Balikbayan status versus 13a visa in the Philippines

When we came to the Philippines last year October 2008, I entered the Philippines getting a balikbayan status. My wife Flor is a born Filipina, and that’s the reason I have got this status. This means that I was allowed to stay in the country for 12 months.
People mistakenly refer to this as the ‘Balikbayan Visa’ but it is not a visa but a privilege under Republic Act #6768 called “The Balikbayan Law of 1989″.
Former Filipinos and their family are getting the Balikbayan status every entry in the Philippines, but only if they travel together or bring (a certified true copy of) the original marriage contract.

We came here on one-way tickets because we were planning to live here permanently and we didn’t need a ticket to go back to my country.
On several forums and web pages it is stated that the balikbayan status can be extended up until one year (every extension two months). This needs to be done at the Immigration office near by where you live in the Philippines. That is what we did before the balikbayan status was expired because we didn’t have plans to go somewhere yet. No problems so far. After doing the paperwork and paying the fees for it (about 4800 pesos) I got an extension for two months.
A few weeks ago my wife and I were planning to go to Kuala Lumpur for a few days. In going back we would get a new balikbayan status for one year. This what we were thinking because it is according the Philippine law mentioned above.
We went to a travel agency to book a flight and a hotel. We were almost done when the travel agent asked about my visa and return ticket to The Netherlands. When we told her that we didn’t have one she mentioned that we would get into problems in Kuala Lumpur in boarding the flight back to the Philippines. The Philippine Immigration at Manila wouldn’t make any problems. She knew from other people that they were asked for a return ticket to their original country. If they could not produce one or didn’t have a reservation in the computer systems, they were not allowed to board the plane and fly back to the Philippines. They had to buy a (expensive and non-refundable) ticket to Europe first. It is not the Philippine government who is implementing this but the immigration offices in several Asian countries.
We also know from a Dutch couple who went here in 2007 and before they go back to Holland, they made a short trip to Singapore. When they wanted to go back to the Philippines they were asked about tickets to go back to Holland. They had them but didn’t bring them so it was checked in the computer system and after that they were allowed to board the plane to the Philippines.

I do not have more stories or confirmations about this issue, but we didn’t like the idea and we didn’t proceed in buying tickets to go to Kuala Lumpur or other country.
According to the sales lady at the travel agency, immigration offices in all countries in Asia are acting the same so there was no reason for us to take the risk and travel outside the Philippines.

So we decided not to leave the Philippines and get a new extension first.
A few days ago we went to the Immigration office again (@ Intramuros, Manila) and I asked for a new extension for two month. Cost this time 2830 pesos. (It seems it gets cheaper the second time.) A little more than one hour later we were finished and a new stamp in my passport says that I am allowed to stay until February 5, 2010.

So to be able to leave the Philippines for a few days and go back to get a new balikbayan status, you need to have valid return ticket to your home country.
The problem is that airline companies do not issue tickets with a validity longer than 1 year (as far as I know).

For me, to avoid problems next time, it is needed to start the procedure to get a 13a visa. For that we already get a list of requirements:

  1. 1, Duly notarized letter of application by the Filipino spouse
  2. 2, General application form ( BI form # MCL-07-01), Form should be duly accomplished and notarized
  3. 3, A NSO authenticated copy of the birth certificate of the Filipino spouse
  4. 4, A NSO authenticated copy of the marriage contract of the alien and the Filipino spouse, or authenticated by the nearest Philippine Embassy or consulate, or in the place where the marriage was solemnized.
  5. 5, A Bureau of Immigration Clearance certificate
  6. 6, Plain photocopy of the passport of the alien spouse showing dates of arrival and authorized stay

We will start this procedure soon to have a free entry in the Philippines every time we like to travel abroad.

Documents executed outside of the Philippines must be authenticated by the Philippine embassy or consulate in the country of issuance and translated in English.
It is also possible to petition for a 13a visa in your home country before going to the Philippines. Ask your local Philippine Embassy about the requirements.

If someone who is reading this blog and has experiences about this subject, I am happy to know about, you may even send your stories through a private message HERE or just leave a comment on this page.

Leave a Reply or Comment

  1. Hi Jan,

    Getting your 13-swries permanent residency visa is probably a good thing to do, so don’t let this appear that I am trying to talk you out of it, but I’ve been in the Philippines more than three years now and the balikbayan privilege (BB for short) has served me fine.

    The only thing I see in your article I can disagree with is a technicality. The BB can _not_ be extended beyong one year, but you _can_ convert the BB to a tourist waiver at the end of its one year period of validity and you can then renew the tourist visa waiver stamps every 60 days for varying fees each time.

    The issue you have with the travel agent appears to revolve around the fact that many travel agents are not familiar at all with the rules which apply to foreigners. This is one reason I avoid using them. I buy my tickets, forign and domestic online.

    If you are not trying to fly PAL, you absolutely can buy round trip tickets to a location like Kuala Lumpur and the airline will board you for your return flight, and Philippine Immigration will stamp your passport with another 1 year BB stamp. Why not PAL? Based on my own personal experience, they do not follow the laws of their own country … not much else I can say. Cebu Pacific has much better deals anyway.

