I’ve lived in the Philippines for nearly five years. I’ve dutifully made my annual report to my local Bureau of Immigration Office in Iloilo City as required by law.
The first year, 2010, I visited the office; I was told by an employee, who checked with his supervisor, that I did not need to register since I had arrived originally arrived in “paradise” by “availing” of the Balikbayan Privilege. My Filipina wife, who accompanied me to the Philippines in July 2009, enabled us to have the “Balikbayan Visa” seal stamped on our passports.
When I made my Annual Report in 2011, the process of filing was fairly painless, though I had to make a trip to a nearby photo I.D. shop for a couple of 2”x2” photo ID’s.
My visit to the Iloilo Bureau of Immigration in 2012 was as easy as finding beggars on Delgado Street in downtown Iloilo. I made my Annual Report as a foreigner and was out of the office in less than 15 minutes.
Last year, 2013, due to a large volume of Filipinos and foreigners in the office, it took almost an hour to process my Annual Report.
But this year, 2014, was the year I honestly felt like I received criminal treatment at the Iloilo Bureau of Immigration. Worse than any experience I had to endure when I applied for my 13a Permanent Visa in Manila, this year’s Annual Report was, in my opinion, a slap in the face to what new BI Commissioner Mison refers to as his “foreign friends.”
Believe me, after this recent visit to the so-called “City of Love,” I’ve seriously had to evaluate whether or not I want to even continue living in the Philippines, that’s how repugnant the new Annual Report policy is to me.
I recently walked into the Immigration Office in Iloilo with my asawa, fully expecting to be in and out of the facility within minutes. There were a few foreigners present, but the place wasn’t as packed as it was last year when I made my annual report.
First off, I was told that I needed a new 2” X 2” photograph. “Why?” I asked the clerk. “Don’t you still have my picture on file? I have plenty of extra photo I.D.’s back home in Guimaras and could have brought those along but I’ve never needed them before.”
The unfriendly employee informed there was a new policy and that one foreigner had come from as far as Bacolod. I was informed that I would also have to fill out a new four page form. I grumbled something, took the forms, went to a back table and proceeded to fill them out.
“Annual Report Application Form” the top of the document read. “Application Form?” I already had a 13a Permanent Visa. What was all this B.S about? But I kept my thoughts to myself. At least for the moment.
I completed page one which consisted of filling out my ACR-I Card number, date of birth, nationality, spouse’s name, passport number, etc.. Information the Bureau of Immigration already on file.
Page Two dealt with Petitioner’s information for those applying for a working and student visas. I was just here to file my Annual Report as a foreigner so I left page two and three blank.
I turned in the pages and informed the clerk I would be back with my photo I.D.
“Sir, you did not fill out page three. This regards information we need about your parents. Are they deceased?” a clerk asked.
“My Mother is, but not my Father.” So I took the pages and headed off to get my photo I.D. My already perturbed state was not improving.
My spouse and I found a nearby photo I.D. and Xerox shop. The middle-aged Filipina that took my photo (see lead picture, “The Kano,”) looked at the shot and pronounced me “gwapo!” (Handsome.)
I thanked her and informed her she must need new glasses and waiting for my I.D.’s. It would take 30-45 minutes. No hurry. I wanted to fill out the other pages on the Annual Report “Application” Form that I had missed.
30 minutes later I was handed a packet of photos (80 pesos, 1.80 US Dollars), where the vision-challenged clerk again announced the pics as “gwapo, gwapo.”
We walked back into the Iloilo Immigration Office and I handed over the forms and photo I.D. And waited. And waited some more.
I was busy chatting with a new expat friend that met in the office, who also lived in Guimaras, Peter, an Aussie, when my wife came over to me with the forms and said the clerk said I did not put “N/A” for “Not Applicable” for page two, which dealt with those seeking a work or student visa. My asawa told me that they had given the forms to her since the clerks knew I was already mad.
I took the form and furiously scratched “N/A” on each heading of the page. The clerk then informed me that I needed to put “N/A” on EACH individual line!
“This is ignorant!” I said.
“Sir, I am not ignorant,” the flustered clerk announced.
“I did NOT say you are ‘ignorant,’ I said this new process is ignorant!” I replied, obviously irritated, handing the papers back to him.
I paid my P310 fee for the annual report and waited. Another 15-20 minutes passed by. Another clerk came to me and told me I had not filled out the information about my parents. I looked at the page.
“I had already filled this page out,” I loudly informed him. “Why are you asking me to fill this out again?
He muttered something, shuffled some papers and told me to wait for my receipt and ACR-I Card and told me to wait for my name to be called.
Before leaving I apologized to the clerk who thought I had called him “ignorant.” He accepted my apology and said they were just “trying to do their jobs.”
It was not until I had gone to our local Internet café and checked my email did I discover the reason for this new policy of harassment of foreigners at the Bureau of Immigration.
Thanks to British expat, Keith, who also resides in Guimaras, for sending a copy of the new edict from Commissioner Bison. More on the new policy and what it means for all expats living in the Philippines will be featured in the next post.