During my husband’s first visit to the Philippines back in 2011 just after our wedding, we were told by the Philippine Immigration Officer on arrival about the Balikbayan Visa program. It was a surprise for us as we both thought that British citizens can only stay in the Philippines for 30-days visa-free.
However, this is not the case if you are staying under the Balikbayan Visa or the “BB” mark on your passport.
Staying in the Philippines for more than 30 days has always been a frequently asked question from my blog readers, who are dual citizens and wish to travel back to the Philippines for an extended number of months.
Let me share with you our personal experience and things that you need to know in getting a Balikbayan Visa for your foreign spouse, children or for you as a Filipino Dual citizen.
What is a Balikbayan?
A “Balikbayan” is a Filipino citizen who has been continuously out of the Philippines for more than one year. Good examples are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), a former Filipino citizen and their immediate family (spouse and children) that have been naturalised in another country and want to visit the Philippines.
What’s a Balikbayan Visa?
A Balikbayan visa is a type of visa given to the people who are arriving in the Philippines that qualify under the definition of Balikbayan e.g OFWs, former Filipino citizens and their immediate family.
The Balikbayan visa will grant a one-year visa-free balikbayan stay and tax-exempt “Kabuhayan shopping privileges”. This special privilege is given as part of the Balikbayan Program instituted by the Republic Act 6768 (amended by Republic Act 9174), to encourage Filipinos and their family to visit their motherland. Also to recognise the hard work and significant contribution they make to the Philippine economy.
What are the rules and who qualifies for a Balikbayan visa?
The Balikbayan visa is applicable to either of the following:
- Filipino citizen who has been continuously out of the Philippines for a period of time of more than one year.
- Overseas Filipino Workers
- Former Filipino citizens and immediate family that had been naturalised.
Immediate family members (spouse and children) of the Balikbayan, who are nationals of countries falling under EO 408, that are travelling together with the Balikbayan.
What is Executive Order 408?
The EO 408 grants a No Visa Entry for 30-day Policy. Provided that their passport has more than 6 months of validity during the point of entry and return or an onward ticket back to their country of origin or to their next destination.
This Visa-free entry is only given to the citizens of the following countries:
Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic
Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia
Fiji, Finland, France
Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana
Haiti, Honduras, Hungary
Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan
Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg
Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar
Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal
Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Rwanda
Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, SaoTome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland
Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu
Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan
Vanuatu, Vatican, Venezuela, Vietnam
Citizens of countries NOT mentioned on the above list must secure a visa prior to their visit to the Philippines.
How to get a Balikbayan visa?
Upon arrival in the Philippines, you will need to provide a valid passport, your previous Philippine passport or supporting documents to prove your previous Filipino citizenship.
- Cancelled Philippine passport or Philippine Birth Certificate
- Naturalization paper to show former Philippine citizenship
- Certification from the adopted country
The spouses and minor unmarried children of former Filipino citizens must present the following documents to the Philippine Immigration Officer at the point of entry:
- Valid passport
- Marriage certificate (for the spouse)
- Birth Certificate (for minor children) or adoption papers (for adopted children
You have to make sure that these documents are readily available upon arrival request of the Immigration officer. Based on my personal experience, it is advisable to approach the immigration desk together as a group for an easy assessment.
It is important that the foreign spouse will be travelling with the Balikbayan to avail of the Balikbayan visa. Otherwise, the standard visa rules will apply.
What are the Balikbayan visa Benefits?
The Balikbayan and their family can enjoy the benefit and privileges as follows:
(a) Tax-exempt maximum purchase in the amount of One Thousand five hundred United States dollars (US$ 1,500.00) or it’s equivalent in Philippine peso and in other foreign currencies at all government-owned and – controlled/operated duty-free shops subject to the limitations contained in Section 4 hereof;
(b) All domestic carriers shall establish a special promotional/incentive program for the balikbayan;
(c) Visa-free entry to the Philippines for a period of one (1) year for foreign passport holders, with the exception of restricted nationals;
(d) Travel tax exemption as provided under Presidential Decree No, 1183, Executive Order No.283, and other allied laws;
(e) Especially designated reception areas at the authorized ports of entry for the expeditious processing of documents;
(f) Accredited transportation facilities that will ensure their safe and convenient trips upon arrival. The Department of Tourism and the Department of Transportation and Communications and other concerned government agencies are hereby mandated to implement the program for this particular purpose; and
(g) Kabuhayan shopping privilege and additional tax-exempt purchase in the maximum amount of Two Thousand United States dollars (US$ 2,000.00) or its equivalent in Philippine peso and other acceptable foreign currencies; exclusive for the purchase of livelihood tools at all government-owned and controlled/operated duty-free shops.
The total amount of tax-exempt maximum purchase as mentioned in sub-paragraphs (a) and (g) of this Section may be used for the kabuhayan program, subject to the limitations.
