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:
ANNUAL REPORT 2011: NOTICE TO ALL FOREIGNERS IN THE PHILIPPINES
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.