Enjoy many sunsets like this with a Philippines tourist visa
Photo: Mike Aunzo

In addition to having internationally acclaimed beaches, a hospitable english-speaking population, and a very affordable cost of living, the Philippines also has one of the most traveller friendly tourist visas in the world. It’s possible to stay in the country long term on a tourist visa without needing to buy an international flight for a visa run. Though the visa fees can get costly, it’s often cheaper and always less time-consuming than it would be to do a visa run.

First time visitors are often confused about the Philippines tourist visa policies. Here are some of the questions that I’ve heard over and over regarding Philippines tourist visas:

Do I need to get a Visa before I enter the Philippines?

The Philippines Bureau of Immigration allows citizens of many countries to enter the Philippines for tourist purposes visa free. The most common visa free length of stay is 30 days, and includes a whopping 155 countries. Brazilians and Israelis have it the best and are able to stay 59 days visa free! A comprehensive list of countries eligible for the visa waiver program can be found here.

Do I need to show proof of an on-going flight before I enter the Philippines? What if I have an ACR I-Card?

You absolutely need to show proof of an on-going flight before entering the Philippines. You will not be allowed to board your arrival flight without a printed itinerary. Showing the itinerary on your phone or laptop is not always enough. It is not fun to worry about missing an international flight because you’re hastily trying to purchase a flight last minute and figure out how to print your receipt in the airport.

Having an ACR I-Card does not count as having an entry visa. Therefore, even if you have a current ACR I-Card for long term tourists, you will still need to show proof of an on-going flight before entering the Philippines.

Can I extend my visa on the day that it expires?

Yes, although I don’t recommend it. Check to make sure your expiration date isn’t on a holiday or weekend. The Bureau of Immigration is closed those days. If you try to extend your visa on the day it expires, and are not able to because you run into a problem, you will need to pay a fine for overstaying.

What happens if I overstay my visa?

Overstaying visas is unfortunately somewhat common. You’ll need to pay a fine and deal with the disapproval of the immigration officers. The fine is 500php per month that you overstay. Even if you only overstay your visa by one day, you will need to pay 500php. Plus, there is a 500php fee to file the motion asking for reconsideration of your visa extension and another 10php fee.

Overstaying from one day to one month costs 1,010php. Overstaying two months is 1,510php, and so on. Westerners slam foreign tourists for overstaying their visas in western countries. Don’t be a hypocrite, don’t be rude, don’t overstay.

Do I need to purchase a visa when the visa free time period is up?

Sort of. If you are a citizen of a country given 30 days visa free, then at the 30 day mark you will need to purchase a visa waiver that is good for an additional 29 days. The total cost of the visa waiver is 3,130php. Previously it was 3,030php, but a 100php sticker fee has been added, at least at the Bureau of Immigration in Surigao.

What happens if I want to stay longer than 59 days?

Staying longer than 59 days requires a visa and an ACR I-Card. All Bureaus of Immigration can handle visa extensions of 1 or 2 months. Offices in larger cities allow for 3 or 6 month extensions.

What should I bring to immigration when I extend my visa?

  • Enough cash to pay for your visa or visa waiver
  • A recent 2×2 photograph of yourself for the application form (depending on the office — it’s an outdated requirement but as of October 2016 some offices were still requesting them)
  • Close-toed shoes, a shirt that covers your shoulders, and pants (depending on the office)

I know I’m going to be staying long-term, can I apply for a visa in my home country?

Yes, you can apply for a visa in your home country. it will save a lot of visits to Bureau of Immigration offices and could be more cost effective.

Do I need to visit an immigration office before I leave the Philippines?

Visitors that stay longer than six months will need to purchase an Emigration Clearance Certificate. The ECC is good for 1 month and should be purchased at least 72 hours before departure. It costs 1,210php.

The extension process can be mildly confusing. However, it’s great to be able to stay in such a beautiful country for a long period of time without needing to leave. Questions or additions? Leave it in the comments!

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