Many people who visit the Philippines plan to stay for a prolonged period of time, and are worried about the necessary visa demands because of it.
The Philippines is a great place, but the last thing you want is to get in trouble with the authorities. This guide will explain everything you need to know about getting a visa to the Philippines. We will present all different available options, as well as their cost, and required process.
What are the requirements for a basic visa?
U.S citizens, Canadians, Australians and all EU nationalities don’t need to apply for a visa beforehand. You’ll be granted a basic tourist visa upon first arriving to the Philippines, so no prior action is required. This visa is good for 59 days and is completely free.
All you need to do is present a valid passport and your return flight number and date. Authorities demand your passport’s expiration date be at least 6 months ahead. Make sure to double-check that before booking your flights.
Canadians, Australians and U.S citizens only need to present a passport valid for the duration of their stay – but still, it’s better to check that in advance with your local embassy. Alternatively, you can just contact us and we will make sure your documents are in order.
If you stay in the country once your visa expires, you’ll be subject to various penalties and fines. Typically, these include charging you retroactively for the duration and adding another 10$ fee per month. However, immigration officials here take their job very seriously, so violations could also end in prison and deportation!
How to extend my visa?
Extension of the standard tourist visa must be done in person at one of the Bureau of immigration’s branches. The main office is located in Manila (Intramuros) but we recommend avoiding it – there are very long lines and getting to Intramuros requires dealing with the city’s unbearable traffic. When going to any of these offices, you don’t need to bring anything except for your passport. They will help you fill all required forms on the spot. Keep in mind you need enough cash with you – as none of these offices accept credit cards.
Instead, it’s much better to head directly to one of the smaller branches scattered all around Manila. You could also easily find offices in the main tourist spots – such as Cebu, Boracay and Palawan. For a full list of immigration offices, click here
Price for extending your visa depends on how much longer you wish to stay. It costs 500 pesos a month (10$), but the real cost comes from an assortment of related fees and charges. Overall, the entire visa extension process should cost 4400 pesos (85$). The sum includes a 1000 peso charge for “express fee” – read below for an explanation how to avoid paying it.
You will also need to secure an ACR card (alien certificate of registration) as part of the process. The card costs 50$ and is good for 6 months – regardless of how long you choose to extend your visa for. If you pay 75$, you’ll get a card which is good for a full year. Again, there’s an express fee automatically added which is another 500 pesos.
Extending your visa for 6 months should cost roughly 150$ – including the ACR card. You can see a full list of fees and charges here.
If you choose to pay the express fees, your visa will granted immediately and so will the ACR card. Otherwise, it might take up to 2 weeks and you will not get any notification once it’s done – so you will have to check up with them occasionally. Keep in mind you will also have to go back to the same office you filed the request with, so it might disrupt your travel plans.
So, we suggest you simply pay the extra 1500 pesos and forget about it. If you insist on saving as much as you can, let us know and we can help you plan it in a way that will help you avoid wasting too much precious time.
Are visa runs an option?
Visa runs are definitely possible, and in many cases a better option to trying to deal with local immigration officials. From our experience, authorities are not over-zealous when it comes to approving returning visitors. So, even a quick stop at some nearby country’s airport, followed by a return flight straight away, should be enough.
The tricky part is, upon arriving back to the Philippines you’ll need to present a valid return flight ticket in order to get your entry visa approved. If you are planning a long trip, then you might not have booked your flight home yet, or its due date is too far ahead. You will have no choice but to book a fictive flight to the cheapest destination you can find – just so you have some flight number to present to airport’s immigration officers.
The problem is, most flights are non-refundable and so you must do your research well. We can help you find the best solutions, as well as escort you throughout your whole visa run. This will help ensure you save the most time and money and can focus on enjoying your trip instead. For more information, we suggest reading our flights page or affordable travelling guide.
Is it better to use a travel agent?
In conclusion, we believe you should strongly consider using our help with all visa related tasks. Dealing with local authorities here can be cumbersome and tiring, and you will end up wasting time which could have been better spent elsewhere.
We make sure you get to enjoy your vacation with a clear mind. Our experts will help you build your entire travel package and make sure it includes a suitable solution to your visa needs. Our added value comes from understanding how to deal with the locals, and we do so in a way which will save you the most money and time. So, we believe visa related issues is a perfect example of a situation where using a local travel agency is the best idea.