Immigration Law in Philippines May Be Updated

The Philippine Immigration Act of 1940  needs to be updated.  House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. recently expressed his desire to have the current immigration law in the Philippines conform with the requirements of national security and economic development.

Photograph of a passport with airplane boarding pass. isolated on white.

 

“The 70-year-old law has gone through several piecemeal amendments and revisions but is still inadequate at meeting the pressing demands of the changing times,” he said.

He said updating the immigration law should be “one of the priorities the incoming Congress should consider.”

“We have to create a more effective immigration enforcement agency and, in the process, strike a balance between protecting the people from undesirable aliens while providing channels to benefit the country in terms of tourism and investment opportunities,” he said.

The Speaker wants  the Bureau of Immigration to be reorganized and converted into a commission with expanded jurisdiction and streamlined powers. He wants red tape eliminated and desires more efficiency and effectiveness in the bureaucracy.

“We need to introduce major changes to the old systems and procedures of immigration used in the country and make them more responsive to current concerns,” he said.

He also proposed the creation of more visa categories for foreign investors. Bureau of Immigration Manila

(Bureau of Immigration Manila. Photo source: wikimapia.org)

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said he fully supports calls to change the present immigration act as he urged the next Congress to prioritize the passage of a Philippine immigration law.

In a statement, David said the enactment of a new immigration law is already long overdue, adding that the present 1940 immigration act is antiquated and no longer attuned to present realities. 

“We are throwing our full support behind moves in Congress to pass an immigration act that will not only spur our economic development but also bolster our ability to thwart the entry of undesirable aliens into our country,” the BI chief said.

The commissioner was reacting to the recent statement of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that passing a new immigration act should be one of the priorities of the incoming Congress. 

David lamented that his predecessors have all lobbied for a new immigration act but bills filed for the purpose failed to draw the needed support from lawmakers.

“We are optimistic that under the leadership of Speaker Belmonte, the next Congress will finally pass this long awaited law,” he said.

David said a reorganized BI will usher in the birth of a “modern, efficient, and professionalized” Philippine immigration service.

Hard to predict what impact any proposed changes in the Philippine Immigration law would have on the expat community.  The statements from House Speaker Belmonte are general and don’t deal with any specific changes that I can see. Of course, I’m sure most of us would agree that any reduction of the red tape and bureaucracy would be most welcome.   

 (Sources: philSTAR.com and The Bureau of Immigration website.)

15 comments

  1. Thanks for the update Dave… The Philippines is having so much trouble with expats now that it is very possible they will pass a reform immigration Law. Will that be good for us who are now living here? Only God knows that. Wait and see, just like everything else here in the Philippines. 🙂

    1. I’ve been reading some very disturbing reports out of Cebu recently, Gary. Foreigners have been arrested because they were with minor girls at the local hotels. I don’t know how the new law, if it is passed will impact us, but it looks like the government has to do something.

    1. Steve, in addition to what Gary said, more and more of these “sexpats” are cropping up. As I remarked to Gary, some of them have been caught in Cebu recently, but I’m sure it’s a problem all over the Philippines and not isolated in Cebu.

      When I went with my wife to Manila two years ago to get my 13a Visa, we stayed with one of her sisters in Quezon City. My sister-in-law and her husband lived in a subdivision. There were a few foreigners there. One piece of crap husband from an Eastern European country had recently beat up his wife and was dragging her down the street by her hair. Nothing happened to the moron. Melinda and I passed him up on the street one day. Melinda told me not to say anything to him. The jerk was half my size. I have zero tolerance for wife beaters. I bit my tongue. Hopefully, karma will bite this joker in the butt some day. Sadly, this incident is too common in the Philippines where the macho attitude reigns.

  2. Hi Steve: A lot of expats cause trouble. They try to bring their home country with them and want to change the way things are done here. Many treat their wife or girl friend badly. A few just break the law here. We are not God’s gift to the Philippines!!! I am happy here and enjoy my life. Is it perfect? Nope but then the good old USA isn’t perfect.

    I am a guest here. I can’t change the way things are done here and don’t want to try. Many try and it doesn’t turn out well for them.

  3. Dave,
    I know it took a lot for you to bite your tongue and not say something to the Easter European. Normally you would have said something to embarrass Melinda lol. Up in Ohio now enjoying the cooler weather. High 75F today.

    1. Yeah, it did take a lot, PapaDuck. I absolutely cannot tolerate any piece of crap that treats a woman like that. But my sister-in-law and brother-in-law still had to live in the subdivision after we left. Making any kind of remark could have stirred up trouble for them. They still had to live there. I have another sister-in-law in Manila who is dealing with death threats from a neighbor. Ellen’s second husband has taken off, so she’s left to fend for her kids and herself alone. The local tanod’s, cops, have been alerted to the threat, but my Ellen and her family are in real danger.

  4. Dave: I just have to say a few things about the recent changes and the proposed revision of the Immigration Law. I believe that changes are badly needed to the base Immigration Law to bring it into the 2000’s. However changes should be measured so that they don’t complicate matters more for those of us who are law abiding and enjoy our lives here and contribute to society in so many ways. Yes, there is a desperate need to cut red tape. For example the recent changes for the 13A make it considerably more difficult for new applicants now being required to get a Police Clearance from your ‘home’ jurisdiction and then have it certified by the Consulate or Embassy closest to your former home. And then requiring those of us who have been here more than 6 months to also get an NBI clearance. To say nothing about having to get a “Certified Copy” of your Government Issued Marriage Certificate from your home jurisdiction and having it re-certified by the Consulate or Embassy in your home country if you weren’t married here in Philippines as She Who Must be Obeyed and I were. That is needless Red Tape in my opinion and makes trying to become a Permanent Resident so much more of an additional challenge and hassle that it’s probably not worth the time, effort and additional costs involved. Might as well enjoy life under the Balikbayan Privilege and be done with it…In any event, you know how I’ve been ‘talking’ about this for 3 years now and frankly I’ve now pretty well decided not to pursue the 13A because of too much red tape and travel involved in having to go the Manila and spending weeks at a time there, sending original documents to the Consulate in Toronto and waiting for months on end for any answers or feedback, to say nothing of getting a Police Clearance from your home jurisdiction when you haven’t been there in 3 or more years…ridiculous. All that makes the cost of leaving the country once a year to satisfy the Balikbayan regs much more palatable and likely affordable.

