What Is Going On BI?
I am very supportive of the great job that the Bureau does, under demanding circumstances, still am. However, in the last month or so I have encountered confusing advice provided by the site and hotline, and am at a loss to know what is going on.
Given the fact that publishing incorrect or unclear information can result in:
- Our contravening BI regulations, with the attendant risk of fines, imprisonment or deportation.
- Spending unnecessary time and effort getting to an office only to find out you needn’t have been there in the first place.
Or to a lesser degree of seriousness.
I think that getting this sorted out is important and I am appealing to your undoubted professional integrity to ask that you address the issues which I have outlined in this post.
I believe this will be to the mutual benefit of both the Bureau and its clients.
Annual Reporting For Holders Of Sec 9a Tourist Visas
Every year at reporting time the same fight between different factions of the Expat community arises over this question. Should Sec 9a holders with an ACR I-Card need to be reporting in the first 60 days of the year.
I have been on a different visa for a long time so all I can do when answering peoples questions about the correct option is to:
- Go on my experience from years ago
- Check what the site says
- Ask on the hotline. Yes that have a very responsive one you can access here.
So this is what I have done for the last 6 years here at Life Philippines.
So the outcome of that was as follows:
- When I was on a tourist visa I reported in the first two months of the year. You will have to take my word for it because it is two passports and many receipts ago. I went to the main office in Cebu one year and to the Head Office in Manila another and paid my 310php. I also understand that experience can be different in different offices.
- Search the BI website for a definitive answer. I found the following:
- I found a reference to the Annual Report
Under the section “who should apply” this “All registered aliens and ACR I-Card holders except Temporary Visitor’s Visa holders or Tourist Visa holders”. That gave me pause for thought, because it contradicted my experience, and also the advice I was giving out.
- Then I found this this The relevant section says “As provided in Section 10 of R.A. 562 or the Alien Registration Act of 1950 and existing regulations, all registered aliens are required to report in person to the Bureau of Immigration or to any of its offices within the first sixty (60) days of every calendar year. It aims to strictly enforce compliance of the immigration law in the interest of national security, public safety and public order.” Nothing here about Temporary Visitors Visa or Tourist Visa holders. While this seems to support my position, I am not happy, because I feel that should be no doubt about the answer.
- Asked the hotline and this is the conversation I had with them.
That seemed pretty final to me. I had verification on all three levels:
- Personal Experience
- The Website. Except for that inconvenient reference that others were relying on to counter my position. I convinced myself that this was the result of poor English construction, after my hotline conversation.
- The Hotline, where I had asked the question in three ways and was told pretty firmly that the acquisition of an ACR I-Card meant you were obligated to report.
So I felt pretty confident that the position I had been taking for the past 6 years was correct, So when the question came up in a group, I responded with my usual information.
Enter the supporters and the detractors and the verbal jousting began, peppered with mildly funny insults from one guy.
Most quickly left the conversation until only me and two others remained.
Up to that point the argument had taken it’s normal course. Getting nowhere near to a resolution until one of the gentlemen Walter produced this:
Read The receipt carefully:
- If you look at the 4th item down on the receipt you will see the item (labelled One) Annual Report and the Fee of 300 pesos.
- Look at the top of the receipt and you will see the date (labelled Two), it is not in the 1st two weeks of the year but at the end of November.
So these guys, the other confirmed that this is what he has been doing since 2011, were correct.
I was wrong and without hesitation apologise to anyone who has traipsed to their local BI office and been told the trip was not necessary.
I am really surprised that in six years no one has called me on this evidence, either on my list or in the many debates I have had on various Expat groups.
So once again, even though it may seem a bit over the top for some, I want to thank those guys. Evidence is what counts in my groups and that’s what you had.
Without a doubt the practice of the Bureau is that Tourist Visa Holders (Sec 9a) with an ACR card do not report annually. They do pay the fee but that is collected in the course of visa renewal.
But those of you that know me, know that I will not let something rest if it is not consistent. So while I accept that this is the current practice, and it is the right of the Philippines to construct the law as it wishes, I contend that compliance would be more readily achieved if:
- Clear and concise instructions for Sec 9a long term visitors were included in the sections of the site devoted to that visa.
- That in the section on ACR I-Cards, that specific mention is made of the different procedures for this ACR I-Card type.
My next post will look at Balikbayan Privilege and how recent events have muddied the waters for some. Until then enjoy life with the reduced frustration factor that comes with knowing fact from fiction.