Moving to the Philippines: First things first, a Visa!
by: Maite Caballero-Matute
With any country that you may want to live and work in, there is the obvious nightmare of paperwork. The drama and trauma of obtaining a working permit (AEP) and a 9(g) visa which is an experience most foreigners recount with mixed emotions – shock, anger, outrage, frustration, dismay, and at times, even hopelessness. There is no other way to put it, but it is a process, a tedious one and one that is, like any of its nature, time-consuming and difficult.
As with any difficult predicament, it is a matter of being prepared and aware. Government agencies are also making an honest effort to be more transparent with their fees and procedures.
First, what is a 9(g)? This refers to a category of non-immigrants who are entering the Philippines for pre-arranged employment. It is a visa granted to foreign nationals allowing them to live and work in the Philippines. There are several categories of nonimmigrant visas; the most common since it refers to employees for a regular commercial business. An Alien Employment Permit (AEP) on the other hand, is a document issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through the DOLE – Regional Director authorizing a foreign national to work in the Philippines. All foreign nationals not otherwise exempted by law who intend to engage in gainful employment in the Philippines are required to obtain these documents.
There are therefore, TWO (2) agencies you will definitely have to deal with to live and work in the Philippines: The Department of Labor and Employment, who even local businesses have to adhere to, and the Bureau of Immigration. Ordinarily, you will apply for your AEP first before proceeding with the 9(g) visa. The AEP application is filed at the DOLE Regional Office that has jurisdiction over the employer’s place of business. While the 9(g) is applied within the Bureau of Immigration office.
1. Have your paperwork ready
For the 9(G) VISA:
- Letter of request signed by the petitioner-employer and/or applicant-employee
- General application form duly accomplished and notarized (BI Form No. RBR 98-01)
- Four (4) pieces of 2×2 pictures to be attached to the application form
- Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, SEC Certificate of Registration of petitioner
- Alien Employment Permit (AEP) from the Department of Labor and Employment
- Income Tax Return of petitioner-employer and proof of payment; audited financial statements
- Contract or agreement entered into for the applicant’s service stating term of service and exact compensation and other benefits to be received
- Comprehensive bio-data or Curriculum Vitae of applicant
- Certification by the Human Resource Director/Personnel Officer as to the number of Filipino and Foreign nationals employed by the petitioner
- Photocopy of the applicant’s passport showing biographical information, admission status and updated stay
- Other supporting documents which will aid in the evaluation of the application
- If you will be accompanied by your spouse and unmarried minor children you will also need:
- Marriage certificate/birth certificates of unmarried minor children if dependents are included in the application with English translation if applicable, and duly authenticated by the Philippine Consulate where the documents were issued
- Photocopy of the passports of the spouse and unmarried minor children
For the AEP
- Application Form from the DOLE, duly accomplished and must be notarized
- Contract of Employment/Appointment
- Notarized Board Secretary’s Certificate
- Certified Photocopy of passport with visa
- Photocopy of updated Mayor’s Permit
- Pictures 2 pcs 1×1 and 2 pcs 2×2
- Other documents (e.g. cover/endorsement letter)
2. Going through the right channels
Though this process may take longer and be more costly. Hiring a professional lawyer or accredited agency will save you a lot of time and headaches in the future. They are more competent in giving you advice and would help you have more legitimacy in your claim.
3. Your stay must be updated
Until you receive your employment visa, your stay must be updated and documented. If you entered the country as a tourist and without a visa your stay is valid for thirty (30) days. You need an extension thereafter and must pay and apply for this with the Bureau of Immigration. Do check the prices for the extension online.
4. Be ready to pay the fees
Getting a 9G visa and an AEP allows you live and work in the Philippines validly and without threats from a disgruntled employee, the jilted member of a bizarre love triangle, or deportation from the government. More importantly, it allows you to go in and out of the Philippines without getting held up at the airport immigration, because that’s the last thing you would want. Convenience however comes at a cost. Be prepared to pay aboutP50,000.00 (roughly 1.100 USD and 1,000 Euros) in government fees for your AEP and 9(g). These fees cover not only the visa and the AEP but the transactions and steps along the way which must be accomplished while the visa is being processed. fees for your alien certificate of registration.
5. Don’t forget to renew
If you are living and working in the Philippines longer than a one (1) year you must renew your visa and your AEPbefore they expire. A 9(g) is valid for one year and renewable for up to ten times, as is the AEP. Our advice is to apply before the deadline, especially in the case of the AEP as the fines for late filing can be quite hefty. If you are late to renew your 9(g) you will essentially have to file anew and go through the visa procurement process and costs all over again.
Government web sites estimate the visa application process to take about one month and the AEP application at 24 hours upon complete submission of documents. Now, not to discourage you, because this is a beautiful country, but….it may take longer than that. Some offices in the Philippines are still running on outdated computers, and databases, if not processing everything manually. Delays usually arises from incomplete documents or incomplete information. The main reason for delay is the backlog at Immigration. Rather than waste your time, your best bet is to approach a professional to do the job for you. If you find the right one, you are halfway there.