As I mentioned in previous articles respect is paramount in The Philippines. As a foreigner, if you disrespect the wrong person you could end up being declared a persona non grata (Latin: unwanted person) and blacklisted by the Bureau of Immigration. This means you are no longer welcome in The Philippines. The worst part of it the Bureau of Immigration doesn’t have to inform you beforehand that you were declared a Persona Non-Grata and blacklisted. I’ve heard stories of guys only finding out that they got blacklisted once they touched down at the airport and were turned away by the customs officials.
The best medicine is prevention. Most people who got blacklisted had a hand in their predicament. That’s why it’s important to keep your nose clean and avoid being a walang hiyang foreigner (shameless foreigner). I have a whole article on Philippine etiquette and how to behave while you’re here.
Why a Foreigner May Be Blacklisted in The Philippines
There are various reasons why a foreigner may be blacklisted from entering The Philippines. Here are some of the most common reasons.
Overstaying His Visa
This is probably the most common reason. The Philippines doesn’t take kindly to people not keeping up on their tourist visa extensions. Remember, it’s about revenue. That’s why falling behind on your visa extensions is the easiest way to get blacklisted. Usually, you need to be 6 months behind before you get banned.
Soliciting Prostitutes (Yes I’m serious)
Prostitution is illegal in The Philippines and if you are caught trying to buy a hooker you could be blacklisted. It’s not just soliciting prostitutes, the government is really cracking down on all sex offenders. If they discover you were convicted of a sex crime back home you could be blacklisted, even if you have a clean record here. They just don’t want to take that chance.
Being a Smuggler
Black market merchants (including drug dealers) are blacklisted for obvious reasons.
Participating in Politics
Thomas van Beersum violated his tourist visa when he attended a protest rally. The Dutchman became famous nationwide for making a cop cry after he shouted at him for several minutes while attending a protest. The BI has issued an order that foreigners may not participate in Philippine political affairs. As a Political Science graduate, this was difficult for me to swallow but we must keep in mind that we are guests in this country It’s not our place to come here and try to tell them how to run their country.
Being an Indigent
The reason The Philippines opens its doors so widely for us foreigners is that they want us to bring our dollars to help their economy. It should make sense why a country with 40%-75% poverty rate doesn’t want foreign indigents adding to their ranks.
Angering the Wrong Person
Nikolaas Vondeling was declared a persona non-grata by two government councils and deported after getting into a shouting match with government officials in Cebu over some resorts he allegedly built without permits.
This isn’t written in law but this let us not forget that this is still a developing nation and as such favors are cheap and easy to come by for the well connected. Pissing off a girl from a well-connected family could get you blacklisted. The good news is those types of blacklists are typically easy to reverse, more on that in a later section.
Disrespecting an Immigration Officer
Foreigners who are rude to customs officials are the very publicly deported and blacklisted from The Philippines. It’s just like in any other country. Being rude to an immigration officer will often cause a damper in your vacation plans.
This is by far the broadest category to deport and blacklist a foreigner. There are no boundaries to what is to considered ‘undesirable’.The Philippine Supreme Court went so far as to say that undesirability means whatever the Bureau of Immigration says it means.
There is no provision in the Constitution nor act of the legislature defining the power, as it is evident that it is the intention of the law to grant to the Chief Executive full discretion to determine whether an alien’s residence in the country is so undesirable as to affect or injure the security, welfare or interest of the state. The adjudication of facts upon which deportation is predicated also devolves on the Chief Executive whose decision is final and executory.
How to Know if You’ve Been Blacklisted
As I mentioned before the Bureau of Immigration doesn’t have to inform you that you’ve been blacklisted. Sometimes they will contact you if you’re still in The Philippines, however, they are not required to do this. It’s very common for guys to find out they’ve been banned when they try to re-enter the country. You can also contact an immigration assistance service here to check if there is a derogatory record of you with the Bureau of Immigration.
