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Life Philippines

Status Of Your Sec 13a Visa If You Split Up?

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I have met several expats, both on and offline in the past few weeks, who are here on a Sec 13a visa. Not unusual you might think, but these men, but it equally applies to a woman on the same visa, have separated from their spouse. One is still living in the marital home but both he and his spouse live separate lives, the other has walked away from the relationship and is currently building a new home and is living with a new Filipina. Both believed that they still had visa coverage for living here in the Philippines.

The bad news is they don’t.

This Is The Law Regarding The Status Of Your Sec 13a Visa

A visa granted on the basis of marriage to a Filipino citizen may be revoked if the marriage is void,
a) couples separate or divorce,
b) the marriage is annulled,
c) the marriage was contracted to evade the Immigration Act (CA 613), or
d) loss of citizenship of the spouse.

I know there are many cases where couples have a spat and one moves out temporarily. Most couples have experienced that “going home to mum” or “spending a night or two at the local watering hole” while ruffled feathers are smoothed and/or male pride is restored. That is not the separation being talked about.
What is being referred to is a permanent separation, even if the parties are living in the same house, but no longer live as a married couple. When that point is reached is the time when the Bureau of Immigration can revoke your visa.
If you have ongoing animosity with your former spouse, they can report you as in contravention of your Section 13a visa and you can be on an immigration blacklist, without even knowing it. To be taken aside and questioned, fined and deported, when you next appear for annual reporting or take a trip outside the country.
However the more frequent scenarios are these:
a) Not thinking anything is amiss and talking openly with officials at the Bureau of Immigration about your separation.
b) Being contacted when the annulment papers are finalised and published.
c) Returning from getting your divorce in your home country, answering “divorced” to the Civil Status question and then claiming Sec 13a permanent Residence Status.

The Good News Is That You Can Change To One Of Several Alternative Visas.

You can apply for a change of visa status to one of either the:
a) The Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSVVE) or
b) Revert to the Extension Of Authorised Stay Beyond 59 Days Temporary Visitor Visa, which is available for either one or two months at a time.
In addition if you meet the criteria you can apply for:
a) Special Residents Retiree Visa SRRV or
b) A quota visa under Sec 13g. See the Wiki

The key to successfully achieving this is by fronting up to your local Bureau of Immigration office as soon as your separation is confirmed and discussing your options with them.
Despite what you may read on some forums, these officials are people just like you and I trying to do a difficult job the best way they can. Cooperation, gets positive results.

35 thoughts on “Status Of Your Sec 13a Visa If You Split Up?

  1. Ron Speers

    Misuse of the term VISA is alive and well!

    The better news is that an ICR is NOT a 13a visa! Since Philippine law permits the revocation of the 13a visa the governmeht uses its own definition of VISA,
    A 13a.visa is a consular document

    S:ec. 13. Under the conditions set forth in this Act, there may be admitted into the Philippines immigrants, termed “quota immigrants” not in excess of fifty (50) of any one nationality or without nationality for any one calendar year, except that the following immigrants, termed “non-quota immigrants,” may be admitted without regard to such numerical limitations.cralaw

    The corresponding Philippine Consular representative abroad shall investigate and certify the eligibility of a quota immigrant previous to his admission into the Philippines. Qualified and desirable aliens who are in the Philippines under temporary stay may be admitted within the quota, subject to the provisions of the last paragraph of Section 9 of this Act.

    (a) The wife or the husband or the unmarried child under twenty-one. years of age of a Philippine citizen, if accompanying or following to join such citizen;
    v

    The 13a visa is an ENTRY document. It is NOT the ICR which is a RESIDENCY. The visa may be revoked for loss of relationship with the sponsor but NOT the ICR, the residency.

