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Life Philippines

All About Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege

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What Is The Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege?

A program granting special privileges to certain Filipinos, because they are no longer living in the Philippines, and the government is trying to entice them back..
Known as Republic Act 6768 it was signed into law by President Corazon C. Aquino in 1989.
The Republic Act No. 9174, an act instituting a balikbayan program by providing additional benefits and privileges to balikbayan and extending definitions, was signed into law by President Gloria Arroyo in 2002.

When you are granted the privilege you will receive a stamp in your passport. The stamp will have the date of entry and also the date of expiry.

What Is The Purpose Of The Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege?

Initially launched by the Philippine Government “under the administration of the Department of Tourism because they were searching for ways to increase tourism. Attracting and encourage overseas Filipinos to come and visit their motherland was an important avenue given that 11 million Filipinos live outside the country.”
More importantly, it is also a recognition of the Balikbayan’s contribution to the economy of the country through the foreign exchange inflow and revenues that they generate by remittances to family domiciled on the Republic.

Eligibility For A Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege.

  • Filipino Citizen Who Has Been Away For 12 Months

  • But be aware that if you are claiming the Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege under this provision you should be prepared to show your passport with an last entry date older than one year ago.
  • A Filipino Working Overseas (OFW)

  • It is important that you as an OFW should carry one of the following to prove your claim:
    • POEA-approved employment contract
    • Certificate or contract of employment from foreign employer.
    • Certificate of employment abroad issued by the Philippine Embassy/Consulate.
    • Contract worker stamp on passport.
    • Seaman’s Service Record Book.
    • E-card (OFW electronic ID)
  • A Former Filipino Traveling On A Foreign Passport

  • The foreign country must be one that is listed for visa free entry into the Philippines under EO 408.
  • You are visiting for:
    • Recreation
    • Medical tourism
    • Family
    • Because you wish to start a business or takeover one
    • Because you are contemplating retirement here
  • If you are a former Filipino Balikbayan traveling to the Philippines on a non Filipino passport, carry proof of your former Philippine citizenship, because it is an important requirement of eligibility. This should be in the form of either:
    • An old Philippine passport
    • A copy of your Philippine birth certificate.

  • Your Immediate Family Members

  • Their passport must entitle them to visa free entry under EO 408.
  • They must be travelling together with you, the Balikbayan.
  • It is important that your accompanying family members bring appropriate supporting documents:
    • For your spouse: A copy of marriage certificate.
    • Each child: A copy of birth certificate.
    • For adopted children: A copy of adoption papers

Who Is Not Entitled To The Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege?

  • Former Filipinos and their immediate family members (spouse and children) who are visa-required nationals (nationals of countries NOT listed under EO 408).
    • In these circumstance you are required to obtain a visa before you travel.
    • Usually your airline will police if you are visa free or not this because it costs them money.
      • This is because they can be fined as well as having to find a seat on a returning flight for you, if you are turned back at the border.
    • However do not leave this to chance, because being turned back, spoils your holiday and is humiliating. A quick check here will tell you if you are visa required.

What are the Balikbayan Privileges

  • You are able to stay in the Philippines without a visa for a period of one year.
  • You may extend your stay by either:
    • One(1)
    • two(2)
    • six(6)
    • month periods, for up to 36 months
  • Beyond that time frame you will need to provide BI with additional documentation, before you can remain here.
  • It is important to note that although you can extend your stay it does cost money and many of the privileges expire after the first year.
  • To get an extension you must:
    • Present your valid passport
    • Complete the visa extension form
    • Pay the fees, which are the same as those for a tourist visa (sec 9a), Which in fact is what your visa becomes.
    • Submit the receipt to
      • The Visa Extension Section At the BI Main Office
      • Or the relevant counter at any authorised BI Office nationwide.*
  • The Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege can only be given to your non-Filipino spouse and children if they are eligible in their own right. Not just because you are.
    The reason for my caution is because I recently had contact with a family where the Filipino is eligible but she is married to a national holding a passport from a visa required country.
    In this case the Balkibayan could access the Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege, but the spouse and or children could not. They would need to apply for a visa prior to arrival, and pay the required visa fees for the duration of their stay.
    Unfortunately they were given poor advice on the internet that caused unnecessary stress.

*Can My Nearest BI Office Process Balikbayan Extensions?

  • To find out what offices can process a Balikbayan extension click here.
  • I thought that clicking on an office location it would have taken you to the profile for that office. However, that is not the case. To avoid frustration it is most important to realise that no matter what office you click on, you will be taken to the beginning of the list of profiles. You then need to scroll through the list to the profile of the office nearest to your predicted location at the time you need to extend. Here you will find a list of functions and processes that each office can perform.
  • BI Office Locator Life Philippines
  • Please don’t try and click on this image, it is for illustration purposes only. You need to use the link provided above which will take you to the working map

Basic Privileges

  • If you are a person holding a Philippines passport you are exempt from Travel Tax. Provided your stay in the Philippines was for less than one year. There is no advantage to the foreign spouse and children because they do not pay it anyway.
  • Your eligible family and yourself are exempt from the need to obtain an ECC. Provided your visit is under one year and over six months. Because an ECC is not required for a stay of under 6 months.
  • You and your eligible family are not required to pay visa fees or obtain an ACR I-Card. Provided the visit is under one year
  • Additional Privileges

    • You are able to obtain a refund of terminal fee. If you are a genuine OFW
    • You’re entitled to duty free shopping privileges. Up to $2000 US dollars of goods subject to certain restrictions.
    • You can claim duty free privileges on household items and personal effects. When returning permanently
    • Travel discounts and privileges on domestic airlines.