    You and others in this situation may want to read this article, detailing how I renewed my BB privilege stamp earlier this year. Why I Left The Philippines

    • Dave,
      Thanks for your comment. I think a lot of readers will be redirected now to your pages, which is good.
      I have read your post and it is clear that it is possible to just go and come back here without much problems.
      I explained the travel agency already that I was having a visa for the Philippines untill dec 5 of this year, and we were thinking of returning in the PI around november 25. The sales lady even called to the airline headquarters, but was confirmed that I needed a return ticket to Holland.
      Next time, if there will be any because I will go far the 13a, I will buy my ticket on-line again, like I did before in Holland.
      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. Jan,

    It is _never_ a requirement for a foreigner to have an onward ticket to his or her homeland. This is a frequent myth, apparently perpetuated by people who sell tickets.

    What the law requires is proof of ‘onward travel’ within the period of stay allowed. 21 days for no visa (visa waiver program), 59 days for regular travel visa holder and one year for persons eligible for the balikbayan privilege.

    The onward travel may be anywhere outside of the Philippines, it does not have to be a ticket to a persons homeland.

    PAL, in particular, seems to refuse to allow what their own country’s law allows. When my wife and I came here in 2006, they refused to sell me a one way ticket, even after if specifically showed them the rules, on paper.

    Because we were jammed up by time … we had to get here by a certain date, I ended up buying a follow-on ticket to Hong Kong. Cost about $90 extra … a little “Immigratiion Tax” imposed by PAL. Welcome to the Philippines

    • Dave,
      I suppose you are right, but we were a little in a hurry and I couldn’t find good deals on the internet. That was the reason for going to this travel agency.
      I didn’t understand why they were asking for a return ticket. I was even trying to convince them that I was married to a Filipina and was entitled to receive a new BB status upon arrival in the PI.
      Anyway, I will keep it it mind for the next time. Thanks for your support.

  3. Hi I’m a British national living in England and planing to retire to Cebu in a few years with my Filipino wife I read your exchanges with interest as the Visa/Permanent stay and return to the Phils issue is one that worries me.

    Do you guys know or have experience of the Retiree Visa on offer for various rates of investment known as SRRV? It would seem that to avail (see picking up the lingo) the least level of investment if your pension’s less than $1000 US a month is to get your wife to become a foreign national, in my case to become a British Citizen, so we then need only invest $1500 US and the husband of a returning Filipino national I can stay permanently and have muliple entry status as her dependant. I got this info from the Phipinnes Retirement Authority by emailing their office in Cebu so hopefully it’s correct.

    Any comments or additional info would be most welcome as would on going conversation about general life in the Phils like buying property etc.

    Regards Stephen

    • Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for stopping by at my website.
      There are a lot of forums on the web handling this question. I suggest to become a member of such forum where you can ask your specific questions.
      For example: THIS ONE. The owner of this forum has a SRRV visa and can tell you all about it. Check it out.

  4. HI thanks for that had a look and it seems the same info I got from the agency but good to have lots of contacts.

    Best wishes Stephen

    • Hi Stephen,
      The more information one gets the better. I know from experience that not everything you read on the internet is correct. Also the Government of the PI is changing their laws on small points and even their civil servants do not always know the law exactly.
      It is always better to inform yourself at the Philippine embassy in your country. You can get a 13a visa there too.

      Best wishes to you and your family !

  5. Hi,

    My husband and I were just done with his 13a permanent visa. But before that, you have to go through first with the one year 13a probationary status. Two months before the expiration of your probationary status you could proceed on processing your application to permanent.

    We processed his permanent on May 21, 2010 and it was approved on June 17, 2010. But we just know that it has approved on that date because you can’t seem to contact the number that they have given to us. It just keeps on ringing and no one is answering. So what I did it to wake up early in the morning for thats the best time to call time. Sometimes it was a success but it works. After it has been approved we went to the Immigration Office in Intramuros to process the implementation. We paid P3,690 for the double express and after that we proceed to the ICR-Card window. We paid P2,829 for the card and waited until 4:30 pm for the release of his ICR- Card.

    But you should also be aware that upon leaving the Philippines you have to pay I think P3,500 plus. I am not so sure what kind of fee is that. My husband thinks that it is better if we proceed with our Singapore trip to get that Balikbayan visa but if you are planning to stay here for a long time, I think you will benefir form the 13a visa.

    If you have more questions, just email me and I am willing to help you as much as I can.

    • Hi Ednalyn,
      Thanks for this presize explanation and overview of the costs.
      Many visitors will appreciate it, and so do I.

    • That mystery fee was most likely the Travel Tax (P1620 per Philippine Resident or visitor who has stayed 1 year or more)

      If you are a Philippine citizen who is a Permanent Resident or resident citizen in a foreign country the tax is P200 (the cost of the Exempt certificate)

      Also be prepared for the Philippine airport fees you will pay on the way to your boarding gate. P200 domestic & P750 international per passenger. (US currency accepted)

      The Philippine Tourism Authority has a Travel Tax Primer with details of the Travel Tax.