    Ron Speers

    1. mbannist Post author

      Ron you may be technically correct, I would suggest that that is arguable, as definitions are varied, for example A visa is an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country. Which indicates that visas are about time. The only ICR in the Philippines is the PRA SRRV, which is not handled by BI because it is considered substantively different from a Visa.
      Most of that conversation is of little interest to the “average Joe or Jane” whose marriage has fallen apart and thinks he or she can stay in the Philippines on the 13a. The advice is for them, because they will be the ones facing the fines or worse still deportation.
      As I said your position deserves consideration and putting those points to Mr Mison through the BI facebook page, will certainly elicit a response and give you an opportunity to air your points regarding definitions “to suit”. I have very robust discussions using the messaging facility, and get replies sometimes within hours and at all times of the day including weekends.

      1. Siegfried

        There are SEVERAL ways to obtain an ICR in the Philippines.

        And the SRRV is NOT one of them!

        I agree with Ron Speers. 13a is NOT a visa. a Visa is just for entering a country. If you have an ICR (which all 13a holders are issued) then you are under ICR.

        An ICR is not a visa!

        If anyone tries to tell you your 13a is revoked, do not let them! You have a ICR, which is almost like being a citizen. You cannot lose that unless you commit some major crime.

        1. mbannist Post author

          Siegfried,
          There are many errors of fact and interpretation in what you are saying.
          1. If you have an ICR get it changed to an ACR, no one should be relying on the old paper system anymore. SO ACR and ICR are the same.
          2. The original post did not infer that the SRRV was a way to obtain an ACR. In fact, it is a non-immigrant visa, aimed at expats wishing to retire in the Philippines and does away with the need for an ACR and annual reporting. But it does have conditions that must be met to obtain and continue to benefit.
          3. You are entitled to hold any opinion you like but to propagate opinions that could adversely affect your expat colleagues is rash. The 13a is clearly a visa see the BI page
          The ICR is now called the ACR you are correct, but it does need renewing every five years.
          The 13a is not just revoked it is downgraded, this can be accomplished by either yourself or your spouse.
          According to BI Under the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, Section 13 (a) you are eligible for permanent residency in the Philippines. This visa is issued to an alien on the basis of his valid marriage to a Philippine citizen. That is valid at all times. If it is no longer valid then neither is the visa.
          The Bureau has a process by which you can downgrade to a visitor visa. The requirements depend on the type of downgrade but include c. For Non-Quota Immigrant Visa by Marriage or Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), must come from the applicant or/and spouse indicating their residential address and contact number(s) as well as a photocopy of marriage certificate or contract;
          This is not about fairness or the correctness of the law, only that it is the law.

  2. John

    My wife passed away 5 years ago and I was told my 13A was still ok. Not the case! 5 years later Downgraded to Tourist and a massive fine paid. Beware..

    1. mbannist Post author

      Thank you John, there are some bush lawyers who say this is not the case, but unfortunately it is the reality, your 13a visa was granted on the basis of your marriage to a Filipina and if that marriage ends for whatever reason, the visa is nullified.

    2. Larry

      Hey John, if you dont mind how much was your fine. My divorce was final last december and I need to downgrade my 13a. I have been here now over 10 years and next week will fix the problem hopefully without being sent tk Bicutan thanks in advance for any info on this

      1. mbannist Post author

        I don’t know if John will see your question Larry, but there does seem to be a pattern to those who get this sorted without to much hassle and those that don’t; that is attitude.
        If your attitude is that you genuinely messed up, it will go a lot better.
        Some things that we have seen that bring negative responses are:

        • Accusing the Bureau of corruption.(Unless your case is iron clad) Especially as part of a scatter-gun rant.
        • Complaining about the paperwork. The staff didn’t invent it some consultant did and they are tied to it as much as you.
        • Complaining about the system in BI, the government, the Philippines.
        • Complaining about your ex or Filipinas in general. Many of these educated people are ambivalent about the whole foreigner male, Filipina arrangement anyway.
        • Complaining about the waiting. It does tend to keep pushing you down the list.
        • Making it personal. These people didn’t know they would meet you today or how it would turn out. They haven’t got it in for you
        • And before someone says these things don’t happen and happen regularly just take a seat at a BI office for the day. It happens

