CONVERSION TO NON-QUOTA IMMIGRANT VISA BY MARRIAGE (PROBATIONARY) – 13a
We got married 2 years ago. Before that, I had been doing the 2 month renewals on my tourist visa. The tourist visa here is very simple but over time it does add up. I kept a spreadsheet for the first year I was on it and the fees totaled p26,000.
Later we did go to Hong Kong and got a Balikbayan Stamp on the way back in. That is a great service they offer. No fees, no messing with immigration, no ECC. You just have to leave the country once a year for a new one. Fun, for a vacation, but it also gets expensive.
During the 1 year I was on the BB stamp I was supposed to get my 13a (spouse) visa. We were also building a house that year, and I got a bit distracted with that. So… the year ended and I went back to a tourist visa. We started on the paperwork for the 13a but just never quite got around to it. Our own fault, such is life.
After I had to go back to a tourist visa I got serious about getting the 13a. Such a simple thing to do! I should have done it 2 years ago ha ha.
The first 13a you get is a 1 year probationary. Then you get a 5 year. Once you get it you just have to go in once a year to file an annual report and pay a fee (about p300), and keep your ACR card current. The only big fee is the application, and that was only p11,000 (including the first ACR card). It is a very inexpensive option. I keep seeing people online ask “is it worth the hassle?” There is no hassle – so freaking easy!
The immigration website has all the information and forms you need. Here is the link (current as of July 2016, no guarantees) https://immigration.gov.ph/visa-requirements/immigrant-visa/non-quota-visa/conversion-to-non-quota-immigrant-visa-by-marriage Even on their page they say the fees are subject to change without notice. So, I will give you the prices we paid – your fees may vary. The paperwork is pretty simple. The hardest part is getting the NBI clearance.
NBI is not really hard, just a very crowded place. I was going to complain about the service – I had 2 people telling me 3 different things (one guy was inconsistent ha ha), but really the service was quite good. It was a confusing place. There were over 100 people sitting in line and I got walked to the front of each of the 4 windows. I really cannot complain. There is a basic NBI request form you have to fill out. You can do it there, or print it from their website and fill it out before. Does not really matter. Actually you can do most of it online, and I tried. The problem was when it came time to pay, there was no option for 13a or immigrant visa. So I had it all filled out online but could not pay. The fees range from p100 – p400 but I did not have an option to select. (my fee was like p125, once I got there) Hopefully they improve their website. The online option is quite new. But since you still would have to go there to get fingerprinted I just don’t think online will be much help anyway. When you tell them you are there for an immigration clearance there is another form and fingerprints. You also have to provide a 2×2 picture to attach to the fingerprint card (actual ink, you may want to bring some wet wipes). Then there are 4 windows/lines. You turn in the form at one, you get electronic fingerprints and an electronic photo at another, you pay at one, and pick up your clearance at one. You may get it the same day – you may be told to come back in a month, if there is a “hit” on your name they have to research further. The day I was there every single person I saw got a “hit”, including me. So I went back a month later and picked up my form. Overall a hectic, crowded, place but not too bad. Very similar to NSO – on a bad day.
Here is a list of required documents, taken from their website:
1. Joint letter request addressed to the Commissioner from the applicant and the petitioning Filipino spouse;
2. Duly accomplished CGAF(BI Form CGAF-001-Rev 2);
3. Marriage Certificate or Marriage Contract;
4. Birth Certificate or certified true copy of BI-issued Identification Certificate as Filipino citizen of the Filipino spouse;
5. Photocopy of passport bio-page and latest admission with valid authorized stay;
6. Valid National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance, if application is filed six (6) months or more from the date of first arrival in the Philippines;
7. BI Clearance Certificate; and
8. Original or certified true copy of Bureau of Quarantine Medical Clearance, if applicant is a national of any of the countries
listed under Annex “A” of Immigration Operations Order No. SBM-14-059-A who arrived in the Philippines on or after June 2014
1. The joint letter I will get back to in a minute.
2. The form is online and is a standard 2 or 3 page immigration form. If you ever filled out a tourist visa extension, you can handle it.
3. When we got married we got numerous NSO copies of our marriage license, so that was easy (extra copies in the safe).
4. NSO birth certificate for her should be easy, since you should have needed it to get married.
5. Standard copies of passport that immigration always wants. The bio page, your last entry, and your current extension, BB stamp, whatever is authorizing your stay.
