Conversion of Foreign License to Philippine Driver’s License: My Asawa’s Experience

Conversion of a foreign license to a Philippine Driver's License. Something I don't plan to do. My Illinois Driver's License expired last year. My wife, who at the age of 40, obtained her first driver's license while living in the States,  decided to have her Illinois license converted to a Philippines license before it expired next month on her birthday. The advantage of converting a foreign driver's license before expiration? Don't have to take any written or driving exams in the Philippines. That's a huge plus in my books. 

Our Chevy Truck(Our Chevy truck in Illinois not long after my wife got her first driver's license. OK, OK, I was driving and a deer hit our Colorado on the way to work about 5:30 in the morning. Just a little "husband humor" for you guys out there.)

We don't even have a vehicle yet. Haven't owned one in over four years. Don't need one in Iloilo City where we reside.  For us, it's a luxury. Not a necessity. But my spouse wants to be prepared for the day we move to Guimaras, where the traffic is far less.  In the rural mango province, a carabao is the main source of  traffic jams, must like bison at Yellowstone during the height of the tourist season. Bison crossing at Yellowstone

(Photo Source: commons.wikimedia.org)

I didn't go with my wife to the nearest LTO, Land Transportation Office. She's smart enough to handle such a mission on her own. In fact, having me along might prove to more hindrance than help. Patience isn't my strong suit though I've lived in the Philippines over four years now.  That doesn't mean I enjoy waiting in line but I can tolerate it better. 

At the beginning of this year, my asawa first informed me she wanted to have her foreign  driver's license converted to a Philippine driver's license before her birthday in September.

So if my wife wanted to have a Philippine Driver's License, vehicle or not, that was fine with me. Over 13 years of marriage has trained me to automatically agree with my spouse the majority of the time. "Yes, dear," rolls off my tongue very easily and automatically.

Occasionally during the year, we would pass the local LTO at Robinson's and my wife would mention her desire to take care of the license, but many months passed before she took any definitive action.

My asawa had almost three weeks before her current Illinois license would expire, a huge amount of time for her. In her mind, she was getting the chore done very early. Me? If I wanted it done, I would have cared for it the first month we arrived in the Philippines.  

So while my wife was in the Robinson's area the other, she checked by the local office to see if they could handle the license conversion. Said they couldn't. Advised my wife she would have to go to the LTO in Jaro, Iloilo.  A jeepney ride away from us. So she went to the main office but not before asking me first what the requirements are. Here's what I discovered.

Requirements for the conversion of Foreign License to Philippine Driver's License per the Land Transportation Office's official website:

A. Non-Professional

Requirements:

1. Original and one (1) photocopy of valid foreign license. If the foreign Driver’s License is not in English Language, the applicant should submit an Official English translation from the local Embassy of the issuing country.
2. Original machine copy of valid passport showing the latest date of arrival in the Philippines of the foreign applicant.
3. Original and machine copy of valid visa or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) if the foreign applicant temporarily resides in the Philippines.
4. Original copy of Medical Certificate with Official Receipt issued by an LTO accredited or government Physician. (Editor's Note: What did this medical certificate entail? Where could one find an LTO doctor? That info will be revealed later in this post.)
5. Negative drug test result issued by DOH accredited Drug Testing Center or Government Hospitals  

(Editor's note: Outdated. A recent law finally made it crime to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs in the Philippines. A Filipino Senator ruled that the new law nullified the requirement for a drug test. The LTO said it didn't. The President sided with the Senator. The LTO Chief relented. My asawa did not have to take a drug test.)Drug Testing Facility at Robinsons in Iloilo

(Drug testing lab next to LTO at Robinson's in Iloilo BEFORE the drug test was eliminated. No crowds outside anymore.)

6. Duly accomplished Application for Driver’s License (ADL).
7. Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TIN), if EMPLOYED, (In compliance to Executive Order 98 & MC ACL-2009-1251)
If Foreign License is expired, applicant shall undergo written and practical examinations.

As my asawa approached the main LTO office in Jaro she asked the security guard where she could get the necessary medical certificate. The guard politely called over an LTO employee who informed my wife that the doctor's office was located right across the street.

My wife walked into the office. She wondered what kind of medical examination would be required. A physical? The older physician that issued the required medical certificate merely took my asawa's blood pressure. Asked if she wore glasses when she would drive. "No," was her answer. "Take any medications? the doctor inquired. "No, only B-12 vitamins," was her reply.

Charge for the certificate? 100 pesos, 2.25 US Dollars. My wife also informed me that the physician asked if I, her husband, had a pension, as he knew my wife was there to convert her license in the States to a Philippine Driver's license. I asked my wife what that had to do with the issuance of the certificate?

My wife filled out the necessary application for the license conversion and submitted a copy of her passport and Illinois Driver's License. An LTO employee called her over. Looked at her passport. Looked at her application. There was a problem. 

