Minors traveling to the Philippines

There are specific immigration concerns for minors traveling to the Philippines.

The Philippines recognizes the family as a basic unit of society and emphasizes on family unity. Also, the country has strict child trafficking, smuggling, children protection laws. So Philippine immigration law dictates that children under 15 years of age, unaccompanied by or not coming to a parent shall not be allowed to enter the country, except that such children shall be admitted in the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration, if otherwise admissible (PIA of 1940). The prevailing practice is that children under 15 years of age who are NOT accompanied by a parent shall NOT be allowed to enter the Philippines.

However, the same law authorizes the Commissioner of Immigration to allow the entry of unaccompanied minors (minors not traveling with a parent) on his discretion upon application of a WAIVER OF EXCLUSION GROUND (WEG). The guardian of the minor may apply for this waiver of exclusion ground in the latter’s behalf. This is the process where an applicant pleads the Commissioner of Immigration that the unaccompanied minor be allowed to enter the Philippines even though he/she is not traveling with a parent.

If a child has a different name from that of the parents, prove that you are the parent/s of the child by bringing a family registry and/or birth certificate and/or adoption papers or any other document which, to your mind, will prove to the immigration officer that you are the parent/s of the minor.

WEG applications may be lodged upon arrival at the airports. It will require the passport of the minor, the passport of the guardian, application form, and a PhP 3,120.oo application fee.

Maximum validity of Philippine ACR I-Card

The Philippine ACR I-Card or the Alien Certificate of Registration Identification Card is the ATM card-size identification card for aliens who are required by law to register (see: http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114&Itemid=61). It contains all documentary requirements of an alien in the Philippines. It is somehow like the USA’s green card, Canada’s permanent resident card, Italy’s Soggiorno card, or Spain’s Permiso card. However, it does not contain the visa. As a rule, Philippine visas are stamped on a passport visa page or pasted, if a sticker. The I-Card only complements the visa. It is NOT the visa. The I-Card’s MAXIMUM validity, unless otherwise indicated, is 5 YEARS from the date of issuance. So, if your ACR I-Card was issued sometime in year 2006 it is most probably already expired even if it does not specify a date on the VALID UNTIL portion of the card. 

If your I-Card is expiring, or is already expired, you MUST apply for renewal of card. If it is lost or damaged, apply for re-issuance of card. This will save you the inconvenience of being denied admission to the Philippines during arrival or disallowed to leave the country on departure. Usually, the validity of the I-Card is consistent with the validity of the visa. Its validity is always within, never beyond, the validity of the visa.

When you are coming to the Philippines with a permanent resident or non-immigrant visa and your I-Card is expired you may be excluded or denied entry depending on the assessment of Philippine immigration officers upon your application for entry on arrival. If you have a valid visa however, you may be allowed to enter the Philippines but ONLY as a tourist/visitor and not as a permanent or resident visa holder. So, even if you have a valid resident visa or immigrant or non-immigrant visa but your I-Card is expired or is not presented, you will be accepted to the Philippines only as a tourist with a limited number of days of allowed stay. During such allowed stay you must be able to apply for the re-issuance or renewal of your I-Card. You must also apply for a change of status from that of a tourist/visitor to your status based on your valid visa.

When an I-Card holder is departing the Philippines, he must secure an emigration clearance certificate (ECC) and re-entry permit (RP). Every departure requires an ECC. RP is valid either for 6 months or 1 year. Both documents are automated and incorporated into the I-Card. Subject to payment of required fees (PhP 2880.00 for those with no RP yet or PhP2170 for those with valid RP), you may secure both documents at the airports prior to departure. Always take note of the validity of your re-entry permit. You may not be allowed entry, upon return, when your re-entry permit is expired.

CAVEAT: Holders of expired ACR I-Cards will NOT be allowed to depart the country because you cannot be issued an ECC and RP. Most probably, your I-Card is expired because your visa is expired. So if your visa is expired and you plan on leaving the country before the visa renewal is approved, you must apply for a grace period. The grace period is the period in which you will be allowed to enjoy your visa status while your visa renewal is on process. If your grace period is expired, your visa renewal is pending at immigration office, your I-Card is expired, and you are planning to leave the country, apply for another grace period. Without the I-Card and without the visa, you will not be allowed to depart the country so that you can comply with your immigration documentary requirements.