Our Adventures Getting a 13A Permanent Non-Quota Immigrant Visa for a Foreign Spouse

Are you by any chance a foreigner married to a Filipino or Filipina and you are contemplating staying or living in the Philippines for a longer period?

For the first few years of erratic visits to the Philippines, Yohann and I have used the Balikbayan Visa that would allow him to stay in the country for 1 year. All we needed to do is queue together and present ourselves to the officer at the Philippine Immigration Counter before entering the country along with our NSO Marriage Certificate. The assigned Immigration Officer has the right to approve or reject a Balikbayan Visa.  It's nothing extraordinary. It's merely a stamp on the foreign spouse's passport, but this would allow him to stay longer than the regular 30 days given to most Non-Filipino tourists. The drawback though, is he won't be able to get a Balikbayan Visa without me, if he exits and enters the country later.

13A Permanent Residence Visa...ah the sound of it already rings alarm bells of complex application process.  Fear not. Take a deep breath. 

First Step: Getting a Non-Quota Immigrant Visa By Marriage

If you are a foreign national married to a Philippine Citizen, a 13A probationary visa is applied in the first year.  It is a mandatory process in order to get the 13A Permanent Residence Visa which you need to apply a year later.

How long would the entire process for 13A Probationary Visa take?
It took us 2 months. It could sometimes stretch longer than that depending on the availability of your other requirements.

Our 13A permanent residence visa that we applied a year later took us more than 2 months. To be on the safe side, make sure you have a long visa duration when planning to do this.

You also can't leave the country in the middle of your residence visa process or you'll have to repeat the steps of application and pay the steep fee again. For emergency cases, you would need to notify BoI (Bureau of Immigration) and obtain permission before leaving the country.

Baby steps.  Collect the required paper work.

Click here for the Bureau of Immigration requirements.

1. I ordered my NSO Birth Certificate and our NSO Marriage Certificate at the SM Business Center.  I spent about Php 140 +Php 20 Service Fee for each copy. I claimed it at the counter after  4- 6 working days. 

You can also order it online at NSO Helpline if you want them delivered straight to you.  They say a cheaper alternative is to head straight to National Statistics Office in Quezon City, if you live nearby. Personally, the transportation cost, traffic and waiting time spent in long queues, we're better off ordering them online or via SM Business Center.

2. Ooh, then the much dreaded NBI Clearance (National Bureau of Investigation)!

Thankfully, we found a very informative and helpful post written by Writers in Tandem about the 13A visa process and Abigail mentioned there's a separate queue for foreigners at the NBI Headquarters for their 13A application.

First things first, register online at the NBI Website before going to their Main Branch at United Nations in Taft Manila.  There is a No appointment No Entry Policy!

If you're in Cebu, head straight to the main branch, NBI Capitol.  Unlike in Manila, there's no special queue at the capitol for foreign applicants.   There you have to fall in line like everyone else, unless you're a Senior Citizen or you're pregnant.

You would need to pay the fee first to any Bayad Center.  In my husband's case, we deposited the payment to one of their accredited banks.  He paid Php 115 NBI fee + Php 25 website fee = Php 140. He carried the deposit slip with him because he needs to present this to NBI.  It's better to pay ahead of time rather than queue at the main branch.

Requirements for NBI Clearance:
1. Online Registration Printout
2. Payment Deposit Slip
3. Photocopy of Valid Passport
4. Latest Arrival
5. 2x2 Pic with White Background

Please bring a black pen at all times!

What to wear?  Casual attire is appropriate. Males - T-shirts/ Polo Shirts with Pants and ideally closed shoes.  Females - Pants, Skirts/Dresses of appropriate length (1 inch maximum above the knee) and ideally shirts or blouses with sleeves. No tank tops, flip-flops, slippers and short shorts.

Yohann applied for his NBI Clearance for the first time last year. We went to NBI Headquarters in United Nations Avenue together and went straight to the foreign national counter. There was no queue at all. He presented his requirements, they checked it and encoded it. They took his finger prints and he later queued for the photo, and that was it. Total Time it took:  30 minutes!

He claimed his NBI Clearance at the same branch 3 working days later. He basically just dropped by and claimed it, as simple as that. The process was really fast. However, for Filipinos, it was not the case, as you well know.

Update: Mind you, when we applied for an NBI Clearance a year later in Cebu, they don't have this special queue for foreign nationals. 

3.  The next requirement is preparing a joint letter requesting a visa addressed to the Honorable Commissioner of B.I.  I basically copied the letter prepared by Abigail  of Writers in Tandem on her post and prepared a similar letter, printed it and signed it. Just double check the current appointed commissioner and update it based on the new administration.