Tax-exempt limitations for the Balikbayan visa programme?
The Limitations on Tax-exempt Purchases at all Government-owned and Controlled/Operated Duty-Free Shops. – The tax-exempt purchase privilege shall be subject to the following limitations:
(a) Purchases shall be made within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of arrival: Provided, That during the Christmas season, reckoned from November 15 to January 15, the privilege is extended to thirty (30) calendar days from the date of arrival: Provided, further, That said privilege shall be availed of on a one-time shopping basis only: Provided finally, That in the case of senior citizens and handicapped balikbayan, they shall be allowed to enjoy the privilege within one (1) year from date of arrival in the country;
(b) The privilege can be availed of by the balikbayan only once a year;
(c) The privilege is non-transferable; purchases shall be made personally by the balikbayan: Provided,That a balikbayan who has gone back abroad may still avail of the kabuhayan shopping within a maximum period of one (1) year from date of arrival in the country, and that immediate family members of the balikbayan shall be allowed to claim the kabuhayan tools purchased.
Provided further, That an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), duly described as such by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Philippine Overseas Labor Officer or by the embassy/consulate of the Philippines in the country where he or she had been deployed.
Taking into consideration the evidence of remittance, may opt to endorse in writing the kabuhayan shopping privilege to his or her immediate family members within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity residing in the Philippines once within two (2) years from the date of effectivity of his or her contract and only during the duration of the same.
(d) Only a balikbayan of majority age under Philippine laws can enjoy the privilege: Provided, however, That the family members who are minors shall continue to be entitled to purchase privilege not exceeding the allowable tax-exempt limit for arriving passengers; and
(e) In addition to existing limitations on the number of consumables purchased, a balikbayan shall be entitled to buy only one (1) item of every product category of non-consumables whose selling price exceeds Two Hundred United States dollars (US$ 200.00).
How much does a Balikbayan visa cost?
The Balikbayan visa is FREE to all qualified individuals who will be arriving in the Philippines.
Would it be possible to get a Balikbayan visa for my foreign spouse?
Yes, it is possible to get a Balikbayan visa for a foreign spouse provided that they will be travelling with the Balikbayan which will comply with the requirements needed in the Balikbayan Visa program. All necessary documents must be provided at the port of entry.
Is Balikbayan Visa multiple entry?
Yes, The Balikbayan Visa is a multiple entry type of visa.
How to extend a Balikbayan visa?
You can extend your Balikbayan visa after the one-year visa-free validity. You may apply for a 1-month, 2 months or 6 months extension to the Visa Extension Section of any Bureau of Immigration office. You have to apply for your Balikbayan Visa extension
You can visit the Bureau of Immigration Main Office in Manila:
Magallanes Dr, Intramuros, Manila, 1002 Metro Manila, Philippines (Show Map)
Alternatively, if you live outside Manila you can visit other Bureau of Immigration Offices. You can find all the list of Immigration Offices in the Philippines here.
Here is the process on how you can extend your visa:
- Secure the CGAF from either at the Public Information and Assistance Unit (PIAU) at BI G/F Main Office or from the official BI Website.
- Pay the MR fee at the Cashier and submit the MR and OR and other documents to Central Receiving Unit (CRU) or to the frontline officer or staff of other Immigration Offices able to process this transaction.
- Claim the approved MR from the Visa Extension Section and proceed to their counters for release of Order of Payment (OPS).
- Pay the fees.
- Submit the Official Receipt with the application form, attachments and passport to the receiving/assessment Officer.
- Claim the passport stamped with the requested extension of stay.
How much does the Balikbayan extension fee cost?
The Balikbayan extension fee will cost around PHP 500 (For Motion of Reconsideration fee) and PHP 10 for Legal Research fee.
Administrative Fine (PhP 5,000.00) to be charged every year of overstay. Eighteen (18) months of over stay is considered as two (2) years. BALIKBAYAN is exempted from this fine.
What if I overstay in my Balikbayan visa?
In such case that you l overstay in the Philippines while you are under the Balikbayan visa, you are exempted to pay the Administrative fine.
The Administrative Fine (PhP 5,000.00) to be charged every year of overstay. Eighteen (18) months of overstay is considered as two (2) years.
Can I work on a Balikbayan visa?
If you are holding a Balikbayan visa in the Philippines, you are NOT ALLOWED to take any form of work. You need to apply for a 13a Non-Quota Special Working Permit (SWP) (applicable if you are married to a Filipino citizen) if you wish to take any local employment.
The Balikbayan visa program is definitely a great perk to help the OFW and returning Filipino dual citizens and their families. Have you tried to avail the Balikbayan visa on your recent visit to the Philippines?
Let us know your travel experience in the comment box below.