        1. larry

          Mbannist,

          Got the problem resolved with BI reference my divorce under a 13a visa. Its relatively simple and cost 3500. If you separate or divorce while under a 13a visa you must downgrade to a 9a or other type of visa. Also note that BI can and may issue an order to leave within 15 days. However, i was not ordered to do such probably because I have been here now over 10 years. Anyway, yes you must notify BI of the change and apply for a downgrade.

          On another note and kinda off topic, my downgrade was done in December 2015 and I received a 59 day visa which I will extend next week in order to apply for a new 13a with my current wife do you have any information as regards to the new 13a requirements keeping in mind I have completed all the requirements in 2006 and my 13a visa was valid until Novemebr of 2017, when I applied in 2006 submitted police clearances and quaratine requirements, and have not left the country since my aerival in 2005. My divorce was final in 2014 and I remarried last year. Understanding I need to submit a new Brgay, Police and NBI clearance I personally dont see the need to resubmit medical and other sort of documents. Any thoughts on this issue or has anyone here gone through a similar situation…? Thanks larry

          1. mbannist Post author

            Thanks for the feedback Larry, it is one of the reason I started this site, so we get away from peoples opinions and start dealing in facts, especially when it comes down to such important matters. Since the original post i have been in contact with two other expats in your situation and one took the bull by the horns and after 3 years was allowed to stay after paying a hefty fine, his situation was that his wife had died and that’s why he got a bit of leniency. The other guy was moaning about how wrong BI was about their interpretation of the law as they put him on the plane back to his home country, which proves that facts will never overcome arrogance even if its right in some peoples face.

            Now to you other question, the best advice I have been able to obtain is as follows:

            Your new application will be treated as though you have never applied before and you will have to provide all the documentary evidence. This is listed here

            The process will also be the same as the first time and you will need to get the probationary 13a for one year before getting the permanent visa. The process for the Probationary visa is outlined here

            If your experience is any different to that which was given me please post as we will hold BI to account for the information it provides

    3. orion

      A new circular has been passed, in which 13(a) will remain, in case there are children produced from the marriage. It was done out of compassionate reasons, not to split up the family. The new circular was released just last year. You can confirm it.

  3. larry

    Also I read a comment from someone here who stated that they could just report every year and pay the tax and just continue living here even afyer divorce or separation…..? My advise is you may get away with that for awhile but your 13a is only good for 5 years then has to be renewed. If you fail to notify BI at that time and provide false information on the application for renewal you will certainely have more problems than you will be able to habdle. Criminal charges being filed, arrest, deportation, blacklisted and everything else. I agree with Mbannist as if you have any problems or concerns with your status be upfront with BI, they have always assisted me and have been very helpfull in resolving my issues. Simply put there is no need to try to pull one ober on BI as if you get caught trouble trouble trouble…….

    1. mbannist Post author

      Thanks for your comment again, can I just rectify one point you made. The section 13a is a permanent resident visa which only requires any attention if your marriage status changes for any reason. Other than that it never needs renewing, it is permanent. What does need renewing is your ACR card, that is good for 12 months while your status is probationary permanent and then every 5 years once your status is permanent. The ACR carries all your biometrics, picture and signature and things like images and signatures address change over time and need renewing. Although you are meant to update your address as it changes the renewal catches the latest, if you fail to do so. They also charge you for that privilege so if you move frequently try to get a permanent residential address (maybe that of the in-laws) to save you the 20USD plus 500php express lane fee check the details

      1. mbannist Post author

        I don’t know if Larry will see this but let me respond again.
        The 13a is a visa that entitles you to live in the Philippines while in a valid marriage to a Philippines citizen. It is permanent while the conditions are met and never needs to be renewed. Read my previous comment

