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Life Philippines

It’s The Law; Not A Challenge Or A Joke

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The laws of the Philippines are not a challenge or a joke to be worked around or ridiculed when that doesn’t work.

Please read this carefully. The Bureau of Immigration is not there to make your life more difficult, it is there to uphold the laws of the Republic of the Philippines for which it is responsible.

Philippines Immigration Myths

1. Visitors and Expats Are Faced With Extremely High Charges, Avoiding Them Is Legitimate

In this country as in most, the Bureau of Immigration aims to self fund its visa compliance operations. The fact that it doesn’t is not unusual either as many jurisdictions suffer from high numbers of illegals. Not the poor immigrant but those who use high costs as an excuse to not paying their dues.

If you compare the charges with other Asian countries you will find in fact that they are slightly below the average. Read a Backpackers Guide to South East Asian Visas

Yet to hear some of the chatter on Facebook and other sites you would think that they are gouging expats mercilessly.

If you want to experience high charges for crossing a border, try to enter North America and Europe, as Filipino national.

2. Bureau Of Immigration Staff Are All Corrupt

It has been a long time since fixers ruled the agency and its officers turned a blind eye to expired Visa’s or ACR documentation.

Some corruption does exist and some of it occurs with a few BI officers suspected of charging illegal immigrants (Overstayers) sums of money for their silence.

The belief, still held by many, that you can buy your way out of the country should you need to leave is a fallacy you should be wary of perpetrating.

3. Bureau Of Immigration Has Few Resources To Monitor Aliens

However even more concerning is the belief held, even more widely, that you can live in this country undetected, without renewing visas or associated documentation, until you die.

The narrative goes something like this.

  • Resources to monitor your compliance are sparse.
  • Your anonymity is assured because of the fiscal benefit you bring to the area in which you live.
  • Filipino’s don’t really care who is in their country


Trust me when I tell you that believing those statements rarely ends well for those spinning the story. Certainly never with the fairytale endings of folklore.

Who Knows And How They Find Out?

While it is true that most Filipinos will not know your immigration status. There are those who will and either knowingly or inadvertently they will share that information. However the first source of information usually comes from the foreigner themselves.

How often have you read posts by people on social media that boast openly about their errant immigration status. As well as indicating to me naivete of extraordinary proportions, almost the bulletproof attitude of the immature. It shows failure to recognise they have compromised any security by anonymity they may have had.

That post has already netted you hundreds who have heard your declaration, among them:

  • Law abiding visitors and expats, who consider that your actions give the 80% a bad name.
  • Those who use it as an example of apparently successful lawbreaking. Bolstering their negative attitude to Philippines development.
  • In the telling of the story, Filipino friends and acquaintances will be hear it. Among them public servants, businessmen and politicians.
  • These people will often have a sense of duty, or even act in their own interest. Reporting the possibility of law breaking by foreigners to the PNP or the Bureau itself.

You may be thinking to yourself that you don’t do that kind of “Stupid”.

Just take a minute to think of all those that do know your situation. Girl friends, drinking buddies, life long friends.
Even the tightest lipped will have four or five people who know they are an overstayer. The math says that over time that group of people who “Know” will grow considerably. Once you tell one person the “cat is out of the bag”.

“If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.” – Khalil Gibran
or perhaps the words of Benjamin Franklin resonate more clearly. “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
― Poor Richard’s Almanack

I’m Not Telling Anyone

So perhaps the answer to successful overstaying, is to tell no one. It may gain the person a little more time but that is all, because the biggest barriers to beating the system, are:

  • The growing interconnectedness of digital information archives.
  • The growing cooperation between government departments having similar goals. The DFA, The PNP, and BI.

The increased number of arrests for overstaying owes much to these two advances.

An Allegory Based on Facts

The following is a composite story about how this cooperation is working. Subject1-4 does not really exist but his circumstances and the outcome reflect aspects from a number of cases reviewed in 2014-15.
These cases are about ordinary folk, overstayers for sure but not sexual predators, wife beaters, murderers, drug dealers etc, on the run for more serious crimes. Their days are numbered anyway and I doubt they would be reading this.

S1-4 was an Australian citizen who came to the Philippines in 2013, he paid to keep his visa up to date until early 2014, when he stopped doing that.

Lack Of Overt Action Does Not Mean No Action

The Bureau noted his failure to renew his visa and the fact that there was no record of him leaving the country and flagged his name.

PNP BI Cooperation

In 2016 S1-4 was involved in accident and was hospitalised, PNP investigating the accident, in which he was the victim, asked if was known to police in his Barangay and if they had noted the details on his ACR card. S1-4 said no they hadn’t as he was a relative newcomer to that area. So the PNP officer asked him for the card; S1-4 said he hadn’t seen it since the accident and the PNP officer appeared to take it no further.

However on returning to his base he made contact with the Bureau and asked if they could trace the details of S1–4’s ACR, providing them with information from hospital records.

BI In Action

Several days later Bureau officers arrived at the hospital to question S1-4 as they had reason to believe he was in the country illegally.

He was arrested, taken to The Bureau of Immigration detention centre in Bicutan, and at the end of 2016 deported from the Philippines, never to return, after paying considerable fines to enable his release.