6. NBI clearance, we already talked about. If you have been in the PIs less than 6 months you need police clearance from your home country. I have no idea where we would get that, but I have been here 3 years so not a problem. They seem to be confused when you tell them that in the US we don’t get police clearances for jobs and stuff. Others might do a background check on you – but we are not required to get police or barangay clearances. Just different ways of doing things.
7. BI clearance. Standard letter they put with your extension receipt. They will get you a new one, I brought my current one and they did not want it.
8. Confusing but I looked up Annex A and it does not apply to the US. So not an issue.
Ok back to the letter. One of the more discussed things online and numerous different versions of sample letters floating around. I include the one I used. On the immigration website it says all forms have to be certified (like NSO copies) and all sworn statements or affidavits must be notarized. So every sample of the request letter I have seen was notarized. Every expat page I have read says it has to be notarized. When I asked at our local office they said it does not have to be notarized, but since it is called a “joint” letter of request it has to be signed by both of us. That is much easier. I would rather sign it myself than tack down a notary. In the US everyone, and their dog, is a notary. Here the only notaries I have found are attorneys. That was one hassle I would happily skip. So, for us, no notary. Your office may be different. I made a letter based on online samples. When we took in our paperwork it was refused. The clerk made some changes on it and told us to rewrite it. One glaring mistake was that they changed Directors in Manila (although their website has not been updated). They gave back the copy of her passport, they did not want it. I included it because it was on so many of the sample letters I saw.
Here is the letter we turned in, after his corrections:
Sir (current commissioner name),
Commissioner Bureau of Immigration
May I respectfully request a non-quota immigrant visa under Section 13, paragraph A of the Philippine Immigration Act as amended, in favor of my foreign spouse, (foreigner’s name) , a (foreigner’s country) national. I am (Filipina’s name), a Philippine citizen. We were married in (location) on (date).
I am enclosing copies of the following documents to prove my above-cited information:
- My NSO-issued Birth Certificate
- Photocopy of my passport
- Our NSO-issued Marriage Contract
- His National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance
- Photocopy of the pertinent pages of his passport:
B. page/s showing:
1. His immigration admission and it’s extensions.
2. BI Clearance Certificate
Very truly yours,
__(Filipina Spouse Name) _ __(Foreigner Spouse Name)
Petitioner/Filipino Spouse Husband/Applicant
__(address) __ __(address) __
What we also had to do was get another copy of my passport pages and 2 more 2×2 pictures, for my ACR card application (I always have 5 or 6 2x2s in my passport wallet). Put all the forms in 2 folders. One for the 13a, one for the ACR. This I did not see anything about online. We had to go to a net cafe to print the new letter so we just dropped by the school supply section of the grocery store for 2 manila folders. We went to immigration in the morning and they made the changes on our letter. We went to a net cafe to get it done, went to lunch, and back to immigration that same afternoon. Turned in the paperwork, paid our fees, and were told to come back in 2 weeks for a hearing. The fees were p11,000 total. That was the published application fee of p8,620 and the ACR fee. The ACR fee is listed as 50 US dollars. So I suppose it fluctuates with the exchange rate. It was total eleven thousand and some change. I have read online about much more expensive fees, but I guess our Iloilo office is honest. I have always been pleased with the service at our Iloilo immigration office. very fast and friendly service. I don’t think they have ever overcharged me for anything.
We went to the hearing yesterday. Even simpler than the paperwork. We went to immigration and they took us upstairs to the bosses office (I don’t know the job title of the local boss, sorry). He looked over the paperwork, asked us a few questions, and signed off on it. I have been here 3 years, have some monthly money, we built a house, we have been married 2 years, no problem. Back downstairs for fingerprints, for the ACR card. We were done in time for brunch. The only concern now is how long will it take for the visa to come in? They said they will contact us when it is ready. I assume 2 or 3 months – and they would not say. That is not really a problem, though. It comes in when it comes in. Everyone was very polite and very friendly, as they are always are in the Iloilo office. Have I mentioned how pleased I am with our office?
Overall a very simple and painless process. We are lucky and our local office will process the 13a (even though the immigration website says they do not). It did take us 3 trips to immigration so if you have to travel for it… yeah, it will be a bummer.