  4. mars

    I have a question about the 13A visa. I know it has never been asked before. I will try and make the story short. I was married to a fillipino for about 10 years. I retired and moved here to the PI. I got the 13A visa. About a year later we got divorced. She went to the US and I stayed here. I had a SPA so I sold the house and renting. She has had no contact with me for over 3 years. No emails or calls. Since then I meet my soul mate. We have been living together for over 3 years. We got married in HK last August. We could not get married in the PI because I was already married to a fillipino and they don’t recognize divorce. Our marriage in HK was leagel and registered at the PI Counslat in HK. We have a copy of the marriage certificate from NSO. Now my question is how do I go about getting my spouse’s name changed on my 13A, or do I need to? The 13A is perminate. The ACIR card is what you have to renew every 5 years. So I am thinking I just need to change the ACIR card. Thoughts please

    1. mbannist Post author

      You may read different opinions on others sites, from “bush lawyers” trying to interpret the regulations on the Bureau of Immigration. These comments are based on my in depth discussions with BI and backed up by the real life experience of expats who walked that path.
      The day you separated from your 1st wife until today your 13a was void. your course of action should have been to change your visa to another that reflected your current situation. The permanency side of a 13a applies only while you meet the terms of the visa, which is that you are in a marriage relationship, with the person who petition on your behalf, while that applies your status is permanent. The renewal of your ACR is for monitoring purposes only. For the period between your separation and now you have been illegal, which means you could be up for serious fines or worse. My advice is as follows.
      1. Read the posts of those who actually dealt with this situation by clicking here
      2. Ring BI and explain your situation. They are very helpful and can arrange for an appointment to discuss the issue with you. Ask any questions you might have on the phone so you are prepared for when you go to the office. Take the attitude that you think you messed up and want to put it right.
      3. When you sort this out and pay your fine and are issued with you new 59 day tourist visa, you can the apply for a new 13a visa the process and charges are outlined here It is a completely new process, not just a name change as the idea is that your partner is your sponsor.
      Hope that helps

  5. Jan-Erik Bender

    Good Day
    My name is Jan-Erik Bender and I am a ACR card holder with visa 13a.
    What hapens with my visa when my wife suddenly died.
    Best regards
    Jan

    1. mbannist Post author

      Hi Jan, We are sorry for your loss. You will now need to revert to a Visitor visa 9a which will need to be renewed each 2 or 6 months if you wish to stay here.
      You could also consider applying for quota visa under Sec 13 you will find the details here
      Or you could consider a Philippines retirement visa if you are over 35 years of age.
      My final suggestion has more red tape as is more expensive but may be an option if you employ 10 or more filipinos on a consistent basis in a legally registered enterprise. Details of the SVEG are found by clicking on the link
      Hope that helps

        1. mbannist Post author

          Thanks for contacting us John.
          I am a little confused by your statement. Are you saying that having dependent children of the relationship when your wife dies, entitles you to retain your 13a. Then you are correct and that is what the post says.
          However, there are some very specific conditions around that as you can see by reading the original Memo Circular

          • The children must be the offspring of the relationship. “If the dissolution of the marriage is due to the death of the
            Filipino wife and there is/are surviving child/children of such marriage.
          • The child/ren must be under 21 years of age.
          • The Child/ren must be unmarried.
          • The child/ren must have been living with the mother or intending to do so.
        2. If the dependent child/rens status in regard to these things changes they are no longer considered dependent and the foreigner would have his/her sec 13a revoked.
        3. Some things I cannot be 100% about but can make some assumptions:

          • Children legally adopted by you will be treated as children of the relationship. That is not stated explicitly anywhere but is a tenet of Philippines family law.
          • Children of your wife from another relationship will be treated as illegitimate and they would not count as a dependent. That is based on the status of illegitimate children under Philippines law. It has not been tested as far as I can find.
          • Special needs children, will not get special treatment. By this, I mean that caring for a special needs child/ren, may not automatically gain you extensions of your 13a beyond their 21st birthday. As far as I can tell it has yet to be tested in law.
          • Finally, currently you are unable to claim a child from a relationship that was over before the death of the Filipino spouse, as a dependent and thus regain your 13a status. It is possible that this will be tested in law, but until it is you cannot assume that as a defence for breaking the law.

