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PHILIPPINES: Bureau of Immigration Implementing Comprehensive Changes
February 25, 2014
According to a number of press releases by the Bureau of Immigration (BI), 2014 may hold significant changes in not only the BI possibly being changed from a Bureau to a Commission, but also proposed legislation of a new Immigration Bill, “The Philippine Immigration Act of 2013”, which is being introduced to "make the almost vintage statute attuned to the complex realities faced by the country today”.
While these proposed changes are very comprehensive and high-level, there are some recent changes to immigration regulations that companies and assignees alike should take into account when sponsoring foreign workers. Short highlights of these recent changes by the BI are as follows:
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Requires Provisional Work Permit: The Philippines Government’s Official Gazette published a January 26, 2014 notice (http://www.gov.ph/2014/01/26/dole-foreign-workers-with-pending-alien-employment-permit-application-must-secure-provisional-working-permit/) that instructed all DOLE regional offices to remind foreign workers in their areas of jurisdiction who have commenced employment in a local establishment, even while their applications for the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) or employment visa (9g) are still being processed, to secure a Provisional Working Permit (PWP) from the BI. The PWP shall be valid for three months or until a 9g visa has been issued in favor of the applicant, whichever comes first.
Inspection of Original Passports and Philippine Immigration Documents: BI Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison directed all immigration personnel in international ports and airports to courteously ask passengers to remove their passport covers or jackets prior to inspection. Immigration inspectors will be requesting to see original passport documents along with any original work/residence permit cards. Therefore, to avoid delays in clearing immigration control, passengers should have original documents ready for inspection.
ECC Departure Cards: All foreign nationals who hold Immigrant and Non-Immigration Visas must have valid ECC Departure Cards to present to immigration officers when exiting the Philippines (http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php/news/announcements/advisory-to-all-foreigners-ecc).
New Format of Arrival and Departure Cards to Link with Justice System Databases: The Department of Justice announced the issuance of newly designed BI Arrival and Departure Cards. These cards are used to document passengers for border management and compilation of tourism statistics. “The design and data fields of the cards are aligned with existing computer systems – the upgraded BI information system (BIIS),” said BI Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison. “Even the size of the color-coded forms is aligned with that of the standard passport page,” he added. The BIIS is a major component of the flagship national justice information system (NJIS) to link and share information among justice sector section. These new cards shall be used nationwide effective March 1, 2014.
What to Do
Through March 1, 2014, the BI is undergoing an extensive “Annual Report” to ascertain where and when to make changes to policy and enforcement. As the immigration process can be a very document and procedure intensive application process, and registration and exit/entry requirements are enforced, companies and assignees are advised to work with their immigration suppliers in the Philippines to keep abreast of recent and upcoming changes in immigration policy.
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