4. Prepare 2x2 Pictures with White Background of your foreign spouse.

5. Fill up the CGAF Form. You can ask for this form at the Customer Assistance Counter. We filled up ours at the Bureau of Immigration office. We wanted to avoid making mistakes. Do print the checklist here

6. Purchase 2  legal sized 8"x 14" folders for paper work submission.  This is a requirement by Bureau of Immigration. Otherwise, you'll be forced to buy from vendors outside.  We bought ours at a bookstore for Php 9 each.  Please don't forget black pen (as always).  You will be using one folder for the visa application and one for the ACR (Alien Certificate of Registration) Identification Card. 

Once you have everything signed and sorted, you are now ready for the action! (An evil mwahahaha laugh).

Wait, What to Wear?
They're quite strict on the attire so you better follow or be sorry. Dress appropriately please. No slippers, shorts, miniskirts, sleeveless and tank tops. Check out their new dress policy for 2017 here 

How to Get There?
On the first week of April 2016, we traveled from Paranaque City to the Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros, Manila. There's a UV Express Van Lawton-bound along Sucat Avenue that sometimes goes to Intramuros and passes near B.I. You'll just have to ask the driver if he's headed towards that direction.  Ours was kind enough to make the detour and he dropped us in front of Max's, a block away from B.I.

Bureau of Immigration
Opening Hours: 7AM - 5:30 PM
Contact : +63 2 4652400
Email: xinfo@immigration.gov.ph
Website: http://immigration.gov.ph

Visa Application Procedure but I don't remember going to the 4th Floor

Please bring an ID. You would need to leave one at the entrance.  Proceed straight to the long counter near the stairs. They will give you the CGAF Forms to fill and run through your documents filed in your 2 folders before you are sent from window to window for signatures and verification. 

Once you have completed the verification process, they will keep your file and application forms and you'll be directed to pay approximately Php 10,926. This includes the ACR and Express Lane fee. They will give you a receipt with your interview appointment date and time. There are 2 appointment schedules. If you miss the first one, you can show up for the second. But if you miss both, then you'll have to go through the entire process and pay the fee all over again. Be on time for your interview.

Being aware of this, we were punctual on day of Yohann's interview scheduled a week later. 

Time it took us for the application : Half a day. We had lunch at Max's a block away afterwards.

I took this photo from the B.I. Fire Escape while waiting for his Interview

The Day of the Interview - April 15, 2016 (Total time: 1 hour)

Please make sure you have your official receipt and original passport with you. 

Yohann and I were guided to the interview rooms on the upper floor. Outside each office were sign up sheets where we registered his name while we waited along the corridor for his name to be called. There was quite a number of applicants that morning and it was raining hard outside.  

I remember being asked to sit inside the office of one of the immigration lawyers. The interview was somewhat brief and informal about how we met, where we got married, what we're going to do in the Philippines and why he has requested for a permanent visa. 

After the short 10- minute interview, we went to a window on the same floor. We waited a bit for our turn. Here, they took his biometrics and photo for the ACR I-Card. That was it!

We were notified that the status and result of his Visa Application will be released a month later. We were given a date when we can check the results of his visa status online. 

The result was released earlier than expected. 

13A Probationary Visa approved!

A few days later, we found ourselves en route to B.I. We managed to get the O.R. and the stamped visa on his passport.  I had the opportunity to hang around Starbucks Intramuros across the street while waiting for his ACR I- Card which was released the same day.

After One Year

Within a year, we moved around a lot.  

ACR Appearance at the B.I. 
An annual appearance is required for the Alien Certificate of Registration Annual Report. All foreign nationals holding a valid ACR-I Card  or Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card shall report within the first sixty (60) days of the calendar year to the Bureau of Immigration Main Office Intramuros, Manila or B.I. Satellite Office.  The annual report for 2017 is from January 3 - March 3, 2017!

In our case, now that we're based in Cebu, we went to the B.I. Office in J. Centre Mall in A.S. Fortuna Street in Mandaue City.  We went there yesterday January 10, 2017 to pay the annual report fee. Yohann needs to present this as well when he applies for the 13A Permanent Visa which we'd be applying for very soon.  The whole process took us about 1-2 hours. He was sent from window to window for submission and verification before paying the fee.

Second NBI Clearance Application

We have just done his NBI Clearance process today.  We first went to an NBI Satellite Office in Naga, Cebu, but we were told they do not process foreign applications there. They should mention this somewhere on their website during the online registration. It would save time, gas, effort, additional stress and inconvenience.

