After two years of being a tourist in the beautiful Philippine Islands(August 23rd, 2015 will be my 2 year anniversary), I finally started the process of applying for my permanent residency. I thought I’d share my experience here as it’s been hard for me to find information on the process myself, so maybe my experience can help someone else who is about to go through it in the future.
As of today, I have just finished the first step of the visa application. I will be updating this post as I finish each step, detailing the process. I am applying for my 13a residency visa, which is a non-quota visa by marriage conversion. I.E., you have to be married to a Filipino citizen to avail of this, which, obviously, I am!
The first step you need to worry about is just gathering all the paper work. Everything that you need is listed here: http://www.immigration.gov.ph/index.php/visa-requirements/immigrant-visa/non-quota-visa/conversion-to-non-quota-immigrant-visa-by-marriage. The documents that you will have to order/process ahead of time are your marriage certificate, your spouse’s birth certificate, and your NBI clearance(NBI clearance only for those who have been staying in the Philippines for 6+ months already, anyone who has been in the Philippines for less time needs instead police clearance from their home country.)
The marriage certificate is probably the one you will have to wait the longest for. It can take anywhere from 2-8 months after your wedding day for the NSO authenticated copy to be available. We used NSO Helpline to order ours about 3 months after our wedding. Fortunately, ours was already available at that time. We were married at Quezon City Hall in Manila; my understanding is that if you were married in the province it will take longer before your NSO marriage certificate is available.
We also ordered David’s birth certificate from NSO Helpline at the same time we ordered our marriage certificate. I don’t remember exactly what the documents cost, I believe it was between 300-500php for each, so around 1k for both. It’s a lot cheaper(at least half, I think) if you just go to NSO and order them in person, but that requires a lot of time spent queuing and we figured a couple hundred pesos extra was worth the hassle-free ordering. We received the documents delivered to our door within a few days of placing the order and paying for them.
Now, most Filipinos are familiar already with the horror of acquiring one’s NBI clearance. After keeping my husband company while he applied for his before, I was REALLY not looking forward to going for mine. I was expecting to spend almost the entire day waiting in line, being herded like cattle. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Getting one’s NBI clearance is one of the rare circumstances in the Philippines where it is actually advantageous to be a foreigner, because us foreigners have a separate queue and don’t have to wait with the hundreds of locals applying for it for their job requirements and what not.
When I went for my NBI clearance, I had mixed answers about where to do it. I read from some sources that foreigners HAVE to apply at the main branch. Other sources said that wasn’t true. I decided to play it safe and we went ahead and applied at the main branch on United Nations Avenue in Manila. The drive there was longer than the process, we were only there for about 30 minutes. Just make sure to apply online via their website first, as online pre-registration is a requirement. You can also choose to pay ahead of time instead of paying there, which will save you some queuing time. Print your online registration and proof of payment to present at NBI. All you need to bring, additionally, is your passport and maybe an extra ID just to be safe. You’ll need photocopies of your passport’s bio page and all relevant visa stamps. They have a copier at NBI that you can avail of if you don’t do it ahead of time. The people at NBI were very friendly and helpful, so there’s no need to stress about getting it done. Just fill out the form they give you, walk back and forth to get fingerprints and etc. done, and you’ll be out in half an hour. You will be told to come back after 3 business days to pick up your clearance, and that will really just be a walk in-walk out process.
Those are the hardest documents to acquire. Beyond that, you just need a joint letter from you and your spouse requesting the visa, and photocopies of your passport pages(if you’ve been extending your tourist visa already, you know the drill there).
The letter is simple. I’ll copy/paste the letter we used here; just replace our information with your own:
August 16th, 2015
The Honorable Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison
2nd Floor, Bureau of Immigration Bldg.
Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila
May I respectfully request a non-quota immigrant visa under Section 13, paragraph A of the Philippine Immigration Act as amended, in favor of my foreign spouse, Janessa Abigail Martz, an American national. I am David Christopher Mesias Hizon, a Philippine citizen. We were married in Quezon City Hall on January 8th, 2015.
I am enclosing here copies of the following documents to prove my above-cited information:
1. My NSO-issued Birth Certificate
2. Our NSO-issued Marriage Contract
3. Photocopy of the pertinent pages of her passport
Petitioner/Filipino Spouse Applicant/American National
The last of the requirements is 2 copies of the CGAF, or application form. You *can* print it out and fill it out at home, which I did, but when we went to apply, they had an updated form and I had to re-fill it out there, so you might as well just do it there in the first place. You will also need 2 photos of yourself, one for each form, the same photo requirements that the Bureau of Immigration requires for tourist extensions; 2×2″ white background.
Okay, that’s all the paperwork! Make sure to also print out the checklist of requirements. You will need to purchase two legal-sized 8.5″ x 14″ folders to compile the paper work in. We got ours at National Bookstore for 5php each. The reason you need 2 of certain things is because you will be filing one application for the visa itself, and the other application will be for the ACR-I card.
Once you have everything compiled and signed, it’s time to proceed to the Bureau of Immigration(side point – no shorts or slippers allowed; it’s a government office so dress appropriately). As with the NBI clearance, we weren’t sure if it HAD to be done at the main branch or not, so we played it safe and did. The main branch is in Intramuros. We arrived, parked our motorcycle at the Starbucks across the street, and entered. You will have to leave one ID at the entrance. Once you enter, directly to the right will be a table where you will have your documents quickly checked over. This is where I was informed that the applications I had printed off of their website were outdated, and they gave me two new application forms to fill out. I filled them out, returned to the table, and after checking the documents over once again, they directed us to our next counter.
