What Foreigners Can and Can’t Do in the Philippines

Starting a new life in a different country is never easy. This is just as true in the Philippines as in any other part of the world. Many foreigners who come to the Philippines fall in love with the country (and all its quirks) and decide to settle here. The most successful ones are those who came prepared and aware of what to expect.

If you want to make the Philippines your new home, it’s best to learn as much as you can about how things are done here, and make your preparations accordingly.

Here are a few things you need to know to help make the transition into your new life in the country easier.

Getting a job

Foreign nationals with a resident visa are exempted from Alien employment permit and can get a job in the Philippines, but need to obtain an Alien Certificate of Registration Immigration (ACR-I) card.

Foreign nationals who come to the country primarily to work need to get the appropriate visa, typically a 9(g) working visa, and an Alien Employment Permit. A 9(g) visa is often granted to foreign nationals with pre-arranged employment in a company operating in the Philippines.

Starting a business

Many foreigners who have made a life in the Philippines say that it is more advantageous for foreign nationals to start a business in the country than to find a job. The Philippines is looking to strengthen its economy with new foreign investments, so the government has adopted several measures to make it easier for foreigners to invest in the country.

Foreigners can own up to 100% of a business in the Philippines, under the following conditions:

  • the venture is not restricted under the Foreign Investment Act Negative Lists A & B

  • a minimum paid-in capital of US$200,000

  • a minimum paid-in capital of US$100,000 if the business is a pioneer, as defined in the government’s Investment Priority Plan, and employs at least 50 Filipinos

  • a minimum paid-in capital of only P5,000 if the business exports at least 60% of its output

A foreigner can also subscribe to a domestic corporation with at least 60% Filipino ownership, with a minimum paid-in capital of only P5,000. This kind of structure allows greater flexibility when it comes to investment options.

Owning property

A foreigner is restricted from owning land in the Philippines, unless through inheritance. However, they can lease land for at least 50 years, renewable for another 25 years.

Foreigners may, however, own other real properties, including condominiums, houses and buildings. They may also have ownership of any property or produce built or grown on the land they lease.

Foreigners can also own land indirectly, if they invest in a 60% Filipino-owned corporation which owns or purchases land.

Retirement

Foreign nationals are being enticed by the government to retire in the Philippines through the Special Resident Retirees Visa (SRRV). This visa type gives foreigners multiple entry privileges and unlimited length of stay in the country, along with other perks. SRRV applicants must be at least 35 years old, and must deposit and maintain at least US$50,000 (if without a pension) in a bank designated by the Philippine Retirement Authority, during the duration of the SRRV.

Other activities

A foreigner who stays in the Philippines for more than 59 days needs to apply for an Alien Certificate of Registration Immigration (ACR-I) card.

Holders of an ACR-I card with residency, can get the following privileges:

  • may open a bank account

  • may apply for a Driver’s License (at least 6 months of residency)

  • may register a car or motorbike

The ACR-I card also serves as a Re-entry Permit and Special Return Certificate for foreigners who want to re-enter the Philippines. It also has to be presented in obtaining an Emigration Clearance Certificate, which is required for all departing foreigners who have stayed in the country for more than six months.