He was asked to go to the Main Branch - NBI Capitol near Fuente Osmena Roundabout.  I should warn you there's no parking area there. I drove around while waiting for him. I ended up waiting at SM Seaside City, because the process took him an hour and a half. Due to his change of address, they will release his clearance after 3 weeks for further verification.

NBI Update!

He took a hit. It means they need to check him further and run it with their Main Branch in Manila, which also means, it would take time. The 3 weeks stretched to more than a month and we were becoming anxious regarding his deadline to apply his visa at the Immigration.

Everything got sorted out after a quick phone call to the Manila Main Branch and they released his NBI Clearance  in Cebu the very next day.

In the meanwhile, we have organized the same requirements needed last year plus a new 13A Form to be filled.

We went to the nearest lawyer in town for an additional requirement that we didn't have previously. The Affidavit of Joint Cohabitation.  It's an affidavit stating that the husband and wife are living together under the same roof for XX years.  We were asked by the lawyer to present our marriage certificate and we briefly narrated our history, how long we have been together and the places have lived.  It only took us less than an hour to get this done.

We will be updating you soon on the application of his 13A Permanent Visa once we have his NBI Clearance.

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  1. he doesn't get citizenship just by being married to you?

    1. No, he doesn't, just like I can't easily get his. He needs to apply for a residence visa so he can stay longer without exiting the country every year and for administrative purposes.

  2. This is just an amazing post with such much info. I had always thought that visa to western countries was a nightmare. Just learnt that you have an equally complicated process in Philippines. Your post would surely benefit a lot :-)

    1. Thank you so much and welcome to Travel Gourmande. I truly hope this post provide information to those who are about to embark on the same adventure :)

  3. How long did it take to process the 13a the first time? We were thinking to apply for it as soon as we arrive in the Phils. Hubs has 59 days on his visa, would that be enough time for 13a processing or should he extend his tourist visa before applying for 13a? We plan to submit our application to BoI in Intramuros.

    1. Hello Bianca, 59 days I'm afraid is a big risk. It took us 2 months for the 13a probationary visa process and the 13a permanent one took us an even longer time. You mentioned hubs. I assume you're married? Instead of a tourist visa, why not get a balikbayan visa for him upon arrival at the immigration counter so he has one year stay whether he does so or not. At least this would give you peace of mind, save you additional fees and queueing for tourist visa extension. Good luck on the processing.

  4. Hi. Just want to ask if BI in cebu process applications for non quota permanent visa by marriage?

    1. Hello, yes they do. My husband and I went to B.I. office at J. Centre Mall to process his permanent residence visa and new ACR card.

  5. i'm actually going to the phillipines with the intent to get married in the next 2 months,and i found this article quite timely..i have a couple of question,if i may..do any of these visas allow me to work while i'm there?and when i enter the country i first get a 30 day visa which we plan to extend in order to get married,then we will be going to Singapore for a week,upon our return we will be asking for a balikbayan visa ,howver i'm confused about a forward ticket out..when i first come i have to have a forward ticket,will i need one to enter with a balikbayan visa ?

    1. Hello there, yes you can work with the 13A visa by marriage. You can also be sponsored by a company as an employee as long as you have the Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) and Alien Employment Permit from Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) while you're on Balikbayan Visa. Just take note that if you go down the 13A visa route, you'll have to pay an approximate Php 5k+ exit fees every time you leave the Philippines.

    2. I am afraid you would need a forward ticket. This is just to be on the safe side. The check in counter of your country of departure often asks for it despite assuring them that you will be requesting for a balikbayan visa in the Philippines.
      We encountered the same issue several times prior to 13a. We used to arrange a refundable ticket for my husband exiting the Philippines thru a travel agency. All the best and best wishes to your wedding!

  6. Hello, Can you please give me the name of the new commissioner? I already have the joint letter written. I am doing the same thing like you, My husband and I will be applying his 13a Amendment to Permanent in two weeks. Thanks.

    1. The new/ current commissioner I believe is, Commissioner Jaime H. Morente. Please do check it out here (you'll have to scroll down a lot to find it): http://www.immigration.gov.ph/component/search/?searchword=commissioner&searchphrase=all&Itemid=101 and here: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/915241/70-new-immigration-officers-hired-to-cut-down-long-queues-at-naia

  7. Thank you so Ma'am Arni. I went to the BI website and found out the new commissioner name. Thanks again for your quick response. Really appreciate it.


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