Americans Living Illegally in the Philippines

How many Americans are living in the Philippines illegally? After posting a recent article about illegal Filipino aliens in the United States, I thought it would be only fair to explore the issue of Americans residing in the Philippines with current or expired visas. Now in my opinion, if you’re a foreigner staying in  this archipelago of 7,107 islands, and your visa has expired or you have stayed past your original 21 day grace period allowed when first entering this country  and have not filed for a temporary extension,  you are an illegal alien. Photo from Flickr

What’s the penalty for visa expiration? According to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration website: “if expired, additional fees for the following: Fine for overstaying per month P500, Motion for Reconsideration P510.” So if you want to leave the Philippines, you could be paying a substantial fine depending on how long you have been here. In the past it was possible to pay the fine right at the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, but violators are now being directed to the main Bureau of Immigration Office in Intramuros, Manila, where I am headed  this coming Tuesday to convert my Temporary 13(a) Visa to a 13(a) Permanent Visa.

I have no idea on how many American expats are living in the Philippines illegally.  However, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration website reported that 142 illegal aliens were deported from the Philippines in 2008, and nine of those were Americans. And a recent March 25, 2011 report from the Immigration website noted that two U.S. fugitives were recently sent back to the United States. Destor Cabasada Gatchalian and Alan Brian Carillo,  were deported  aboard a Philippine Airlines flight to San Francisco, California. Gatchalian, 39, is a wanted child rapist, while Carillo, 29, was charged with multiple counts of mail fraud. It was determined  that the deportees were both undocumented aliens at the time of their arrest as their passports were already revoked by the US State Department. They are now banned from re-entering the Philippines as a result of their inclusion in the immigration blacklist.

I only have met one American, “Mickey,” not his real name, that I encountered at the SM Hypermarket in Iloilo, who told me his visa had expired quite a long time ago. Since “Mickey” evidently has no plans to return to the United States soon, and is engaged to a Filipina while still married to one, I guess he isn’t too concerned about staying in the Philippines illegally.

Frankly, though the law requires a person to always carry their passport, I never carry mine with me unless I’m going on a flight to Manila or Cebu or, of course, going to the Immigration Office. I do, however, carry my Alien Certificate of Registration card with me, though I just obtained that last June. Before that if I ever needed to show any ID, I just offered my Illinois Driver’s license. No one, absolutely no one, has ever stopped me and asked for my passport. I doubt that anyone will ever stop “Mickey,” either. So if you entered the Philippines and decided to stay without having any visa, my guess is that you probably could do that without ever being detected. But why in the world would you want to do that?

More than 65,000 foreign nationals  did travel to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for their annual report this year (I was one of those 65,000) , according to statistics from the immigration bureau’s alien registration division. That’s 5,123 more than registered last year. That figure does not include those who take advantage of the Balikbayan Privilege (those foreigners who have a Filipina spouses are the only ones who can use this type of visa and do not have to register for the annual report.) Those who do not comply with the annual report may be subjected to criminal sanctions and deportation for violating the Alien Registration Act of 1950 as amended.

Any American expats out there know of any fellow American living in the Philippines illegally? Of course I wouldn’t want any real names used, just curious if “Mickey” is an isolated case or not. I certainly don’t promote such activity, and I don’t condone illegal aliens back in the States, either, and I absolutely intend to follow the immigration laws in my new home country. It just makes sense to me.

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