S1-4 leaves behind a girlfriend and two children with a third on the way.

You may think the response was harsh, and it was, mainly because S1-4 continued to deny his status even while incarcerated.

The Reality For Illegal Aliens

You Are Breaking The Law – That Makes You A Criminal

Failure to abide by the conditions of your visa; to obtain and renew at appropriate intervals your ACR Card, and to report annually to the local authorised office of the Bureau of Immigration, are offences under Philippines law.

You Will Be Apprehended Eventually

As I hope I have shown above, most of what you hear about in terms of successfully avoiding apprehension is urban legend.

The Recommended Course Of Action For Offenders, Not Yet Caught

All Offenders

If you are an offender and thus an illegal alien, your best course of action is to contact the nearest BI office and outline your offence. Tell them you wish to surrender.

Talking on the phone to BI may give you an idea of their likely response before you surrender yourself, physically.

Depending on the response you receive on phoning BI, you may wish to employ the services of an attorney.

Don’t get phased if the BI phone call does not go well, you are one step ahead of everyone else in your situation, you are surrendering.

If you employ an attorney make sure you can get the funds to pay him or her plus any fines and fees imposed by BI.

There is a proposal being considered by President Duterte to extend an amnesty to overstayers. Read the details of the proposal HERE.

I cannot find any response from the President over the last 3 months, so I am assuming no decision has been made to date.

Shorter Term Offenders

For shorter term offenders there are prescribed schedules of fines and back payment of fees. The officer you talk to at BI will explain those ones appropriate to the visa or process you defaulted on.

For The 80% please challenge the reality of those who would try to beat the system, it isn’t worth it in the long run and does make us all tainted by association.

Just as those who say one thing and do another give onlookers pause for thought

Remember the 3rd March is fast approaching if you haven’t done your annual report yet

6 thoughts on “It’s The Law; Not A Challenge Or A Joke

  1. mbannist Post author

    This is an email received
    Tim Boyle
    03:18 (7 hours ago)

    to mbannist
    I’m married to a Filipina and we are going to be moving to the Philippines this year. My wife has not completed her US citizenship and we’re not moving till that is done. I want her to be able to collect any portion of my Social Security she’s entitled to. Plus, given the state of the world, I’d like her to be able to return to the USA as needed. And I suggested she not get dual citizenship status just to be safe.

    We don’t plan on returning to the US except every 2 years to visit my children. I’m setting up a bank account in my name only for my direct deposit social security and my 401K as needed. Will transfer funds to an account in the Philippines. I think our money is safer in the US bank system.

    I don’t know what to do about immigration status just yet. Some things say to just come over, file for a 29 day extension, then apply for permanent status. Is it true that I must put $10,000 USD into a bank account in the Philippines to immigrate?

    We are moving to Cagayan de Oro City on Mindanao with her family.
    Any guidance is most welcome!


    Tim Boyle

    1. mbannist Post author

      Charles CM Bannister
      10:45 (6 minutes ago)

      to Tim
      Tim once your wife has her US citizenship and you return, you can avail yourself of the Balikbayan privilege, which gives you 12 months free access to the Philippines, while you decide on thje form of permanence best for you..
      To avail you need to return together and your wife needs to carry her birth certificate and marriage certificate for presentation if requested.. You need to request Balikbayan at Immigration on your way into the Philippines.
      Once your wife is back in the Philippines she can apply to have her Philippine citizenship restored. A relatively simple process.
      Permanency can be obtained in several ways. The one you mentioned is not a visa as such but is run by the Philippines Retirement Authority.
      Read all about it http://www.pra.gov.ph/main/why_retire?page=1. You can get the specifics from the quick Links on the Left hand side.
      The Advantage is you never go near the Bureau of Immigration
      The disadvantage is you have to deposit Cash between 10,000 and 50,000 US and show pension income between 800 USD and 1500USD

      Sec13a, proof of marriage to a Filipino citizen
      Probationary Visa approx 12000php lasts one year plus USD50 for ACR card 1 year
      Permanent Visa approx12000php last as long as the relationship plus ACR Card USD50 per 5 years
      details can be found here http://www.immigration.gov.ph/visa-requirements/immigrant-visa/non-quota-visa/conversion-to-non-quota-immigrant-visa-by-marriage

      Quota Visa Limited to 50 per nationality per year
      Cost approx 19000php plus ACR Card
      Lasts indefinitely

      CDO is the nicest city in Mindanao, it is relatively safe but without the oppressiveness of Davao City.
      If you don’t mind I will post this on the website for others to benefit from.

        1. mbannist Post author

          What has your comment got to do with my post here?
          Please make your comment, which I respect, and you are entitled to, in the appropriate venue.
          Thank you

          1. fotra

            If you want to get a huge laugh and cause people to spit their rice across the room from laughing so hard just try to talk to any filipino about “the law”. hahahahahahahahaha

          2. mbannist Post author

            What has that to do with a post aimed at the 10% of Expats living in the Philippines who think they can flout the immigration laws.
            I would also debate your assertion that Filipino’s think the law is a joke. I live here and talk with my hosts most days. They want the rule of law as do any rational beings, they just voted in a the most law and order president in history. While many are concerned about his methods, they are still around for the long haul because they want a society where law and order prevail.

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