    1. Yes, Fergus, your situation came to mind when I wrote this article. It is more convenient for some expats to “avail” of the Balikbayan Privilege and leave the country once a year, than it is to deal with one’s home country’s Philippine consulate office or the Manila BI. The new 13a requirements are going to make things that much more difficult. Will the red tape really be reduced and will it benefits those law abiding expats like you and I, and the majority of my readers? Who knows. I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

      Every expat, of course, has to do what’s best for them. First and foremost, we want to stay here legally and live comfortably with a minimum amount of hassle as possible. Reform in the Immigration Law is sorely needed. Let’s hope the process can be simplified, Fergus, and not made even more difficult.

  5. Ah, I see.

    Several women on Cherry Blossoms have told me about “sexpats”. These men fill the women with all kinds of promises until they get sex and then suddenly remember they are married and can’t contact them anymore.

    Wow, I’m surprised the Filipina’s family did not introduce her husband to Uncle Bolo after that event.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Steve, but not surprised. I’m sure that this is a problem encountered by many women on most of these dating websites. The pressure to help one’s family here is enormous and once someone hooks up with a foreigner, many times the family thinks they’ve hit the lottery. The guys that have committed these offenses are lucky to have escaped the wrath of Uncle Bolo. Here’s a recent article from U-T San Diego that involves South Koreans and empty promises.

      Philippine authorities have rescued 29 women after busting a mail-order bride business and arresting two South Koreans and their four local partners, a police official said Thursday.

      Police raided a house Wednesday in Bacoor city near Manila used by the syndicate and found the women, including a 16-year-old girl, said Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta, executive director of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission.

      The syndicate collects thousands of dollars in fees from Korean men seeking Filipino wives, telling them falsely that the money will go to the women’s families, Villasanta said.

      Villasanta says the women are promised a prosperous life in South Korea but often end up abused or in unhappy marriages.

      “We have rescued 29 (Filipino women) who were duped into promises of an instant wealthy life thru marriage with Korean gentlemen although in most cases, they ended up in the losing end after becoming victims of grave abuses,” Villasanta said.

      He said there are an estimated 10,000 Filipino women married to South Koreans.

  6. A couple of points:
    I do not regard myself as a “guest” here. I am a resident.I have gone through the extraordinary hassle of getting the 13a and I pay quite a chunk each year (P13k +) in property taxes, etc. So, that being the case and if I’m a PERMANENT resident (I guess Balikbayan is different) then it seems to me I have rights – one of which is to speak out when I see injustice or bull****. When we’d been in the UK, after 3 years, my Filipina wife was able to obtain British citizenship with all that that implies. I’ve been here on and off since 2000 and only just got the 13a but I still have no vote, no rights (really) to own property and am still seen as a “Kano” who knows f.a about anything!

    I obtained the 13a, finally, about two months ago, including the i-card. Last week, we received a letter from Intramuros Immigration – the “Visa Compliance Department” – a relatively new addition, it seems – instructing my wife to send an NSO Birth Cert (hers) and our Marriage Cert within 10 days or the Visa would be revoked. Needless to say, they have ALREADY had both NSO documents several times – how the f*ck else would I have got the i-card? This is classic RP “double” or “triple” bureaucracy, asking for information again and again that has already been provided and, in this case one supposes, checked and screened. We complied – what can you do? – but I am still furious about the utter twattery of it all. This kind of thing is rife in all walks of life here – don’t even get me started on the LTO and the tonkery involved in changing ownership of a bought vehicle – and needs to be addressed URGENTLY if the RP is really serious about attracting tourists and real foreign investors!! OK, rant over. Time for another beer that’s not San Miguel.

    1. Not surprised to hear about your hassle with the 13a, Keith. When Melinda first applied for my Probationary 13a, we handed over all of our NSO certified documents, marriage contract, Birth Certificate, and were informed we would have to supply a fresh batch of the SAME NSO documents the next year when I converted the temporary 13a into the Permanent. So we brought along another set of documents the next year. Made no sense at all, but this is the Philippines. I doubt the recent sacking of the Bureau of Immigration director David will make any difference, red tape is a fact of life here.

      No wonder that the Philippines is consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world to do business in. The President wants more foreign investments but doesn’t want foreigners to own a bigger piece of the pie. Fed Ex was just kicked out of the Philippines. Per a story from the Business Inquirer:
      “Stressing that the court was not bound by the resolutions of the justice secretary, the Court of Appeals cancelled a government-issued permit that allowed the giant international freight forwarding company FedEx to operate in the Philippines.

      Contrary to an opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the appellate court said international freight forwarding was a public utility. It upheld its earlier ruling declaring FedEx (Federal Express Pacific Inc.), a foreign corporation, disqualified by the Constitution from involvement in public utilities in the Philippines.”

      Here’s an update to my comment: “Pending the final decision of the Supreme Court, the CAB has confirmed that FedEx, together with all of the more than 30 other foreign-owned airfreight forwarders, can continue to operate under the license.”

      Regardless of the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling, I don’t think such incidents as this will help bring those investors in.

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