      On the immigration board I usually visit I see a lot of questions from Filipinos who discover these at the airport :)

      On the onward travel requirement. The Honolulu and Chicago (USA) Philippine Consulates list this as a requirement for Balikbayan Privilege entry…other consulates say nothing about it. PAL enforces it & I have seen reports that Cebu Pacific and a few of the other carriers also enforce it. The POE document check in Philippines also requests this proof occasionally. The advice from the PAL ticket counter is to buy a cheap ticket to Singapore, HK or similar nearby country and get a refund on arrival in Philippines.

      • So you just buy a refundable ticket to someplace? Is it 100% refundable? When we came to the Philippines in May 2010, we had follow on tickets to Hong Kong, that we just tossed when we arrived here. That was $100 down the drain (I bought the tickets during a promo). In May 2011 we plan to travel to South Korea for a few days and return for our new Bilikbayan status. So are you saying I must get a follow on ticket, or are there airlines that won’t check for such things, since it’s kind of wrong anyway?

        • Okay I’m replying to my own comment, but it is now Jan 2013 and I have been through the bilikbayan process a couple of times now. We have not had a problem with leaving the country and coming back to get a new BB Visa stamped in our passports. Just be sure to ask for the BB sticker when you arrive or they might not do it. Always carry a copy of your marriage certificate with you, although they have never asked for it, it is something that they could do at anytime. We went to Hong Kong and back the first time (for 1 day only) and the US via Korea the 2nd time (for 2 months). No problems either time, except coming back the 2nd time I had to ask twice for the BB stamp. Always check, don’t take it for granted. After all, that’s what the whole trip was about.

          • Hi John,
            Are the airlines abroad (while checking in) not making a problem that you do not have a return ticket to your home country? There are many stories that foreigners are forced to buy tickets to their home country before being allowed to board?
            Reason for this is that the Philippine Government does not allow foreigners to enter the country without a return ticket (permanent visa holders exempted), and those entering without a return ticked are send back to country they are coming from with the same airline company (on the costs of the airliner).

          • recnt law changes have made this process difficult. now as a us citizen you must get a letter of clearance from local police dept and then to embassy of philipines for validation as still another step in process requiring a return trip to us. is there any immigration atty here in manila area that will consult to be sure all forms are complete and accurate prior to this process?

          • Hi Phil,
            I am not sure if your wife applied for it in the Philippines or at the embassy in the US. These procedures might be different.

            When applying in Manila, all necessary papers will be checked if they are complete. Check the immigration website for the latest requirements.
            Immigration website Philippines/

          • thanks however as of march 2013 the law is clear. You must when aplying in philipines have a letter from local usa police dept of clearance and then vALIDATE at closest philipine embassy in USA. This is new and not yet pubished so giving heads up to others prior to attempting process. This requirement is in addition to others listed incl proff of income which is only 100-200,000 pesos yearly.

          • An advise for everybody: visit the immigration office on line or in person and ask for the latest requirements before applying.

  6. I am trying to apply for my 13 a, but having a problem with the “foreign police clearance”. I feel like I’m calling random numbers when I talk to BI offices. Nobody knows anything! I cannot get an FBI clearance in the U.S. without being there in person (fingerprint/picture). I called The U.S. embassy last week and it does not offer this service. I cannot get a firm answer on what are the “contents of the form”. I am a former police officer and can get a “letter from my department” confirming that I have never been arrested/charged with anything in the U.S. I have also see on blogs that if you are already living in the Philippines, you do not need a U.S. police clearance, only a Philippines clearance. Has anyone been through this step without having to return to the U.S.?

    • Hi Troy,
      You probably get this information from a website somewhere.
      I would like to advise you: just go to immigration in the Philippines and ask for the latest requirements, and keep us posted about it. More people like you might find it useful to know.
      Good luck,

    • this is a new requirement and cannot be processed without the clearance which is validated by closest embassy to your american address however no one has been able to provide me with a sample acceptable letter as per the requirements-for sure it will entail a return trip back to us no matter what

      • Thanks y’all. I will keep you posted on things in case anyone else is going through this in the future.

      • Troy,
        Where did you get the information from? Who told you this?
        On the website of Immigration is NOTHING written about this new requirement.

        • recently went to manila ain office and was told of new requirement and further that the embassy would not help must

          back to us and comply

  7. If a U.S. citizen were to live and work in several countries before moving to the Philippines, and thus not have a U.S. address, I wonder how this issue would be handled.
    I wonder if you could just write an affidavit saying you have a clean police record and then swear to in front of a U.S. Embassy official.

  8. Thanks Jan. I read the 13a requirements and noticed requirement-6 on the checklist, a Bureau of immigration Clearance Certificate. My understanding is that this is essentially a Police Clearance certificate as described at the following website location:
    So, i gather from this website that I only need a Police Report from my country of residence and not necessarily my country of citizenship.

    • Hi Bob,
      Correct, when you apply at Immigration, you will get this clearance, it’s part of the application (although you have to pay for it… LOL)
      They check if your name appears in the Philippine national police records, that’s all.
      Good luck.