card, so no need to apply in advance of leaving the country. You do, however, still need to pay the tax.) This is an issue for me, since I travel frequently for work, probably adding 40,000 pesos per year to my expenses.
- It takes time and patience with the process. (Though it is not difficult, it could be a hassle if you are living far from an immigration office.)
- Your wife can have it canceled
As you can see there are some drawbacks to this visa. An important drawback is that it gives your spouse a lot of power over you. While not so common it is possible for a disgruntled spouse to have your visa canceled and you deported.
What are some alternatives to the 13A Visa?
There a few alternatives to the 13A Marriage Visa. The most popular is the Special Resident Retirees Visa (SRRV). This is a really good option if you are a military veteran, over 50, or if you have $50,000 to deposit. You can read more about the SRRV here. Another one is if you are an investor. This requires a $75,000 deposit. You can imagine why this isn’t so popular with most expats.