(To be continued)

10 Comments

  1. Somehow Dave, I just KNEW,, their would be a problem. Doesn’t sound like its possible to go to any govt. office there, without their being a problem. I, like you, am not the most patient person, so am hoping I will handle problems there without going crazy American at times.

    After being there, and riding around with Filipino friends, especially in Cebu, am not so sure I would even want to drive there. I know there must be laws regarding driving there, but for the life of me, I sure couldn’t figure them out, by being a passenger, all the cutting in and out of everyone drove me crazy, trying to figure out what the other person was going to do, there just seemed to be no set of driving rules there that I could understand.

    I live in the Washington, DC suburbs, and I race a alcohol pro-mod hot rod,and consider myself a pretty good driver. It will take time for me to figure out driving there, for sure. One thing I will say though, in the entire time I have been there, I have never once seen a wreck, or even an animal, dead along the road. But the things that they do there, would cause huge road-rage here for sure. Seems like the Filipinos are so much more non-aggressive than Americans are, when it comes to driving.

    Sorry to hear about your good friend leaving, am sure he will be missed!

    Reply
    • I’ve only seen one wreck, Bill S., in over four years of driving in the Philippines, and that was in Metro Manila.

      Road kill? None. Smashed frogs on my subdivision road where I take my morning walks and that’s it.

      Driving here? Not me. Only in Guimaras where we’re planning to move back to next month. Lolo’s condition is worsening and he needs constant supervision. The meds that Murray the Kiwi recently shipped over to him (a year’s supply) will certainly help. A BIG THANKS TO MURRAY and to YOU, Bill, for your support.

      Patience? I’m smart enough to know my limits. I would not have been as patient as my asawa and would have probably said something I shouldn’t have. See part two.

      The Tom Cat? An original. Funny, smart, a great person to bounce my B.S. off. He’s like a younger brother to me. He’ll be missed.

      Reply
  2. Dave,
    All you can do is just go with the flow and smile lol. That’s what I had to do at Sun Mobile. It takes an act of Congress to get the Plan we want.

    Reply
    • After you read part two, Papa Duck, you’ll understand why it was smart of me to not even go along. Sorry to hear about the problems with your Sun Plan. Only took us three days for approval, but that was in Iloilo and we only opted for the 350 plan. If a person doesn’t have some measure of patience in the Philippines, they’re going to find life very difficult and frustrating. Melinda remarked on how calm you are. The complete opposite of her husband. :P Good luck and take care.

      Reply
  3. I converted my Michigan license soon after I got here in Tagum City in 2010. The need for a ACR-I card was done away with earlier that year. I was asked for one and I told them I didn’t need one. Off to the head officer of the local LTO. I was told I was wrong. I said “Look it up.” She did… and I was right! Very nice people. :-)

    Reply
    • Good for you, Gary. Guess I could have converted mine years ago but now it’s expired. Once we make our move back to Guimaras and buy a vehicle (next year) I’ll let “The Boss” do all the driving. :P

      Reply
  4. Dave,
    To get the plan we want they want a letter from the Barangay Captain stating you pay your business taxes, credit card and the amount of money in your bank account along with a big application. We asked them why and they said because a lot of people don’t pay there bills. I told Anne It was none of there business what was in our account and just walked out

    Reply
    • What! You’ve got to kidding me, Papa Duck. That’s totally unacceptable. I would have walked out, too. Whew! I was thinking of upgrading our SUN plan in Iloilo to get a new phone, possibly a tablet. I’ll have to keep you posted on that.

      Reply
  5. Regarding accidents in PI. I was in one, albeit a relatively minor one, when I was there a few weeks ago. We were riding a bus from Cebu to Alcoy. A large oncoming truck swayed just a bit into our lane on the 2 lane highway. Both vehicles were doing at least 60MPH and the bus sheared off the trucks mirror. Shattered glass flew everywhere and since the bus was not an aircon bus, many of the windows were open. My fiancée Janet was panicked and I quickly examined her to make sure no glass had hit her (it hadn’t) but one passenger’s face was cut up by the flying glass.

    We all got off the bus and stood around for maybe 20 minutes before realizing that the bus was not going to continue until a police report was taken, which Janet assured me would take hours. All the passengers (including the injured woman) were lined up to get a refund for their trip. A refund was issued minus the amount we had already traveled. Even the injured woman got that amount and nothing more.

    Clearly provincial Cebu is not a great environment for ambulance chasing lawyers. For that matter no ambulance came to chase.

    BTW, waiting on the side of the road, we were able to flag a trike (probably because I was the only kano waiting, and he had visions of retirement money) and I had proceeded to have the most uncomfortable 90 minute ride of my life.

    Reply
    • Never have taken any bus in the Philippines, DaveW. Heard some horror stories. Glad to know that your fiancée and you emerged unscathed.

      Ambulance? What’s that? The rare occasion that I do see one (and I’ve been here over four years) no pulls over anyway for the vehicle like back in the States.

      90-minute trike ride? I’ve think I’ve gone about 30 minutes in the back of a trike for my longest trip. Not comfortable but it got us where we were going.

      Reply

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