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M Lhuillier



Below, I have compiled visa and entry information to help you, prior to making your first trip to the Philippines. As a visitor to the Philippines from most countries, you will have two choices regarding entering the Philippines for the first time:


1. Prior to arriving in the Philippines, you  may secure a visa allowing entry into the country.

2. You may fly here without a visa, and secure a 21 day "visa free" stamp upon entry.


For Americans (and probably many other citizens from other countries around the world) it is currently cheaper to secure a single entry 59 day visa ahead of time, than to come in on the 21 day "visa-free" stamp, later having to secure an extension of stay for an additional 38 days. I will explain this as we go along and tell you more about both options, below.


Your first option, the one I suggest for most people to go with, is to purchase a single or multiple entry visa prior to coming to the Philippines. This particular visa is called a 9(a) or non-immigrant visa. It will look similar to the image below, after it has been affixed to a page in your passport:


Click on the image for a larger view.


A 9(a) non-immigrant visa may be purchased through many Philippines Embassies located throughout the world. (It you are not an American, please search to locate the nearest Philippines Embassy or Consulate to you, within the country in which you reside.) Once you have decided to purchase a 9(a) non-immigrant visa, you will have three different visa options from which to choose. The non-immigrant visa options offered through the Philippines Embassies throughout the US, and in US Dollars, are:

  • Three (3) month single entry visa - $30 USD

  • Six (6) month multiple entry visa - $60 USD

  • Twelve (12) month multiple entry visa - $90 USD

The three (3) month single entry visa is just that. This visa, once approved and issued, allows the passport holder a three month travel window, and a single entry into the Philippines.


PLEASE NOTE: A 9(a) visa does not allow you a single three (3) month stay in the Philippines, without you filing for an extension. This similarly applies to both the six (6) and twelve (12) month multiple entry visas.


Upon issue and from the point where this visa stamp has been placed in your passport, you will have a three month travel window in which to enter the Philippines. (If you wait beyond that three month window, the visa will have expired.) After your one time entry, which is within the three month travel window, you will be allowed a single stay in the Philippines of up to 59 days. In case you haven't quite gotten it yet (and don't worry if you haven't as it confuses most people), I will give you an example.


Let's say you have round-trip airfare to enter the Philippines on April 01, 2010, departing the country 50 days later. You know it will be your only trip to the Philippines during that particular year. So, in this particular case, the three (3) month single entry visa is the best visa for you to purchase.


You, the passport holder, will enter the Philippines on April 01, 2010. Now, you will not have to deal with anyone at immigration, because you will leave prior to your visa expiring. In this case, your flight will have been scheduled for May 20, 2010, thus leaving you a nine (9) day window before your 59 days visa expires.


Now, let's confuse the issue a bit more. Sorry. Let's say you change your mind during your stay, because you find that you are loving it here so much, that you wish to extend your stay for another two (2) months. Trust me, in most cases, you will extend your stay - or you certainly will want to!


"What will be required of me in order to extend my stay for an additional two months?"


Prior to your visa expiring on the 59th day, you must visit a local Bureau of Immigration Office within the Philippines. Or, you have the option of going through Cebu Expat Services who can take care of your extensions on your behalf. Either way you decide to go, this must be done prior to your visa expiring or you will become an overstaying alien. This will subject you to fines and, possibly, deportation, especially if you have any issues come up while here. You do not want that to happen. Trust me on this. So, during your stay in the Philippines, please keep your visa updated.


Both the six (6) month and the twelve (12) month multiple entry visas are very similar. They offer you multiple entries of up to two (2) months each, for period of six months, or twelve months, respectively. That is, if you possess either visa, you may enter the country for period of up to six or twelve months, staying for up to two months time during each trip. This is without having to visit the local immigration office, or having to secure the Cebu Expat Services in order to extend your stay. If you wish to stay beyond the two (2) months allowed, after entry, you will have to secure a visa extension.


Typically, I suggest for visitors to extend their stay at least one to two weeks prior to their 9(a) visa expiring. This gives you and /or Cebu Expat Services ample time to secure the visa extension.


Please click here to download an actual non-immigrant visa application form. (Requirements for the 9(a) non-immigrant visa will be on page 2 of the pdf document.)


Incidentally, this particular form is current and can be used if you are to secure your visa from the Philippine Embassy in San Francisco, California, USA. Otherwise, secure the appropriate application from from the Philippine Embassy or Consulate nearest you.


Okay. You have learned about the first, cheaper, although more time consuming, option for entry into the Philippines. Now, to the more expensive option.




You may secure a "visa-free" stamp, which allows you a single twenty-one (21) days stay upon entry into the Philippines. That is, purchase your roundtrip airline ticket to the Philippines, arrive in country with your luggage, roundtrip airfare ticket, your passport and good manners intact, and fall in line for the next available immigration officer at the airport.


The immigration officer will look at the outbound portion of your ticket, your passport (to make sure it is valid for at least six (6) months after entry into the country), and possibly ask you some questions. Once he or she is satisfied with your requirements, a stamp will be placed in your passport giving you a 21 days stay in country, "free".


However, if you wish to stay beyond the "free" 21 days, you will be required to secure an extension on your own, or  through Cebu Expat Services, in order to continue staying in the Philippines. This extension can and must be approved at any local Bureau of Immigration Office within the Philippines. Incidentally, the first (38 days) extension currently costs Php 3030. (The current exchange rate is ~$64.00 USD.) This more than double the cost of a single entry non-immigrant visa.


No matter how you decide to come into the country, please make it a point to extend your stay, either through a visit to the local Bureau of Immigration office nearest you, or through a reputable agent, like Cebu Expat Services.


Would you like to learn the language spoken in Cebu and elsewhere in the Visayas and Mindanao Regions of the Philippines? If so, this is an excellent introductory book for you to begin learning the basics of Cebuano.


The book is titled Conversational English-Cebuano Made Easy, by my long time friend, and author, Cristina Canonigo. She has authored more than 100 books, to date.


An earlier version of this book, the 2001 edition, is the version I used to begin learning Cebuano when I first moved to Cebu. It was a great first book for me. I assure you, if you spend a few minutes per day with it, you will begin to learn Cebuano as well.  read more...



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Revised: 07/28/13 12:36:07 +0700