What is the change? Bureau of Immigration officials have confirmed that foreign nationals may be prevented from leaving the Philippines if applications to downgrade their visas are still pending when they attempt to leave.

What does the change mean? The change does not apply to travelers with tourist visas, but other visa holders who are attempting to downgrade visas and cancel Alien Certificate of Registration Identity cards before leaving the Philippines should be sure to leave plenty of time to (1) downgrade their visas to visitors visas, (2) cancel their ACR I-cards and (3) obtain an Emigration Clearance Certificate.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: ACR I-cards with corresponding visas that are still valid or have not been downgraded, not including ACR I-cards issued to tourist visa holders.
  • Who is affected: Visa holders cancelling their ACR I-cards while their visas are still valid or have not been downgraded.
  • Impact on processing times: The change will add to the time it takes non-tourist foreign nationals, in particular those on work visas, to leave the Philippines. Applications to downgrade visas generally take two to three weeks to process, while issuance of new visas after they have been downgraded takes another three to five business days. It is only after these two steps are completed that ACR I-cards can be canceled. In addition, holders of downgraded visas must also obtain an Emigration Clearance Certificate, which takes an additional five to seven business days to process.

Background: ACR I-cards are identification cards that contain personal information, including biometric data. The cards are used as re-entry permits, but do not replace the need for passports or visas when required. As BAL reported earlier this month, the Bureau of Immigration has said that it will not process applications to cancel ACR I-cards unless corresponding visas have been downgraded. Officials have now made it clear that immigration officers are able to access a database telling them whether a downgrading application has been filed.

BAL Analysis: Visa holders should work with BAL to ensure they have left adequate time and follow the proper steps when planning to leave the Philippines.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in the Philippines. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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