          Hope that helps
          Charles

    2. orion

      A new circular has been released, if your wife passes away and you have a child from the marriage, then your 13(a) will be allowed to remain out of compassionate reasons. I have confirmed this with the main BI office in Manila. The circular was released last year.

  6. dan nielsen

    i have been here 12 years. i have been mailed to a filipina 19 years i am raising two children here. my wife is living in america and going to school there . she. has been there two years. i have a 13a can i be in troubles and separated from my children she is coming back for a visit in oct.

    1. mbannist Post author

      Your status depends on the your marriage being intact. If it is then it doesn’t matter how you conduct your relationship. Your major worry would be how your wife would respond if ask by BI if the marriage is intact. Many expats rely on their partner to not report a change of status and that can work, while the relationship is amicable, but that state of affairs can change very quickly, with the introduction of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or an argument over money or the kids.
      My advice is if either of you consider the relationship over, then make a decision to report it to BI, and downgrade your visa. Otherwise you are fine and shouldn’t worry. Education is a legit reason for a temporary separation, even of some years.

  7. JOhn

    hi,,my name is John.i live in France,i need informations about 13a visa,i want to go Philippines and i want to live thier in long time with my girlfriend,,i am qualified to apply a 13A visa? can i apply 13A visa before entering philipines?please help.

    1. mbannist Post author

      John,
      A 13a is the visa you can obtain only when you are legally married to your Filipino spouse who has current citizenship and residence.
      It comes in two parts.

      A) The 12 month probationary residence visa status

      B) The permanent Residence visa status

      The application form, other documentary requirements and fees can be found here for A.

      And here for B.

      If your intention is not to marry then you could consider a number of other options:

      Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension.

      On arrival in the Philippines you will be given a free 30 day visa.

      This can be extended by a further 29 days through a visa waiver, costing 3300php.

      Then you can apply for a Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSVVE)for the maximum 6 months and your ACR card which will last 12 months

      The Application form, documentary requirements and fees can be found HERE

      Then apply apply for the LSVVE each six months renewing your ACR on the second and fourth application.

      Your last LSVVE should be for only four months and will cost less.

      This will take you to the 36 month point. Then you must leave the Philippines. Take your friend on a short holiday to a place such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand.

      If this is not possible then just book the cheapest offshore destination you can find, stay 24 hours and return.
      You can then reapeat the process all over for as long as you like.

      Another Option is:

      The Quota Visa

      This visa is granted to no more than 50 of any one nationality, or no nationality in any one year.

      It is a permanent Residence Visa, and you are not required to marry your girlfriend.

      The Application form, documentary requirements and fees can be found HERE

      Your other option is to come into the Philippines on:

      A Philippines Retirement Authority (PRA) Visa

      You can find all the details HERE

      The application for this visa can be started online

      Whereas all the others require you to be in the country.

      hope that helps

  8. JOhn

    hello,,thank you for ur replied,,its really helped me lots..i have another question about LSVVE,, can i work in philippines if i have this kind of Visa? for QUOTA VISA,, i think its really hard to get this kind of 🙁 seems like its lotery..

