“I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”
― Lucille Ball

Saturday, January 29, 2011

13-A visa

Entrance to Intramuros is still guarded and closed at night.
Yesterday, 28 January 2011, I got my 13-A visa.

Read here how it started and what happened until I got it.

Wednesday, 17 November, we went to Manila with the whole family to bring my parents- and sister in law to the airport. They went to the USA.
My sister is living there with her husband and her parents got a permanent stay visa to live there as well permanently. They are almost 70 and I was doubting they liked to do it, but it seems they do. It also seems that the US government will pay them a kind of pension. Much more generous than the the Dutch government is.

The same day we went to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in Intramuros, old Manila, which is Spanish meaning: "between the walls". Indeed it is a special and old part of Manila, but it needs a lot of maintenance and apparently the government is not spending a peso to it.

The procedure was recently simplified in terms of documents you need. Now it is only a request letter (from your Filipino wife), an application form, a copy of your latest passport and entrance visa and true copies from the NSO (National Statistics Office) regarding the marriage to a Filipino/a and his/her birth certificate.
So no medical exam and other irrelevant documents are required anymore.

It would take a month to process and it gives many advantages to foreigners, who are staying here permanently. My main reason to do it now was that it gives you the right to import your household duty free.

If your Filipino wife/spouse wants to import the household, it is a balik-bayan import, which exempts you only the first 10.000 pesos from your 50% import tax. I guess that the value of our household stuff is between 50.00 and 100.00 euro (according to my household insurance). So even when it is only 50.000 euro, that would mean 25.000 euro import tax. Balik-Bayan status would reduce this amount with 166 euro only, whilst  a 13-A visa exempts the full amount.

Further, with a 13-A visa (and affiliated ACR-I card) you can also open a bank account, get a Filipino driving license and only once a year you have to report your stay.

Indeed the filing process was simple, it took us about 1.5 hours. When I payed  the application fee of 2.520 peso, the lady at the desk told me that we were expected for a hearing next week Monday, 10.00 am. The only thing to bring was the passport.

Next Monday morning 3.00 am we left by bus to Manila and arrived ca. 7.00 am. My sister in law, who is living in Manila, would pick us up at the bus station to bring us to BI again. First trip was by jeepney. Next was the mass transport rail. This was awful as it was so crowded on the platform and in the trains. It is very bad and performance compared to Hong Kong or Bangkok we were used to live before. This was once and we will  never again use this commuter train.

Next was a kind of tricycle, but in fact a frame with 3 wheels and an engine as is used for farming vehicles/applications like pumps. The clutch is a pedal that loosens the belt so the engine can freewheel while waiting for traffic on a crossing. It has no gear box.

We arrived around 8.00 am, so had to wait 2 hours for the hearing. There was no description on the BI website or other info passed to me what really the purpose was. I expected an interview of 30 minutes and then back home.

However, when we entered the room of the attorney who would do the interview, he was flabbergasted about my clothing. Short pants, open shoes and a T-shirt. He could not do the hearing under these circumstances and asked me if this was normal in Europe for a hearing. I didn't answer, but realized that we had a serious problem and apologized first and then asked him to allow me to come back later same day, as he was suggesting already that the hearing would be repeated on Wednesday. Reluctantly he agreed.

We went to the Robinson mall near by. It took us 2 hours and more than 3000 pesos to buy a new outfit: shoes, long black pants, shirt with long sleeves and a neck-tie. On top of this come the cost of the cloths my wife and sister in law bought, the restaurant the 3 of us two times and 2 bus tickets back and fourth to the province, plus 1000 pesos for my sister's help, so in total costs were more than 6000 pesos for the application issuing only.

At 1.30 pm we were allowed to enter his office again. I looked like a director or the president himself and he was flabbergasted again, but now in the positive sense. No questions left, some small social talk, we all signed the document and before 2.00 pm were finished. He would call me personally when the papers are ready for pick-up in a month time at maximum, which I guess would be early January. He didn't do it of course.

As we were never updated on the status of the procedure, I decided to go to BI personally to find out. Calling them didn't work really, even when I contacted the attorney - we met during the application filing - didn't understand me or remembered me. Yesterday, 28 January 2011 we went again to Manila.

We woke up 2.00 am and departed 3.00 am to arrive at my sister in law in Manila at 6.30 am. This time we took our car/van, my brother in law driving us. From there (Caloocan) we  (wife, 2 brother in laws, sister in law and nephew) went to to Intramurus to the Bureau of Immigration. I wanted coffee and a croissant in Starbucks, they went as usually to Jollibee for their breakfast.

After breakfast we were just in time in BI at 7.15 am to see the employees coming in and to determine that the attorneys are not the first ones to start working. We were waiting for one of them as he could give me the status of my visa application process. I was surprised that they could not check the status at the inquiry desk.

At 7.45 am an attorney's secretary, who was very helpfull to us before, told me that on 15 December 2010 my application was formally approved and ready for implementation. I had never received a mail by post or Internet or a text message that this was the case, although I had given them all the details to contact me.

So we could start same day the implementation. I Thought this would take maximum - as is explained in the instructions - one day and the cost would be 4.600 peso, according to the BI website. This is including the express lanes for visa and ACR I-card.

At 8.00 am the lady at desk #1 told me that you can also go for the double express lane for 5.600 peso. This would reduce the procedure to 4 hours. As we had more to do, I decided to go for this option.

Next we had to go to the HSBC bank Head Quarter in Makati to close an account, and due to traffic problems we were only back in BI at 1.00 pm. The papers should be ready by now. So far we had only processed the visa implementation.

The I-card implementation was yet to come. We had to go to another desk to pay for the ACR I-card fees, which was 2.708 peso.

Next was the finger print session (electronic and paper version), electronic photo and data collection for the I-card.

When this was completed they told us that we had to come back in a few weeks to pick-up the I-card. This was not as expected and I really was sick already from the fuzzy procedures, very noisy environment in BI which was at times like a busy market. The outlook that I had to come back here was not a pleasant one.

Happily, the lady at the desk we were dealing with for the I-card came from the same province as my wife and were we live now, Pangasinan in north Luzon. And that helps.

It turned out that a third express lane (XXX) was possible if we were willing to pay another amount (1000 peso). She could organise with some other employees a ame day delivery of the I-card. I was happy to do that and at 4.00 pm I got my Icard.

So the whole procedure involved the following of cost:
  • visa application
  • visa implementation
  • I-card implementation
  • travelling (3 times)
  • new cloth
  • food and family support for helping me
  • extra express lanes (under the table payments)
I estimate that it cost me 25.000 peso. This is excluding an airline ticket that I lost because of no-show as a result of the long procedure.

Anyway I am happy that it is done and I can prepare/start now the next steps.

the amount of 25.000 peso (about 400 euro) is still far less than what I payed for my wife to get a 1 year permanent resident status in the Netherlands (MVV).


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