My recent visit to the Iloilo Bureau of Immigration was not a pleasant one by any means. New regulations, in a manifesto issued by Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison, harasses law-abiding expats living in the Philippines, in my opinion.
Many of you reading this post are probably already aware of this new policy. We do not have Internet service at our new location in Guimaras and I have to travel to a nearby Internet café to get any updates from the World Wide Web.
Thanks to British expat, Keith, who sent this information to me, along with other expatriates living in the Philippines.
My visit to the Iloilo office was so unpleasant that it actually has me wondering if I want to continue living in the Philippines. I felt like a criminal, and feel I, along with the majority of expats, have been lumped into the same category as Keith so eloquently put it: “IT IS INCREASINGLY EVIDENT THAT WE ARE ALL FUGITIVES, SEX TOURISTS AND DRUG TRAFFICKERS!!”
Here’s a January 9, 2014, press release from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.
To update records of aliens and further bolster border security of the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is requiring thousands of foreign nationals for mandatory appearance in filing their alien certificate of registration.
BI Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison announced yesterday that the new process of annual report is in line to the bureau’s first national alien audit and cleansing of database which have been “outdated and old-fashioned” for the past two decades.
“We appeal for understanding. This process might give a slight inconvenience to our foreign friends but eventually, this will lead to a further improvement of our services,” said Mison.
He said the new requirement was imposed to strictly enforce immigration rules and regulations on national security, public safety and order as prescribed by the Alien Registration Act. Under the act, foreigners must report in person to the bureau within the first 60 days of every calendar year.
The new program of the bureau is “very advantageous” to every alien since appearing in person or mandatory appearance with the submission of annual form and paying fees will be prevented of being victimized by “fixers”.
Mison says foreign nationals might feel a slight inconvenience especially now that they are required to personally appear at the bureau offices. The bureau chief appealed for their understanding since the new processes are meant to improve immigration processes in the long-term.
As of date, there are 208,900 foreign nationals staying in the Philippines. However, hundreds of them have insufficient personal data, according to the database of the BI.
The new reporting system which includes finger printing, notarization and personal appearance are among the innovations introduced by Mison in a memorandum circular issued last December.
The process is in anticipation for the full automation of immigration processes which eventually will enhance the services being given by the bureau for foreign nationals, visiting here or staying here permanently, Mison said.
“We want the bureau of immigration to be pro-active in its job. Our job is basically enhancing our border security and protects foreign nationals staying here. In preparation for our eventual automation, this process is necessary,” he explained.
He said the new process is for the bureau to contribute further with accurate, updated data with various law enforcement agencies, intelligence community and counterparts on issues related to national security.
Mison said objective of the annual registration is for them to audit deceased family members of the foreign national whether he is immigrant or non- immigrant and resident or non- resident.
I hope that other expats living in the Philippines received better treatment than I did during my recent visit to the Iloilo Immigration office. While I don’t doubt that the national database needs to be updated, I feel that the new Annual Report process is a form of harassment and I am personally offended by it.
I see no need to be fingerprinted during every annual visit and would remind the Philippine government that a large amount of revenue is generated by the expats living in here. Many of us help support this economy and while I do enjoy living in the Philippines, this new policy is intrusive and personally demeaning.
Hopefully, next year’s visit to my local Immigration office in Iloilo will be more pleasant.