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Am I a local now? I just got my ACR I-card and visa extension in the Philippines

Spending a year in the Philippines obviously requires a little more than a bag full of sunblock and a couple of sunglasses. The regular visits at the Bureau of Immigrations are an unavoidable part of long travels. I need a visa to stay here. Visa extension in the Philippines is expensive (around 400€ for one year) and unavoidable.

I visit the Bureau of Immigration regularly to get a new visa stamped in my passport as I did yesterday. This time, I even got my ACR I-card. Wow, it makes me feel like a local, or at least like an immigrant. Nice!

My shiny ACR I-card together with my visa extension stamps
My shiny ACR I-card together with my visa extension stamps

Here’s an in-depth post about ACR I-card from Foreigner In Philippines blog.

So far I have only good experience with the Bureau of Immigration satellite office in Mactan Island. Cebu has two immigration offices, the main one in Mandaue City and the other one inside the Gaisano Mall in Mactan.

I always go to the latter. It’s small and the processing is very quick (each time around 20 minutes). That might be because not too many foreigners know of this office yet; it has opened only last year. The staff is very friendly and helpful.

In order to transact at the office though, you have to wear long pants, sleeved shirts, and shoes. You can’t enter the office if you’re wearing shorts, sleeveless shirts, and slippers. This is also the case at the main office in Mandaue City. So that is always a little hassle to bring these clothes considering the tropical heat outside the building. But overall my experiences have been very positive: it’s hassle-free and easy.

See you again in two months Bureau of Immigration!

Visa extensions

The following information is for adult tourist visa only from the following countries.

You can enter the Philippines without a visa. Upon arrival at the airport you are granted a free 30-day visa that can be extended for up to 36 months at the Bureau of Immigration as follows:

Length of Extension Fee
1. First extension for 29 days (Visa Waiver) P 3030
2. Second extension for 2 months P 7490
3. Third extension for 2 months P 2830
4. Fourth extension for 2 months P 4240

By this time you would have stayed for a total of 8 months and paid P15,770 (around 256€).
I’ve been here only for 4 months so far. I could’t find any information from the website of the Bureau of Immigration about how to proceed after 8 months. But I know, that effective December 2013, visas can be extended for a maximum of 36 months. So when the time comes and I’ll reach my fourth visa extension (that will be this June 2014), I will let you guys know about it.

UPDATE ( June 16, 2014)
I extended my visa last week at the Mactan Satellite Office. I’m now a proud holder of a residence certificate.

The Bureau of Immigration has new rules when it comes to visa extensions: For every application, an ID photo is needed. If you don’t have a current ID photo, you can have it taken at a photo shop a few meters from the office at the Gaisano Mall in Mactan.

I was also told what to do after having stayed in the Philippines for 8 months by the immigration officer as follows:

Visas can be extended for 6 months at a time until you reach the maximum of 36 months in total only at the Mandaue City Bureau of Immigration.
The Mactan Satellite Office can only extend visas for 2 months at a time until you reach the maximum of 36 months in total (each of the extensions will cost P 2,830).

16 comments

  1. Visa extensions in the Philippines are easy and cheap. Try being a Filipino wanting to come to Australia and stay for a while. A tourist visa is around 5000 pesos and takes a month to approve. Once in Oz I don’t think you can rock up to an immigration office and have it extended like you can here. If you want to apply for either a Fiance Visa or a Partner Visa cost close to AUD $7000 (around 200,000 pesos or more) takes a minimum of 12 months to get a decision, and if they decline your visa they keep your money. You don’t get a refund.

    1. I agree with you on this. Visa extension in the Philippines seems to be much more flexible and accommodating of visitors wanting to stay longer than planned. Try doing this in the Schengen area, it would be almost impossible.

    1. Good question! I’m officially here on a tourist visa (i.e. a non immigrant status). After continuously staying for 6 months here in the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration issues a certificate of residence to aliens (like me). It just certifies that the person has stayed in the country a certain period of time. Nothing to do with legal status at all. Like in my case, as far as my status is concerned, I am just a tourist. Therefore, there are many restrictions imposed on me, unlike for immigrants or students, for example.

      1. Hi! Are you still in the Philippines? How much did you pay for after 8 months? I saw there’s a new “fee” updated february 04, 2015 — visa sticker for every visa extension, additional P100.

        1. Hi Kris, the problem with the Bureau of Immigrations is that they keep changing their requirements, fees, and rules constantly, it is difficult to keep track of how much I paid all in all. This is why I’m not surprised that there’s a new “fee” updated as of Feb 4, 2015. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it has changed again by now.

          By the way, I’m already out of the Philippines.

          1. Although the policies are the same, each office differs in their quality of service. Some office are known for so much corruption, while others are known for professionalism and efficiency.
            As for me, I’m very happy with the Mactan Satellite Office in Cebu.

  2. Hi Annika, if you need someone to process your visa or permits, we could help, we are a law office that could transact with Bureau of immigration. ( If you want only) You can contact us through this number +639331479969.

    1. Thanks Mel. But so far, the Bureau of Immigration has been more than helpful to me. I’m very pleased how friendly and helpful the staff in this little satellite office in Mactan is.
      I have now also extended my latest visa that was due and updated the section above on how to extend the visa after having stayed for 8 months in the country.

  3. That’s a lot of work and a lot of fees! Now that I have lived in Finland it feels that silly to not have a one year option. But the down side is I can’t get my parents or other relatives here (not considered as family) We have had it easy though, my husband got his res. permit without much hassle. (I’m half Fil-Finn) I never realized it could also be hard to a foreigner in the Philippines. I guess it always is hard to be a foreigner in a foreign country, specifically with all the legalities and paper stuff. Just like what all the other foreigners here in Finland have to go through..I’m wondering why you were not able to get a one year visa free stay valid for balikbayans and family members?

    1. That’s an interesting thought. Yes, living in any foreign country, one has always to contend with never ending paperwork and government bureaucracy. But in my case, it was absolutely worth it. It’s such a small price to pay for gaining new life experiences, especially when it comes to the Filipino culture. A small price to pay for widening my horizon.

      Unfortunately I’m not eligible to benefit from the Balikbayan visa. We’re not married yet, our “avoliitto” is not recognised here in the Philippines as a legal union. So that’s why I’m here as a “regular tourist “ on a non immigrant visa.

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