Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. The most common category for corporate transfers in our experience is the Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa for PEZA (Philippines Economic Zone Authority) registered companies. For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your representative.

  • Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa
  • Special Work Permit (SWP): For assignments of up to six (6) months (to be held in conjunction with 9(a) Temporary Visitor Visa)
  • 9(g) Work Visa: For non-PEZA registered companies.

Typical Process Overview

The following process overview is applicable to the Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa. Approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in the Philippines is around four (4) to six (6) weeks. However, note that lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be factored in, as should processing time for completion of post arrival formalities. Average processing time for each individual step is noted below.

For employees of companies not qualifying for the Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa, a 9(g) or 9(d) Visa application must be made. This is also done post arrival and can take three (3) to four (4) months. Therefore, we will also apply for a Provisional Work Permit (PWP). This takes approximately four (4) weeks from the date of application. In addition, these employees will require Alien Certificates of Registration Identity Card (ACR-I cards). Processing time for this application is estimated at four (4) weeks.

Step One: 9(a) Temporary Visitor Visa
Processing Time: Three (3) to five (5) days

For visa waiver nationals, entry visas may be granted on arrival, valid for stays not exceeding thirty (30) days, provided the applicant holds valid tickets for their return journey to port of origin or next port of destination and that the passport is valid for a period of at least six (6) months beyond the expected period of stay. Non-visa waiver nationals will need to obtain a 9(a) Temporary Visitor Visa for Business / Tourist purposes from the Philippines Consulate in their country of residence or nationality, which will typically be valid for a maximum of up to fifty-nine (59) days.

Step Two: Alien Employment Permit Card Application
Processing Time: Four (4) to five (5) weeks from filing date

Upon arrival on 9 (a) Visitor Visa, an application for the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) is lodged at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). AEP Card is a mandatory requirement for expatriates intending to work in Philippines. In order to have the AEP card issued, we will require the Tax Identification Number (TIN) from the sponsoring entity. The AEP card application must be made prior to the employee start date listed in the Offer Letter / LOA. If the AEP filing date is after the start date listed in the Offer Letter / LOA, a delayed filing fee of Philippine Pesos 20,000 is applicable.

In late 2015, DOLE indicated they would require publication of Alien Employment Permit applications in a general circulation newspaper and on their website for a period of thirty (30) days to allow for objections by Filipino workers. The publication will include the employer’s name and address, the job title and brief description of duties, the monthly salary range and other benefits. If an objection is received, DOLE will consider it.

An understudy training program requiring the names of local employees who will replace the foreigner was also announced. However, not all of these changes were fully implemented. Ask your Emigra Worldwide consultant for the latest information in this regard.

Additionally, DOLE indicated that exemptions from the need to apply for an AEP would be introduced for certain positions.

Applicants with an elective position or intra-company transferees in executive positions could file for exclusion   to AEP. This takes two (2) to three (3) weeks to process and, if successfully granted, the AEP exclusion report must be submitted at point of filing the 47a2 visa/ 9 visa application.  Intra company transferees with executive positions eligible to apply for AEP exclusions must be fully on home country payroll and not paid locally in Philippines by the sponsor company.

However, all of these changes have not been fully implemented. Contact your Emigra Worldwide consultant for the latest information in this regard.

Step Three: Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa
Processing Time: Approximately six (6) weeks from filing date

Post arrival and upon AEP application filing, the application for change of status is submitted to that of Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa. This category of visa is only available to employees of companies registered with the Philippines Economic Zone Authority, the Board of Investment, or for oil drilling companies.

In addition to the above three steps, it is also open to companies to sponsor their employee for a Special Work Permit in order to compliantly commence work earlier.

Typical Documents Obtained

Following the Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa process described above will result in the obtention of the following immigration documents. Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, “Renewal.”

  • Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa: One (1) year
  • Alien Employment Permit: One (1) year or longer based on assignment duration listed in LOA/Employment contract

Renewal

Renewal is possible. Special Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa Renewal applications are accepted six (6) – eight (8) weeks prior to current visa expiry dates, but MUST be filed no later than thirty (30) days prior to the current expiry date in the Manila area, while in other areas renewal must be filed even sooner. Renewal processes take six (6) to eight (8) weeks; please allow three (3) weeks’ lead time for document gathering. Permanent Residence is restricted to those who are married to Filipino citizens or to Special Investors.

Deregistration

To ensure that assignees leave Philippines after the expiration of their permission to stay and to keep tabs on the number of foreign workers in the country, the government of Philippines requires all foreigners to complete the following de-registration process upon departing the country:

  1. Surrender the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) to the Department of Labor and Employment [one (1) to two (2) working days].
  2. Downgrade the work visa to a visitor visa and obtain an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) prior to departure [whole process takes three (3) to four (4) weeks].
  3. Downgrade the dependent visas (if any) to visitor visas and obtain Emigration Clearance Certificates (ECCs) prior to departure [three (3) to four (4) weeks].

