Living and Working in the Philippines?
The drama and trauma of obtaining a working permit (AEP) and a 9(g) visa is an experience most foreigners recount with mixed emotions- shock, anger, outrage, frustration, dismay, and even hopelessness. Yes you’re right, I left out joy. The process is time-consuming and difficult. Often, you must suspend the thought getting on with your life or your business. My brother in law, a US citizen who visited the Philippines three years ago decided to extend his tourist visa (a relatively easier process) while in the Philippines. In his recount, he found himself trapped in the labyrinth of the Bureau of Immigration surrounded in a quicksand of fees. According to him, he felt even the Coke machine in the building cheated him. It ate the last precious change in his pocket, with no Coke to show for it. Imagine if he decided to work here.
All is not lost. As with any difficult predicament, it is a matter of being prepared and aware. Government agencies are also making an honest effort to be more transparent with their fees and procedures.
First, what is a 9(g)? This refers to a category of non-immigrants who are entering the Philippines for pre-arranged employment. It is a visa granted to foreign nationals allowing them to live and work in the Philippines. There are several categories of non-immigrant visas and non-immigrant working visas. This is the most common since it refers to employees for a regular commercial business. An Alien Employment Permit (AEP) on the other hand is a document issued by the Department of Labor and Employment through the DOLE-Regional Director authorizing a foreign national to work in the Philippines. All foreign nationals not otherwise exempted by law who intend to engage in gainful employment in the Philippines are required to obtain these documents.
There are therefore, 2 agencies you will definitely have to deal with to live and work in the Philippines: The Department of Labor and Employment and the Bureau of Immigration. Ordinarily, you will apply for your AEP and 9(g) with these agencies simultaneously. The AEP and the 9(g) are applied with in the Bureau of Immigration office and the DOLE Regional Office with jurisdiction over their place of work or the employer’s office.
1. Have your paperwork ready
For the 9(G)
- Letter request from the petitioner – employer
- General application form duly accomplished and notarized (BI Form No. RBR 98-01)
- 2×2 picture to be attached to the application form
- Articles on Incorporation, By-Laws, SEC Certificate of Registration of petitioner
- Alien Employment Permit (AEP) from the Department of Labor and Employment (you may file simultaneously)
- Income Tax Return of petitioner-employer and proof of payment; audited financial statements
- Contract or agreement entered into for the applicant’s service stating term of service and exact compensation and other benefits to be received
- Bio-data of applicant
- Affidavit of support and guarantee executed by the petitioner in favor of the applicant/s
- Certification by the Human Resource Director/Personnel Officer as to the number of foreign nationals employed by the petitioner
- True copy of the applicant’s passport showing admission status and updated stay
- Other supporting documents which will aid in the evaluation of the application
- If you will be accompanied by your spouse and unmarried minor children you will also need:
- Marriage certificate/birth certificates of unmarried minor children if dependents are included in the application
- True copies of the passports of the spouse and unmarried minor children
For the AEP
- Application Form from the DOLE, duly accomplished and must be notarized
- Contract of Employment/Appointment
- Notarized Board Secretary’s Certificate on the election of Foreign Nat’l
- Certified Photocopy of passport with visa
- Photocopy of updated Mayor’s Permit
- Photocopy of Mayor’s Permit (if Mayor’s permit is not applicable submit copy of SEC Registration)
- Pictures 2 pcs 1×1 and 2 pcs 2×2
- Other documents (e.g. cover/endorsement letter)
2. You do not need a fixer
Never trust a “fixer”. There is no assurance that they can get the job done faster or get the job done at all. This process may take longer and be more costly than the legitimate route. Hire a professional. Approach a lawyer or an agency accredited by the Bureau of Immigration if you need help.
3. Your stay must be updated
Until you receive your employment visa your stay must be updated. If you entered the country as a tourist and without a visa your stay is valid for 21 days. You need an extension thereafter and must pay and apply for this with the Bureau of Immigration.
4. Be ready to pay the fees
Getting a visa and an AEP allows you live and work in the Philippines validly and without threats from a disgruntled employee, the jilted member of a bizarre love triangle, or deportation from the government. More importantly, it allows you to go in and out of the Philippines without getting held up at the airport immigration. Convenience however comes at a cost. Be prepared to pay about P30,000.00 in government fees for your AEP and 9(g). These fees cover not only the visa and the AEP but the transactions and steps along the way which must be accomplished while the visa is being processed such as obtaining a special/provisional work permit, filing for extensions while your application is pending, and fees for your alien certificate of registration.
5. Don’t forget to renew
If you are living and working in the Philippines longer than a year you must renew your visa and your AEP before they expire. A 9(g) is valid for one year and renewable for up to ten as is the AEP. Apply before the deadline, especially in the case of the AEP as the fines for late filing can be quite hefty. If you are late to renew your 9(g) you will essentially have to file anew and go through the visa procurement process and costs all over again.
Government web sites peg the visa application process at one month and the AEP application at 24 hours upon complete submission of documents. I will bite my tongue here at how long it might really take. Many times delay arises from incomplete documents or incomplete information. The main reason for delay is the backlog at Immigration. Rather than waste your time, your best bet is to approach a professional to do the job for you. If you find the right one, you are halfway there.
Expat Travel & Lifestyle Magazine – Vol. 1 No. 3 2007