What to do if you’ve been blacklisted by the Bureau of Immigration
Once you discover you’ve been blacklisted take a deep breath and think rationally. It’s not the end of the world. If you are a national of a western country you do have options. That being said first and foremost if you ever find yourself in trouble with the Bureau of Immigration you do need a lawyer. It’s not like the US where you can be a google scholar and win a case. In The Philippines, the most important factor in whether or not your case will prosper is how well connected your attorney is. Here are your options if you’ve been blacklisted in The Philippines.
Wait out the blacklist
The good news is not all blacklistings are permanent, in fact, most aren’t.
Under Immigration Administrative Circular No. SBM-2014-001, the following time frames corresponding to the immigration violation are required to lapse prior to a blacklist order being lifted
A. Three (3) months
- Public charge
- Member of a family accompanying an excluded alien and companions thereof
- Children below 15 years old unaccompanied by parents
- Improperly documented
B. Six (6) months from:
- Deported by virtue of a Voluntary Deportation Order
- Overstaying for less than one year
C. Six (6) months after being cured of the condition or illness for foreign nationals who were excluded under the following grounds:
- Afflicted with a loathsome or dangerous and contagious disease
D. Twelve (12) months from date of actual exclusion or implementation of a deportation order for foreign nationals who were excluded/deported under the following grounds:
- Prostitutes of procurers of person who came for any immoral purpose
- A person who practice polygamy or who believe in or advocate the practice of polygamy
- Paupers, vagrant, and beggars
- Unskilled manual laborers
- Those who entered the country through misrepresentation
- Those who entered the country without inspection and admission
- Those who are drunk and disorderly at the port of entry
- Those who refuse to comply with inspection procedures
- Those who display unruly behavior or discourtesy to an immigration official
- Illegal entrants
- In violation of the condition of limitation of stay
- Overstaying for more than one year
- Canceled visa
- Improperly documented
E. Five (5) years:
- Engaging in profiteering hoarding, or black-marketing
- Defrauding of creditors
F. Ten (10) years:
- If you are convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude
- If you are convicted for a crime under Section 45 and 46 of the PIA, Alien Registration Act or the Naturalization Law.
G. Not Qualified unless ordered by the Secretary of Justice (Permanent)
- Involvement in subversive activities
- Convicted of a crime involving prohibited drugs
- Registered sex offender
The longest period shall be observed for the lifting of Blacklist entries based on more than one ground with a different prescribed period for lifting as listed in this Order.
Petition for Lifting of Blacklist Order
You may write a letter to the Bureau of Immigration commissioner requesting your removal from the BI’s immigration blacklist. In the letter, you need to state the reason you got blacklisted and why that reason is no longer valid or was never valid in the first place. It’s also important to submit documentation supporting your side of the story. It’s highly advisable that you utilize an attorney to help you with this.
If you were blacklisted for overstaying then you need to explain why you didn’t bother to extend your tourist visas and explain that you have a steady source of income. From what I’ve heard in my circles, petitions for removal of the blacklist for overstaying are typically approved so long as you prove that you have income. If you just angered the wrong person those petitions are also typically approved.
Reasons a Petition to Lift a Blacklist Order May be Denied
If you got blacklisted for committing a sex or drug crime you need to just move on as your petition will most likely be denied. That is, unless you have substantial evidence that you weren’t the perpetrator of said crimes. The Philippines receives money from International Agencies to help deter human trafficking, sexual abuse of minors, and fight drug trafficking. It’s simply not in their interests to let you back in. Another important reason is that you didn’t have a good lawyer helping you.
As I mentioned above if you were blacklisted for committing a sex or drug crime (that includes marijuana) it may be advisable to just move on. Another good reason to move on is you will most likely need to hire an attorney to help get your name removed from the blacklist. Whether or not he succeeds depends on how well connected he is, but no matter how well connected he is there’s never a guarantee that you will be successful in getting your name off the blacklist. Many guys just elect to move on and go to another South-East Asian country.
Other questions regarding blacklisting and deportation in The Philippines
Immigration Resources & References