Just recently, a senior couple I know left to visit Philippines. Both of them are former Filipino citizens and were naturalized Canadian, every year, they always travel to the Philippines just before winter starts in Canada and would stay in the Philippines until spring.
In the past years, their travel to and from the Philippines has always been smooth. As soon as they present their tickets when they checked in they can easily obtain their boarding pass and off they go. This year was not as easy as it used to be, they had to go through a stressful situation that made them worry of not being able to leave because they are apparently staying in the Philippines for more than 59 days and the airline attendant was looking for documentation or identification that will prove that they are former Filipino resident. Accordingly, a former natural-born Filipino staying in the Philippines for more than 59 days will need to show proof that he or she was a former Filipino citizen otherwise he or she will need to apply for ACR I-Card, furthermore, he or she will need for an emigration clearance certificate (exit approval).
As soon as I learned about this incident, I started looking everywhere in the internet most specifically in the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines and Bureau of Immigration website regarding this rulings.
I am not sure if there was a misunderstanding in this incident or this is because a new president and new department secretary was recently in position, hence a new rule is being implemented. But I can’t seem to find anything in the said websites about the 59-day rule for former Filipinos (or I could be wrong). However, I remember looking for this information few years ago because I want to understand how changing our citizenship affects our status when we decide to travel to the Philippines. This is where I came across the “The Balikbayan Program” as instituted by Republic Act 6768. From what I understand (which now made me think if I really understand it right) this program allows a former Filipino citizen to enter the Philippines without a visa and stay in the Philippines for a maximum of 1 year without a visa. He or she do not have to apply for a visa and pay money to get a “balikbayan stamp” in his/her passport. This will also be applicable to his/her children provided that they enter the Philippines at the same time. The only time that he or she will need to convert to a tourist visa is when he or she wants to stay longer than 1 year in the Philippines. Aside from visa-free entry to the Philippines, the balikbayan program also provides a tax-exempt maximum purchases in the amount of USD 1,500, or the equivalent in Philippine and other currency at Philippine Government–operated duty free shops and an exemption from Travel Tax, provided that his or her stay in the Philippines is one year or less.
A former Filipino citizen availing the balikbayan program must advise the Philippine Immigration Officer at the port of entry that he/she is availing of the privilege and should be able to present proof of their former Philippine citizenship such as old Philippine passport or copy of Philippine birth certificate or naturalization documents.
I am not a professional or an expert to interpret this act, I just rely on what I have read and learned from the websites that I visited. However, I thought of sharing this in my blog for the benefit of my fellow Filipino-Canadians especially this Christmas season that a lot of “balikbayans” will for sure travel to the Philippines. To avoid fuss and be put into a stressful situation, I suggest that you protect yourself and your family by making sure that you are prepared by making sure that you have your important documents with you especially if you plan to stay in the Philippines for a longer period. If your family members are accompanying you on your travel you must also bring appropriate supporting documents for them, for the spouse, he/she must have copy of marriage certificate (if he/she is not a former Filipino citizen), for each child, they must have a copy of their birth certificate while adopted children needs copy of adoption papers.
Here’s a blurb of the press and notices from Philippine Consulate General website dated December 18, 2006:
Visa-Free Stay Regulations for Former Filipinos in the Philippines
- Press Release No. ABM-2-2006*Following a number of queries from the Filipino-Canadian community regarding the implementation of Balikbayan program, the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto would like to share the following:
“Per verbal consultation with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), former Filipino nationals should declare before the Philippine Immigration Officer at the port of entry of their intention to avail themselves of the Balikbayan benefits and privileges. The Balikbayan applicant should present documents prescribed under the existing Balikbayan Program in order for the Immigration Officers to assess and determine their admissibility as a Balikbayan. A foreign passport holder born in the Philippines does not automatically mean that he/she is a former Filipino citizen. It is therefore necessary for a former Filipino to present proof of former citizenship (eg Old Philippine passport, birth certificate or naturalization papers) to avail himself of the Balikbayan privilege.”
Balikbayan Program, retrieved November 10, 2016
Travelling to the Philippines, retrieved November 10, 2016
Republic Act No. 9174, retrieved November 10, 2016
Philippines: Exit/Entry Requirements, retrieved November 10, 2016