Note:

  • Under current regulations, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) requires all applicants for an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) to register first under the Alien Registration Program [ARP] prior to actual receipt by the BI of the ECC application. This is currently being implemented for 9g visa holders and not being strictly followed for 47a2 visa holders which can be determined on a case by case basis.
  • Applicants may be required to acquire a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance as a pre-cursor to acquiring an Emigration Clearance Certificate. This will be determined on a case by case basis. This will apply to all foreigners aged fifteen (15) and above if applicable. The reason for acquiring the NBI is to establish that there are no pending criminal cases or liability involving the foreigner.

Downgrading the work visa should be done on or before the last day of its validity. Otherwise, the Bureau of Immigration will impose a penalty.

Dependents

Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in the Philippines with a Special Non-Immigrant 47(a)(2) Visa, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Not Applicable
  • Maximum age (children): Twenty-one (21)
  • Unmarried partners: No
  • Same sex partners: No
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): No
  • Work authorization granted? No

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We will advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials are noted below.

  • A variety of personal and corporate documents will be needed to support the application.
  • Such documents may include copy of diploma(s), current resume (C.V.), and corporate contacts and registration certificates. For 9(g) dependents, certified and legalized birth and marriage certificates will be required.
  • All documentation must be submitted in English. We can assist with translation requirements.

Business Visitors

  • Name of visa granted: 9(a) Temporary Visitor Visa for business purposes
  • Duration of stay: Up to a maximum of fifty-nine (59) days from date of arrival in the Philippines
  • General activities permitted: International conferences, negotiating contracts, attending conventions, conferences, attending business meetings. Business travelers must not undertake the same activities as they carry out in the course of their usual jobs in their home country.

NOTE: 9(a) Temporary Visa holders staying in the Philippines for over fifty-nine (59) days (per entry) are required to obtain an ACR I-Card. An Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) fee is pre-paid when an ACR I-Card is applied for 9(a) visa holders. There is no need to pay an ECC fee while exiting the Philippines for this category.

Change of Status

The standard immigration process requires employees to enter on business OR visitor status. However, work cannot commence before securing the AEP and the relevant employment visa status.

Salary and Payroll

Salary and payroll requirements vary depending on the immigration category and on the specifics of the case. In the Philippines, salaries should meet the standards for the position, region and experience level, but there is no minimum salary level stipulated in law except for a visa called the ROHQ/EO 226 Visa, which has a minimum salary of US$12000 per annum. Additionally, payroll location will affect the immigration process. Please contact your representative for more details for your specific situation.

Qualifications

Qualification requirements vary from case to case and depend on the immigration category under which the application is made. Although there are no official limitations, a new hire should have a graduate degree plus relevant experience. In some situations, a strong case may be made for applicants without a degree provided their level of experience and industry specific qualification is high. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Absence of degree.
  • Absence of relevant experience.
  • Insufficient compensation.
  • Unmarried partners cannot receive dependent status.
  • The Department of Labor will look at the employer’s ratio of foreign to local workers.
  • In some cases, two (2) Filipino understudies must be trained by the foreign worker, with the expectation that one (1) will replace the expatriate within three (3) years.
  • The applicant must be in the Philippines at the time of application and approval, or the application will be invalidated and must be resubmitted.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of Philippines takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

Working without a valid AEP: A fine of ten thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) for every year or a fraction thereof shall be imposed on foreign nationals found working without an AEP or with an expired AEP OR imprisonment ranging from three (3) months to three (3) years, or both.  In addition to such penalties, any alien found guilty shall be summarily deported upon completion of their sentence.

Working without a valid work visa: The Philippine Immigration Act partly provides: Any individual who shall bring into or land in the Philippines or conceal, harbor, employ, or give comfort to any alien not duly admitted by any immigration officer or not lawfully entitled to enter or reside within the Philippines under the terms of the immigration laws, or attempts, conspires with, or aids another to commit any such act, and any alien who enters the Philippines without inspection and admission by the immigration officials, or obtains entry into the Philippines by willful, false, or misleading representation or willful concealment of a material fact, shall be guilty of an offense, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than five thousand pesos but not more than ten thousand pesos, imprisoned for not less than five (5) years but not more than ten (10) years, and deported if he is an alien. Dismissal by the employer before or after apprehension does not relieve the employer of the offense.

Employer Penalties:

Employing a foreign national without a valid AEP: A fine of ten thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) for every year or a fraction thereof shall be imposed.

For more details, please contact your Emigra Worldwide representative.

Bilateral Agreements

The Philippines is not party to any relevant bilateral agreements.