Permanent Resident Visa – 13a
If you are living in the Philippines, married to a Filipina, and want to make the move permanent, you may want to change your admission status from temporary visitor (tourist) to non-quota immigrant visa under Section 13(a). In the past, this was not very easy to do. When I first considered changing my status, in 2006, there was a long list of requirements. By 2008, the process had been streamlined, so I applied.
Once you complete the change in status, you can apply for an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) I-Card.
The information you will find in this article applies to acquiring a Philippines Permanent Resident Visa (13A) for non-restricted nationals who are legally married to Filipino citizens.
The first time you apply it will be for a one year probationary period. A year later you will repeat the process to convert the probationary period to a permanent resident visa. In other words, pay attention the first time, so you know what you are doing the next time. It also helps to talk to other foreigners, to learn from their experiences.
For my probationary visa, I applied in Cebu. I thought it would be cheaper and easier for travel than going to Manila. Turned out I had to pay a lawyer there, so it wasn’t any cheaper, plus it took a lot longer. I also got phone calls from the Manila BI office, and had to send fresh photocopies of some of the papers. Apparently they could not read the photocopies from Cebu. The lawyer worked at the BI office, but charged an extra fee. I have heard of these fees being as high as 30,000 php.
Last October, a friend of mine applied to renew his permanent resident visa in Tacloban, Leyte. He is still not finished. When he started calling Manila they said the papers weren’t there. When he called Tacloban, they said the papers were already in Manila. Fortunatly, He had photocopies of everything. After a few more phone calls, he finally went to Manila himself. Last I heard, his papers should be finished soon.
Once your visa is approved, you will still need to return to the issuing office to have your passport stamped, and get the ACR I-Card. After that, you only have to make annual reports, until the I-Card expires. My permanent I-Card is good for 5 years.
From now on, I will only go to Manila for renewing my permanent visa, but will use other offices for such tasks as the Annual Report.
Below I have included some additional advises to help you prepare. You can find the official list of requirements on the BI page. Make sure you look at their list, as I’m not repeating it here.
One very important requirement, that is not listed on the BI page, is your spouse. Technically, she is the one who is applying, on your behalf, so she needs to be there. Don’t forget that both of you need ID’s to enter the BI office.
Plan on spending a few days near the BI office of your choice. Once the application is complete, and fees paid, there will be a hearing scheduled. If you, and your spouse, are not at that hearing, you will have to start over.
If you go to the Intramurals or Cebu BI offices, you can make photocopies there. Some of the other BI offices, like Tacloban, do not have photocopiers available, so plan ahead.
You will also need a couple of 2×2 photos. In Cebu, or Manila, I usually go to the “rush ID” places, as they can do them on the spot.
One of the requirements is a duly notorized letter of application by the Filipino spouse. This letter has certain requirements. If you are at the Intermurals office, the help desk can notorize the letter for free, but they can’t help you write it. Most people end up having a lawyer prepare it, but you can also prepare it yourself. The BI website provides a sample letter here: http://immigration.gov.ph//index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=24&Itemid=99
After my hearing at Intermurals, I was told to call back in one month. At that time they advised me my visa was ready for “implementation.” Last week, I returned to Manila. When I went to the implementation window, they asked me if I wanted Express Lane, or Double Express. The double express cost an extra PHP 500, but probably saved me a day. Considering hotel costs, it was worth it. Implementation involves paying a fee, and getting a stamp in your passport. Make sure you have space, otherwise they will send you to your countries Embassy first. At the US Embassy, it takes about 1 day to get more pages added to your passport.
When I first applied, I was told to bring proof of the ability to support myself. I used a Letter of Certification from a joint bank account with a balance over PHP 100,000. Proof of owning a business or property in the Philippines will also help, as will proof of having a pension. This last time they did not ask for any of these, but I figure it is always better to be prepared.
Disclaimer: Expat2Phils is not in any way connected to the Government of the Philippines, nor are we lawyers. What we offer are personal experiences, not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer!