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13A Visa - Applying in the US vs. Applying in the Philippines


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Up until about February of 2020, a common piece of advice was to apply for your 13A Permanent Resident Visa while in the US.  Unfortunately, when the COIVD lockdowns and travel restrictions kicked in, applying from the US was not possible.  So,  the only way to apply was to enter the Philippines, as a spouse of a Filipino, with a formal 9A tourist visa, and apply from within the Philippines.  i ended up taking a shot at both: got the entire 13A application done to turn in to the San Francisco Consulate, all the while hoping they would re-open, and then put a whole different package together to apply at the Bureau of Immigration here in the Philippines.  You'd think these would be similar processes, and maybe they once were.  I can tell from reading old posts, that once upon a time a medical screening was always required - and lo and behold, none was needed when I went to the BI yesterday.  And that wasn't the only difference.  So...thought I'd lay out a comparison of the two, with the pros and cons of each, in case someone else is straddling the fence on which way to jump.

First...some caveats  I worked off required document checklists from the San Francisco Consulate visa section provided a year ago.  When they reopen, who knows if they will still be the same.  Meanwhile, the checklist from the BI website seemed to like the old phrase "well...it's more of a guideline".  There were some fundamental differences between what the BI checklist said was required, and what the package finally looked like.  I don't know how much of that was due to a lack of BI website updates, and how much was due to local differences between the Angeles City Branch and say, Cebu, or Dumaguete.   If others have applied at some different BI office, and see other differences, they might want to speak up.  I also don't know how much the differences are due to my starting with San Francisco's guidance, pre-COVID, and ended up with the BI website, post-COVID, and what changes on the BI package were a reaction to changes along the way.  I can say, the info seemed to be fairly stable .  Regardless...this is kind of a snapshot in time presentation.

Having said all that, a comparison:

San Francisco (pre-COVID) document requirements:

Petition Letter from wife sponsoring my 13A - notarized                                                                       Typed online application form (says "Foreign Service" in the upper left corner

Local government certification of criminal record check                                                                        Medical Lab report (less than 6 months old}

Medical certification form from Family doctor                                                                                         Chest X Ray (less than 6 months old)

Financial records showing I can support myself                                                                                      Wife's Philippine Government ID (in her case: Dual Citizenship Certificate)

Marriage Certificate - original                                                                                                                   Wife's passport

My Passport

Current Bureau of Immigration website requirements

Provide 2 10x14 legal file folders - one for the 13A application, and one for the ACR card application

Application form printed from website (not the same as Foreign Service version).  Need two copies, both filled out by hand, in English, Capital Letters only.  One copy goes in the 13A Visa folder, and one in the ACR card folder

Petition letter, addressed to local BI administrator, notarized                                                                Wife's Philippine Government ID (in her case: Dual Citizenship Certificate)

Marriage Certificate - original                                                                                                                   Wife's passport bio page

My Passport bio page, and page with entry stamp                                                                                 Medical clearance certificate (the one issued at immigration after the COVID test)

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) background check                                                                      For ACR Card: 2 passport photos

What the Angles City Office actually required and will accept:

Two copies of application form, on 10/14 legal size paper, copied on the local "fixer's" xerox machine

Petition letter, Standard prescribed format -  not notarized                                                                  Wife's Philippine Government ID (in her case: Dual Citizenship Certificate)

Marriage Certificate - copy                                                                                                                      PSA copy of Report of Marriage (since we were married in the US)                          

Wife's passport bio page                                                                                                                          My Passport bio page

NBI background check                                                                                                                             A copy of my birth certificate 

No passport photos - they'll take your picture when you submit                                                                              

My approach, if you think there's value to following my example:  I went to the BI office 100% convinced it would take more than one trip.  Despite following the BI website carefully, and coming with a full package, absolutely was sure something would need to be fixed.  So my initial trip was intended to find out what's wrong and know what to fix and then come back and feel I had what they REALLY wanted.  I also brought along some of the San Francisco package documents,  and anything else I could think to bring, just in case - which was good because suddenly I needed my birth certificate.  Also...went through an animated discussion over the NBI background check.  The BI website says you only need it if your first entry was more than 6 months ago.  So I figured...OK...I entered Oct 5, 3 weeks ago...don't need it.  That elicited a two phase set of discussions.  First, never mind the 6 month rule, need an NBI check even if you've only been here 24 hours...at least you do in Angeles City.  Second...the operative words were "first entry"...my first entry wasn't Oct 5, it was February 1987.  So I'm now scheduled for my NBI appointment to wrap this up.

