I’m a Registered Alien in the Philippines.

Visited the local Philippine Immigration Office in Iloilo City this past Thursday to register as an Alien in the Philippines. Here's the official notice from the Immigration website:


NOTICE is hereby given to All registered foreign nationals, immigrant or non-immigrant, resident or non-resident visa holders all over the Philippines, that you are required to report in person, pursuant to Section 10 of the Alien Registration Act of 1950, within the first sixty (60) days of CY 2011 at the Alien Registration Division (ARD), Bureau of Immigration, Manila, or at the Immigration District/Subport/Field/Satellite office nearest your place of residence.
Any of the following documents shall be presented by the registered foreigner during the Annual Report (AR): 1. Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) / or ACR I-Card; 2. Certificate of Residence (CR); or 3. Official Receipts (O.R.) covering previous payment of AR fee. An Annual Report fee of P300.00 and P10.00 Legal Research fee shall be paid by the foreigner.alien space troopers

OK, what the website doesn't tell you is that you will need two 2”x2” photo ID's the first time you register as an alien. Since I had a Balikbayan visa at this time last year when I went to visit the Immigration Office in Iloilo they told me I did not need to register since I was here under the Balikbayan privilege. But since I had obtained my Alien Certificate of Registration card and Temporary 13(a) Visa last year, I had to make the 15 minute pump boat ride to Iloilo City to report in person. The office is only a short distance from the Ortiz Dock where the pump boat from Guimaras drops us off  so I had looked up the address and printed out a Google map.

Immigration only looked like it was about 3-4 blocks from Ortiz so I told my wife I was going to walk it. No sense in hiring a taxi or tricycle to go that short distance. My asawa expressed concern. “You're an American.” she said. I was already aware of that fact, but she thought I would be a target for possible robbery since I kind of stood out from the locals. I told her I would be fine. I was going in broad daylight and never have had any problems in Iloilo since we moved to the Philippines last July 2009. I had already advised my wife that she and her little niece could go on ahead to SM City, and I would catch up with them.

I made it through the side streets of Iloilo without any problems and a minimum of stares though I was the only kano in sight. I  managed to find the Immigration Office without even having to stop to ask for directions. Walked into the facility and knew I was going to be in for a wait as the room was filled with a large group of people of all nationalities.  However, an immigration officer quickly came over to me, I told him what I wanted, and I filled out a couple of forms, both the same, with some general information. Handed the forms back to the gentlemen that had helped me before, and that's when he advised me I would need the two 2”x2” photo id's.  I politely remarked that the Immigration website did not make note of that, but he said there was a photo booth outside, and they would process my paperwork while I was getting my id's.

I stepped outside and looked around and could not see any photo booth. I walked down the street a short distance and spoke to a Filipina lounging on the sidewalk next to a tricycle driver evidently waiting for their next fare. The helpful lady told me to go down the sidewalk and cross the street where I would find a photo shop. After dodging some jeepney traffic, I crossed the street and still could not see a photo business.

I walked into a little shopping area that held a restaurant and asked a security guard where I could get my picture taken. He pointed to a small photo shop only about ten feet away.  I had my ID photos taken and had them in hand in about 15 minutes. Dodged some more jeepneys, thanked the lady still languishing by the tricycle, and she wished me a “Happy New Year.” I responded in kind, and could tell she was quite pleased to have helped me and to talk to a kano. Again, it's that celebrity treatment that I often encounter in the Philippines.

Walked back into Immigration and handed my photo ID's to another clerk and was led into an large nicely air-conditioned office where a middle-aged Filipina dressed in a smart blue outfit, the Director,  advised me that I would need to go to Manila in June to renew my ACR (which I knew), and politely told me I could go outside to the immigration officers, and that everything was in order.

