You’ve been living in The Philippines for a year and you’ve decided that the beautiful people, warm weather, and cheap cost of living overrules all of the downsides to living here and therefore want to stay! Great! The Philippines is one of the easiest countries for expats to immigrate into. It’s important to note that none of these visas grant the right to land ownership. This right is exclusive to citizens of The Philippines.
If you want to stay in The Philippines permanently there are three main ways to do it. 1. Extend your tourist visa ‘indefinitely’ (this is the easiest and cheapest way) 2. Marry a Filipino citizen (another common way) 3. Get a Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV) 4. Get a Special Investors Resident Visa (SIRV) 5. Hire 10 Filipino Workers
The ‘Indefinite’ Tourist Visa (9A visa)
As I said before, The Philippines has an extremely generous tourist visa policy. You can extend your tourist visa in 2 or 6-month increments more-or-less indefinitely. It is advisable that you leave the country every once in a while, though, as I’ve noticed the immigration officials tend to give people a bit of a hard time after a year of extensions. The 2-month extensions can be done at any Bureau of Immigration branch office
Long Term Stay Visa Extension (LSVVE)
The 6-month visas need to be done at the BI’s headquarters in Manila or possibly in Cebu. It’s important to note that once you’ve been in the country longer than 6 months you will need an exit clearance in order to leave.
After three years you do need to leave the country but you can come back the same day and keep extending your new tourist visa again.
Currently, only citizens of The United States, Germany, and Japan are eligible for the 6 months long term stay visitor extension (LSVVE)
Note: some expats have noted BI agents in the lapu-lapu office being rude and even declining to extend their visas. To read about people’s individual experiences you can join our Facebook group Manila Foreigners Club
How to Extend Your Philippines Tourist Visa
The process to extend your tourist visa in The Philippines is quite easy.
- Simply locate a BI branch office near you.
- Fill out a two (2) page form
- Make two copies of your passport–including the page with your current visa on it
- Pay the fees–currently 3030 pesos for 2 months
Marrying a Filipino Resident
This is the second most common way expats gain their residency in The Philippines. 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 Residence 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 13a Residency Visa Application Process
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.
The Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV)
The government created this program in order to bring more dollars and euros into the country. This is the least common way to get a permanent residency in The Philippines. Namely because of the onerous deposit requirements which range from $1,500-$50,000 and the $360 annual fee which must be paid in perpetuity. There are 5 SRRV categories as listed from the government’s website:
For active & healthy retirees, who opt to use their SRR Visa deposit into active investment such as the purchase of condominium unit* or long term lease of house & lot. The SRR Visa deposit is as follows:
- 50 years old & above : US$ (with a pension)**
: US$ 20,000.00 (without pension)
- 35 to 49 years old : US$ 50,000.00
For active/healthy retirees, who opt to maintain their SRR Visa deposit of US$20,000.00 in any of the PRA Accredited Banks.
SRRV HUMAN TOUCH
For ailing retirees, 35 years old & above, who need/require medical/clinical care. A monthly pension of at least US$1,500.00, a health insurance policy accepted in the Philippines, and an SRR Visa deposit of US$10,000.00 is required.
For former Filipinos, 35 years old & above. For foreign nationals, 50 years old & above, who are retired officers of International Organizations recognized by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). An SRR Visa deposit of US$1,500.00 is required.
SRRV EXPANDED COURTESY
For foreign nationals, 50 years old & above, who are retired Armed Force officers of foreign countries with existing military ties and/or agreement with the Philippine Government A monthly pension of at least US$1,000.00 and an SRR Visa deposit of US$1,500.00 are required.
*The value of the property must at least be US$50,000.00
**Required pension of at least US$ 800 for single / US$1,000 for couple
The SRR Visa deposit includes the principal applicant and 2 dependents. Additional dependent, entails additional SRR Visa deposit of US$15,000 each (except for former Filipinos). CHILDREN must be legitimate or legally adopted by the Principal Retiree, unmarried and below 21 years old upon joining the program.
While most expats don’t go this route there are some advantages to getting an SRRV that you should know about. First of all, you don’t have to get married. There’s no divorce in The Philippines and getting an annulment is tough. That means if you get married and it doesn’t work out you’re stuck with him or her for a long time.
Second, you get special privilege which the government lists as:
1. Indefinite stay with multiple-entry/exit privileges;
2. Exemption from:
• Philippine Bureau of Immigration ACR-I Card (Annual Report)
- Customs duties & taxes for one-time importation of household goods & personal effects worth up to US$7,000.00
- Tax from pensions & annuities
- Travel Tax, if the retiree has not stayed in the Philippines for more than 1 year from last date of entry
- Student Visa/Study Permit
3. Access to the Greet & Assist Program at selected Philippine airports;
4. Free subscription to the PRA Newsletter; (LOL!)
5. Discount privileges from PRA accredited Merchant Partners;
6. Free assistance in transacting with other government agencies;
7. Entitlement to PHILHEALTH benefits & privileges.
This visa is popular with vets and retiring Fil-Ams as the deposit requirements are significantly lower than for non-vets or Fil-Ams
The Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV)
This is a visa reserved for investors. In order to qualify for this visa, you need to deposit at least $75,000 in a special account to be used to benefit the country economically. You can get more information on that here. The visa entitles the holder to remain in The Philippines indefinitely.
In order to successfully obtain an SIRV, a foreigner must deposit at least $75,000 into a special Peso Time Deposit for a minimum maturity period of 30 days and a maximum maturity period of 180 days, with either the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) or Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
Once you’ve made the deposit you get a probationary SIRV. After that, you have 180 days to actually make the investment and report it to the BI.
Related: Why Expats Love Transferwise
Employ 10 Filipinos (SVEG Visa)
The Special Visa for Employment Generation (SVEG) is for foreign nationals who will create jobs for Filipinos in a lawful and sustainable industry. This visa was created to generate meaningful full-time employment in The Philippines. As such, maids and house workers are specifically excluded from meeting this criteria.
This is a great visa to have as it exempts the holder from the exit clearance and the special return certificate whenever they leave the country. It also doesn’t have the same money deposit requirements as the SIRV visa. You still must get a work permit, however, and it is considered a ‘non-immigrant’ visa.
The SVEG also has a whole host of reporting requirements to prevent visa fraud. This visa is only recommended for foreigners who have done their homework and can confidently sustain 12-15 full-time Filipino employees.
Reason being is if for some reason, your employee count drops below 10 your visa could be canceled. You also need to do your homework before getting this visa because if it costs more than 75,000 to start a business and employ Filipino then you’re better off with the SIRV which is an immigrant visa. Find out more about the SVEG .
Get a Quota Visa
The Bureau of Immigration will issue permanent resident visas to residents of countries that do the same for Filipinos. The US is on that list. This visa is not widely known and the requirements are a bit murky. From what I gather you need to have some sort of skill, ability, or money that would greatly benefit Philippine society. You can read their checklist of requirements here. The BI issues approximately 50 of these visas each year.