From here, it’s super straightforward. There’s a bit of running around between the ground floor and the 4th floor, but nothing to worry about; each time you finish with one person, you will be told where to go next. It’s just a bunch of officers signing off on your different documents and verifying the completeness and accuracy of everything.
Once everything has been verified, they will keep your application forms and direct you to payment. The fees add up to a total of 10,930php. It seems like a lot, but all the fees are included already, including your ACR-I card fees and the visa implementation fee. You will be given a receipt and on the receipt will be your interview time and date. You will have two options – for us, we could choose between Thursday, August 20th, 8am, or Tuesday, August 25th, 8am. You don’t have to commit to either right then and there; either date you choose is acceptable. So, if you miss the first date and time, you can still come back on the second date offered to you. Just be sure not to miss your appointment the second time, or you will have to start the process all over again and pay the fees again as well. It’s extremely important that you’re not late for the interview.
We will be going back for our interview on Thursday. From our understanding, it’s a really short and easy interview, it’s just basically to prove that your spouse exists. Rumor has it that it takes about 10 minutes. I’ll be updating this post afterwards to confirm and share my experience!
Update: The Interview
We just had our interview this morning! It seemed to go well, it was really simple and quick but I’ll detail it for those that are nervous, like I was.
We showed up at our designated time. There’s a sign up sheet outside the interview room; be sure to show up early so you can get done early as there will be several interviewees assigned to every time slot and it will be a first come, first served basis.
David and I showed up really early, our interview wasn’t until 8 but we were in Intramuros by 7, anticipating traffic that wasn’t there for once. It turned out that the BofI in Intramuros opens at 7am(every morning except Monday, when they open at 8:30am, we were told) so we went in and waited by the interview room. We were the first ones there, so we were the first ones interviewed as well.
Be sure to bring your Official Receipt and Passport, and the Filipino spouse needs to have an ID to prove his identity as well.
The interview was pretty informal, we just stood up behind a counter and the interviewer asked us just basic questions; when and where we met, our wedding date, simple stuff. The most important part is financial information, to prove that we can support each other. The interviewer asked if either or both of us were employed and how much we made, as well as if we receive financial support from anyone else. We’d actually brought a copy of David’s employment contract as proof of financial capacity and I offered to give it to him, but he said they didn’t need it, he just needed us to tell him verbally.
That’s all there was to it. The interviewer said everything sounded good, and that things looked good for us 🙂 He then directed us to the next window where I got my biometrics(fingerprints, signature, and photo) taken for my ACR I-card. We were done! The interview itself was only about 10 minutes, the biometrics took another 5 or 10, and we were out of there before 9am. Easy, fast, and painless!
Now, the hardest parts are all done, and they weren’t that hard at all! We were given an estimated date of implementation for my visa, about a month from now, and told to check the Bureau of Immigration website around that date to see the status of my visa application. Once it’s approved, we just have to go back once again for my passport to be stamped, and then another trip a week or two later to pick up my ACR I-card once it’s ready.
So, that’s it for now, I’ll update again in a month when I(hopefully!) go back to have my passport stamped!
Update: Process Complete!
Sorry for updating so late, but I’ve been a bit busy and have been lazy about getting back to this post. It’s been several months now since I had the visa implemented, but will try to remember as many details as I can.
The visa was approved slightly earlier than I expected, which was a nice surprise, although I wasn’t able to finalize it right away as hubby and I were on vacation in Cebu for his birthday. It was about a week after the approval was posted on the BI website before we were able to go in to finalize the visa and have my passport stamped, but fortunately, that wasn’t a problem. (Here’s the link where you can check your visa status, by the way: http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php/information/application-status/agenda-verification )
The last trip to Intramuros was super easy, just cost a bit of time. Just go to the counter that you’re directed to(first floor, I believe it was the first or second window, all the way on the left). Just hand over the official receipt from your first visit when you started the application, and you also need to bring the official receipt for your latest tourist visa extension.
I didn’t know that I needed the OR from my latest tourist visa extension and didn’t have it with me, unfortunately, so I had to go upstairs and ask them to print it on the 4th floor. Not a big deal, there was no hassle involved, just wasted about 30 minutes of our time waiting on that to be done.
After we had our OR printed, hubby and I went back down to the first counter again, gave them the ORs and my passport, and then it was just a waiting game. They’ll tell you to come back to the window in half an hour, then hand you your paperwork to take to the next window.
After the 30 minutes is up and you’ve gone to the second step, it’s just the same thing; give them the paperwork, wait, they’ll tell you to come back later. We were told it would be a two hour wait, so we went across the street and sat in Starbucks for a while. We came back about 20 minutes before I was supposed to, and they saw me sitting there and called me over early. They handed me my documents, my stamped passport, and my ACR I-Card as well, and that was it! I was out of there!
I was super pleased to note that I had been given my ACR card on this trip; I was under the impression that I would have to come back a fourth time in a couple of weeks just to pick that up, but was happily proven wrong. Maybe I just got lucky though, so don’t count on not having to come back one last time.
The trip was super easy, just a bit time consuming, but there was absolutely no hassle or trouble at all, and we were out of there just after 12nn. Now, I just have to return in July(two months before my probationary 13a expires) and petition for it to be made permanent. I haven’t managed to get any information from anyone who has done that part yet, but my understanding is that it will basically be the same process and same fees a second time, although one of the BI officers told me it would be faster. I guess we will see in July, I’ll post another update then!