The Immigration Officer handed me my official receipt which the Immigration Officer in Manila last year had stressed to me to make sure I receive and bring back with me when I renew my ACR and obtain my Permanent 13(a) Visa.  The whole process at Immigration took about an hour, but that included my travel time to get my photo id's. The office had good air-con, and all of the employees were helpful and respectful. Aside from having to get my picture id (which is only needed the first year you register), it was a pleasant experience.  Not as pleasant as getting pampered in Cebu by cute Filipinas, but not as bad as getting a root canal, either.

11 thoughts on “I’m a Registered Alien in the Philippines.

  1. I’m sure Immigration is a pain in the nether regions no matter the country. For the life of me I can’t figure out one useful purpose for this ACR card, unless it is simply a way to generate additional income.

    • It was easier for us out in our remote province, Tony, to get the ACR and the Permanent Visa which I will get in June. The trip to Manila is a pain for us, and the local Immigration in Iloilo will do it….for a fee.

    • Tony I can’t see why immigration would be more of a problem “in the hinterlands”. When I was staying here on a tourist visa for a year plus, I never had a hassle or unhappy experience at the immigration office in Angleles City … but going to the BI in Intramuros?

      Beleive me, something no foreigner _or_ Filipino likes. My wife went there sometime back on her own for an immigration matter, when she returned home, from the look on her face I thought she’s been in a car wreck or had her purse snatched.

      I live very close to Manila, but believe me, I avoid the city as much as possible … the ‘hinterlands’ is by far the better place for me to live. Living in Manila is like living in Newark, NJ, without reliable city services and power. No thanks.

      Oh, almost forgot my reason for commenting. If you travel past photo shops in the malls you frequently see great deals on ID photos. 35, 50 or even more 2×2’s for just a couple bucks. Believe me, when you arrive in the Philippines, take the shop up on one of these deals. What would you ever need that many photos for? Wait and see, just carry them with you in your ‘important papers’ folder. You’ll be surprised how many you will have used up (and how much time you have saved) by the end of your first year or so.

      • Hi Dave! Going to the BI in Intramuros was, in my opinion, an early introduction to the Gates of Hell if I end up in the wrong direction when this life is over. I have to check out Gary Wigle’s suggestion of going to Cebu or Davao. I really do NOT look forward to going back to Manila this May.

        Good tip on the ID photos. I went to one of those bargain photo shops after I got the pics I needed for my Immigration visit in Iloilo and got six more taken in addition to the extra ones left over from my original bunch earlier in the day.

  2. Have you read about underwater condos ……….to be built in Palawan…..read about it a few days ago…..maybe the condos are for the housing of aliens

  3. Hi John. I responded to Tony that it is easier for us and really less expensive to get the ACR card and Permanent 13(a) visa which means I will only have to make the trip to Manila every five years to renew my ACR and won’t have to leave the country every year. After we count up all our expenses to Manila including travel, food, AND my asawa’s shopping at the big SM MegaMalls (she won’t be reading this), it makes more sense for me to get the ACR. Just my personal preference instead of using the balikbayan privilege that I used when first entering the country.

  4. WOW! Dave, why do you have to go to Manila for your ACR-I card. You can use the Cebu office for that. At least lots of expats are doing that. All the cards are MADE in Manila but are mailed out to Cebu where you can pick it up. Davao also can be used for the 13a visa and ACR-I card that goes with it. Took about 7 or 10 days to get it in Davao. Just went in to pick it up, took all of one minute. I have heard that CDO does it also but many don’t like the folks that work there. I guess they give kanos a bad time.


    • Hi Gary, guess I went to Manila instead of Cebu because the Immigration Officer at Iloilo City told me I had to go to Manila. Since my wife has a lot of relatives in Metro Manila that we stayed with, and we had to make four trips back to the Manila office, we just stayed with one of my sister-in-laws for a few weeks. I guess if the Immigration Officer at Iloilo told me to jump off a bridge, I would do that, too. Seriously, I can go to Cebu or Davao to renew my ACR and get my Permanent 13a now? I had no idea. Thanks, I would rather do that than go back to Manila.

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