    1. mbannist Post author

      not on the lsvve, because it is a visitor visa, but if you could persude a company that you have skills that a filipino does not have or not in sufficient numbers for demand you could look at getting a work visa, it is renewed annually and quite complicated to get and maintain.
      get details HERE
      Quota Visa for many countries is quite easy and is well worth the try and is quite reasonable in terms of fees

  9. Henry

    Hi I have a question, I have a 13a visa but am now in the UK and will be applying for my family to come and live here. Last time I left a got the 6 month re-entry permit at the airport but I don’t think I will be back until past that date..what will happen when I arrive? I was told once by a BI official that I never had to do anything and my visa would be permanent as long as I paid any annual report I owed..which I don’t trust! I just don’t want to be hit with a big fine when I haven’t even been in the country! Thanks, Henry

    1. mbannist Post author

      THIS IS THE TEXT OF A EMAIL CONVERSATION AS THE SITE WAS INACCESSIBLE FOR A TIME TODAY
      From Charles
      You should have an ACR Card that and your passport with the 13a visa stamp is all you should need. The re-entry permit lasts for 12 months normally and is programmed into your ACR. If you experienced differently get back to me or leave BI a message on their facebook page. I offer to do it because it makes sure I have up to date info.
      Regards
      Charles

      From Henry
      Cheers for the reply,

      I’m pretty sure mine is 6 months this time, one time I left the guy asked if I was coming back within 6 months, I said yes and it ended up about 1k cheaper than the last time I’d left. I came back within the 6 months anyway, but this most recent time they didn’t ask me anything and I still paid the cheaper price which I’m guessing is a half price one compared to a year. Anyway I will try get some info and I’ll let you know what happens. Pretty sure I’ll have to pay something as always seems to be the case!

      to henry
      Immigration is one of those departments around the world which governments think should fund themselves. Have you seen the cost of US visas. It’s a rip off for us because it really isn’t necessary, but I guess they have to fund the tracking and surveillence of all those drug lords.
      Where in the UK are you from. I was born and raised in South East London.

      I just talked to my contact in BI and he said that the reentry permit is included in the ECC B 2880 for the first trip out each year and 2180 for any subsequent trips. He was very surprised by your situation, said you shoulxd talk to the embassy or consulate nearest you in the UK and sort it out before you leave for PH. They can provide advice that is guaranteed. They will give it in writing he said.

      From Henry
      Yea immigration costs are high, costing 2 grand for my wife’s initial spouse visa to come here and processing time about 3 months apparently!

      June 2016 I paid 2880
      Feb 2017 I paid 2170 – new calender year and this is the time asked if I was coming back within 6 months
      July 2017 I only paid 1670..no 500 express lane fee for some reason

      The RP/SRC halved from 1400 to 700 after he said about 6 months so I just guessed half price half the time. But I’ve read and states very clearly that each time you leave you get a one year validity on the permit. So maybe they just like giving me discounts! Anyway I will try and get some confirmation from them about it and let you know for future reference

      to henry
      Okay Thanks for the clarification. By the way the I think the 12 months is from the time you apply first time, still doesn’t explain the July 2017 cost. This time it’s in your favor, they have moved rapidly from charging what they think we will take, several people I know were charged in excess of 50,000 peso’s for each stage of the 13a, plus having to take the official for a slap up lunch at the best eating house in town, plus out of towners could expect two night hotels food and taxi’s. At least now we have a written price list to budget by.
      I have posted these emails on http://lifephilippines.org for the benefit of others, i will edit out any comment not pertaining to the question you raised.

  10. Robert Sleight

    Is this thread still active. I have a question about separation…. I am not legally separated from my filipino wife, nothing is documented. actually don’t qualify for a legal separation yet..

    If my wife and I live under different roofs, is that considered to be seperated? or should there be a legal separation…I did not abandon her, she got exactly half of my assets..undocumented, but can be proved by bank documents..

    Thanks for any help..

    1. mbannist Post author

      Hi Robert,
      A permanent separation with no possibility of returning to a married state is when you need to declare your new status to BI. Even if you were still residing in the same house but not functioning as a married couple this would apply. You may think it would be impossible for BI to become aware, but it happens when third parties or an angry family member reports you.
      Hope that helps
      Charles

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