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Immigration Services and Work Permits

Many tourists who come to the Philippines fall in love with the country and choose to make it their permanent home. This is true for businesses as well.

Over the last decade, the Philippine government has stepped up its efforts to attract foreign investments, offering a plethora of incentives particularly to companies engaged in BPO, KPO, IT-related services and other export operations. One of the incentives enjoyed by these companies is the relative ease in employing foreign nationals for technical and supervisory positions.

All foreign nationals who wish to live, work, or invest in the Philippines need to secure the necessary visas and working permits. Failure to do so can have costly and damaging consequences, including hefty fines, and even jail time and deportation.

To avoid this, it is important to identify and acquire the appropriate visa and any needed work permit. The Philippines offers several visa types for different purposes, and requires special permits for those seeking to work or do business in the country.

Short-term visas and permits

Foreign nationals from over 150 countries may not need a visa if they’re staying for only 30 days or less. If they want to stay longer than 30 days, whether for tourism or business, they will need to apply for a Temporary Visitor’s Visa, which is renewable before the expiry date.

Those who wish to enter the country and work here for six months or less need not get an employment visa, but will have to secure a Special Work Permit (SWP) from the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration. SWPs are typically granted to the following:

  • Professional athletes who will be competing or working in the country

  • Foreign nationals tapped to conduct emergency services, trainings, consultancy work and other exceptional services

  • Artists and musicians who come to the country for a paid performance

  • The crew of a film or movie to be shot in the Philippines

  • Foreign journalists who are coming to the country to cover an event

Long-term non-immigrant visas and permits

Foreign nationals who intend to work in the Philippines for more than six months need to secure the appropriate work or employment visa and permit. Here are the most common types of employment visa:

1. Pre-arranged Employment or 9(G) visa – granted to foreign nationals who have been petitioned for employment by a Philippine company 

2. Special Non-Immigrant Visa or 47(a)(2) visa – given to eligible foreign national employees of qualified companies, such as those operating in Export Processing Zones, working on Special Government Projects, or registered with the Bureau of Investments. 

3. Treaty Trader or 9(D) Visa – given to nationals from selected countries (currently the United States, Japan and Germany) who are investing or are working for a company with an investment of at least US30,000 to US$120,000 in the Philippines. 

4. Multiple-entry special visa – granted to personnel of foreign banks with operations in the Philippines, or of regional corporate headquarters set up in the Philippines

In addition to these visas, foreign national workers or employees must also obtain an Alien Employment Permit (AEP) from the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment. The AEP is a prerequisite to acquiring a visa.

If the foreigner needs to work prior to receiving an AEP, he must first acquire a Provisional Permit to Work, which is valid for three months.

Holders of tourist visas may also request for a change of their admission status and obtain the appropriate visa.

Immigrant visas

Foreign nationals who wish to immigrate to the Philippines may obtain an immigrant visa if their home country has a reciprocal immigration agreement with the Philippines.

There are two types of immigration visas:

1. Quota immigrant visa – limited to only 50 nationals of each country a year 

2. Non-quota immigrant visa – given to foreign nationals married to a Filipino citizen; returning residents; and returning natural-born Filipinos with citizenship from a different country

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