    In Summary

    From the Expats viewpoint, if your spouse:

    • Is a Filipino citizen.
      • And has been out of the country for at least one year.

      Or

    • Is a bona fide OFW.
      • And has the relevant documentation listed above

      Or

    • Was formerly a Filipino citizen, and now holds a passport as a national of another country.
      • And Can provide documentary evidence of this as outlined above.

      And

    • You and your children are citizens in good standing of a country listed under EO 408
    • And

    • And you arrived in the Philippines with your spouse

    Then you can take advantage of the Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege, available to your spouse.

    Costs Of Balikbayan Privilege

    Free

    Some people are going to read this and say they got their Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege after going on a four-day honeymoon, or some other variation to the rules stated above. It is very important to understand that training, interpretation and competence vary from one point of entry to another or even at the same point of entry. If you get offered the Balikbayan visa free privilege without meeting the conditions outlined above, that does not mean that you will next time, enjoy the inconsistency while it lasts. However, what is outlined in this article are the official conditions, anything extra is a bonus not a right.

    What Savings Can You Expect By Using Balikbayan Privilege

    • It is important to read this section carefully to get a true picture of the savings you or you and your particular family can make. Depending on the circumstances the savings will cover a wide rangerange from time, to many thousands of pesos. Let’s look at some examples:

      Case Study One

      • A former Filipino Balikbayan holding a UK passport, with a Visa Required (VR) Spouse and one Visa Required (VR) Child, staying for:
        • Six Months
        • One Year

      The table below tells us how much would be saved by the Balikbayan using the Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege, and the cost for the Visa Required (VR) family members to stay for the chosen periods of time. The figures are ballpark the accuracy may be a reflection of the fingers of a three-year-old trying to help daddy.

      CostsBalikbayan SavedVR Spouse PaidVR14 years PaidTotal
      Entry Visa00.00(2,200.00)(2,000.00)(4,200.00)
      Visa Waiver 3,030.00(3,030.00)(3,030.00)(6,060.00)
      Months 3 & 48,700.00(8,700.00)(8,450.00)(17,150.00)
      Months 5 & 64,700.00(4,700.00)(4,450.00)(9,150.00)
      Sub Total16,430.00(18,630.00)(18,130.00)(36,760.00)
      LSVVE 6 months6,490.00(8,890.00)(7,900.00)(16,790.00)
      Travel Tax00.0000.0000.0000.00
      Terminal Fee00.0000.0000.0000.00
      Total22,920.00(27,520.00)(26,030.00)(53,550.00)

      The above figures do not reflect a saving as such as the costs for the visa required spouse and child total 36,750.00php for a six-month stay and 53,550.00php for a 12-month stay. However, by claiming Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege the former Filipino can save 16,430.00php for a six-month stay and 22,920.00php for a 12-month stay. This reduces costs for the family by 20,330.00php and by 30,630.00php for a 12-month stay, a considerable saving.

      Case Study Two

      • A Filipino Passport holding Balikbayan. Spouse and 14-year-old teen are holders of US passports. They are staying for:
        • Two Months
        • Eight Months

      The table below tells us how much would be saved by the Balikbayan and her family using the Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege. The figures are ballpark the accuracy may be a reflection of the fingers of a three-year-old trying to help daddy.

      CostsBalikbayan SavedEO 408 Spouse SavedEO 408 Teen SavedTotal Savings
      Visa Waiver 00.003,030.003,030.006,060.00
      Sub Total00.003,030.003,030.006,060.00
      LSVVE 6 months00.0011,500.0010,250.0021,750.00
      Travel Tax1620.0000.0000.001,620.00
      Terminal Fee750.0000.0000.00750.00
      Total2,370.0014,530.0013,280.0030,180.00

      Case Study Three

      A Former Filipino Balikbayan, spouse and 14-year-old teen are all holders of Australian passports. They are staying for:

      • Six Months
      • One Year

    The table below tells us how much would be saved by the Balikbayan and her family using the Balikbayan Visa Free Privilege. The figures are ballpark the accuracy may be a reflection of the fingers of a three-year-old trying to help daddy.

    CostsBalikbayan SavedEO 408 Spouse SavedEO 408 Teen SavedTotal Savings
    Entry Visa00.0000.0000.0000.00
    Visa Waiver 3,030.003,030.003,030.009,090.00
    Months 3 & 47,600.007,600.007,350.0022,550.00
    Months 5 & 64,900.004,900.004,650.0014,450.00
    Sub Total15,530.0015,530.0015,030.0046,090.00
    LSVVE 6 months8,900.008,900.007,650.0025,450.00
    Travel Tax00.0000.0000.0000.00
    Terminal Fee00.0000.0000.0000.00
    Total24,430.0024,430.0022,680.0071,540.00

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