With its low cost of living, beautiful beaches, and friendly people, The Philippines has long been a popular expat destination. Unspoiled islands like Boracay and Palawan draw beach loving expats with their pristine, white sandy beaches and crystal clear emerald water. Others prefer slightly more developed cities like Cebu or Davao with large American style malls and access to all the foods or amenities they would find in their home countries. And some are drawn to mountainous areas such as Bagiuo with cooler weather and stunning vistas.
Whatever your preference, there is a good chance The Phillipines has a place just for you; the perfect place that you would be happy to call home.
Up until recently, one of the main drawbacks of living in The Philippines was its strict and tiresome visa regulations. There are two main options for people choosing to live in The Philippines for an extended period of time, only one of which is a permanent solution.
The New Long Stay Visitor Visa
Currently the most popular among foreigners because of the ease in obtainment is the newly created Long Stay Visitor Visa. There are no financial requirements to prove and it is not much more complicated than obtaining a regular tourist visa. Until 2013, visitors to The Philippines could only get a 59 day visa and they had to renew it every 2 months for a maximum time frame of 16 months. At which point, they had to leave the country to start the process all over again. This meant they had to reapply for a visa extension every two months and waste time at immigration offices dealing with needless bureaucracy, but no more.
The Long Stay Visitor Visa still has a maximum length of 16 months, unless special permission is obtained, but no longer do expats need to reapply every 2 months. Now expats living in The Philippines may extend their visas for up to 6 months at a time in a single transaction. At the end of the 16 month period, you will still be required to leave the country for a border run, or border flight I should say. The 6 month visa fee is 13,900 PHP (roughly $320.)
The Permanent Visa
If you don’t have any medical conditions or plans of marrying a Filipina woman, your only permanent option is to apply for a permanent visa / retirement visa using proof of funds or income. There are a few ways you can do this.
- If you are over the age of 35, you can deposit $20,000 in a Filipino bank account. The caveat is this money will be held until you leave the country and you cannot use it for any form investment or living expenses.
- If you are between the ages of 35 and 49, you can deposit $50,000 into a Filipino bank account, which can then be converted in an investment of $50,000 or higher in the country. Many expats choose to invest in a business which can solve the problem of any income issues and visa requirements at the same time. Others just prefer to purchase a home, which also qualifies as an investment.
- If you are 50 years old or above, you only need deposit $20,000 or, if you have a monthly pension of at least $800, a $10,000 deposit will suffice. This money can be used for living expenses or investments as well.
All of the permanent and retirement visas include multiple entries and work permission. They are also supposed to include up to one container of goods duty free for your household, but due to the corruption it doesn’t always work out this way. I know of one long-term expat residing in the Philippines who actually received his permanent visa and tried to import his allotted container duty-free, but was still charged by the customs officials despite paperwork showing evidence that he was allowed one contained duty-free.
Constantly Changing Visa Regulations
The main problem with getting black and white facts about obtaining long-term or permanent visas in the Philippines is that they are constantly changing the rules and requirements. Even the embassy seems to be a bit confused about what the exact regulations are. Because of this, many expats have taken different paths to long term stays in the Philippines and what worked for on expat might not work for you. Your best option is to contact the Philippines Embassy and verify what documents or financials they will require. Try and get information from them in writing so as to avoid some of the hassles you might otherwise encounter when applying for your long-term visa. The bureaucratic situation in the Philippines is relatively corrupt and you will be confronted with unexpected fees at every turn. Be prepared for a long and arduous road to obtaining your permanent Philippines visa, but if you stick with it, do your due diligence, and stand your ground, you can do it.