The second thing that put a lid on it: "Conveniently" next door to the BI office is an "office supply" store.  Of course, he's there dealing with BI patrons all day, selling them things like legal folders and doing photo copying and so on.  AND...he knows the BI documentation requirements cold.  A "fixer" in other words.  He put together the above package, did the photo copying, and scheduled my NBI appointment.  Best 700 pesos I ever paid.  I had gone in with the intent of seeing if I could find one of those guys, and there was one smart enough to set up shop next door.  These guys work daily with the BI staff.  If they set you up, the BI office takes it, you're done.  Very well worth the money, especially since, as you can see, you're never gonna know when you're really dealing with a full deck, regardless of the source.

One other thing if you're deciding between waiting out the COVID closures and submitting from the US, versus submitting from in-country: while the packages (however they manifest themselves), are simpler at the BI office, the result is many weeks worth of waiting for the visa and ACR card to show up, and the visa is a probationary visa, only good for one year.  Then you have to reapply for permanent residency.  There is an expedited process that takes 3 weeks, but it costs nearly $1000.  Meanwhile, if you apply in the States, you get a permanent visa up front, in three or four weeks....but no ACR card.  If you decide to wait out the COVID intrusion, don't be surprised if anything or everything above changes.  The biggest message to carry away.  In general, I found the stateside consulates put up more stable websites, keep them up to date, and provide more details on just what they want.  Any BI website maybe should be taken with a grain of salt - it will get you started, but you have to go see those guys to really find out how to finish.  Something about that scenario is just so typically Filipino, that if it really bothers you, you might wanna reconsider living here.

A final observation worth mentioning on my experience vs. my predecessors: if you go to the BI website, you see that the emphasis is on Converting your current visa to a Permanent Non-Quota visa.  I know that pre-COVID, the 13A required documentation more like what was requested by the San Francisco Consulate.  Previously, you applied for a 13A even if you didn't have any other kind of visa...and most Americans didn't have any other visa when they applied.  Now, you have to have a formal 9A visa just to get here to apply.  It might be that the current BI requirements reflect that situation - hence "conversion" is the emphasis.  I also noted that, to get my 9A, I had to submit full financial info previously required for the 13A.  I thought that was weird at the time, since it was for a tourist visa.  Regardless, they may have decided that asking for it again was redundant.  Don't know.  Someone who applied earlier is in a better position to know how today's BI requirements from in-country compare to yester-year's. 

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Great info!  Thanks for sharing!  I'm sure many will benefit!

 

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The process slows quite a bit if you get an NBI "hit" because you have the same name as someone wanted "in connection with a homicide" and numerous other charges.  Believe me, when they call in the detective, that will put a serious pucker in your shorts. :Caught:

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19 hours ago, DaveB said:

There is an expedited process that takes 3 weeks, but it costs nearly $1000. 

How long does the regular slow process take?

 

19 hours ago, DaveB said:

 to get my 9A, I had to submit full financial info previously required for the 13A.

Meaning if you're already on a 9a, financial records aren't required for a 13a if done within the PH? It's only in your San Fran requirements.

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A most helpful post DaveB. 

Many thanks . :smile:

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5 hours ago, Mike J said:

The process slows quite a bit if you get an NBI "hit" because you have the same name as someone wanted "in connection with a homicide" and numerous other charges.  Believe me, when they call in the detective, that will put a serious pucker in your shorts. :Caught:

Yeah...I considered that...you could be dancing if your name is John Jones.  Fortunately, my name is Floyd Braaten...and in all of Washington State there was only one other of those.  So I'm low risk...assuming no one stole my identity.  Little spooky that I have a 33 year history coming and going here.  Who knows what's out there.

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2 hours ago, Shady said:

How long does the regular slow process take?

 

Meaning if you're already on a 9a, financial records aren't required for a 13a if done within the PH? It's only in your San Fran requirements.

I THINK i remember the fixer saying the 13A takes about 6 weeks.  From past posts I had heard that the ACR takes about 6 months...however, the fixer was telling me he had one client who had been waiting 8 months so far.  

As for the financial records...yeah...they were required for the 9A visa and not requested here for the 13A (but I had them with me, along with all the medical stuff, just in case because I was suspicious that the local application was so simplified...didn't quite trust what I was reading off the website.)

I'd like to insert a little assumption that the PI government noted some info was redundant and streamlined the 13A accordingly.  It would have been a little out of character for them to do so, but I'm happy to spot them the benefit of the doubt. 

I do want to repeat what I hope is obvious.  My tale is more the overview of the "lesson learned" about working paper processes and dealing with local twists on the tale.  I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of great expert on BI processes in the Philippines - this is how it worked for me, and I'd bet there's a dozen or more variations on the specifics across the country.  I think the message to carry forward: go into it with the idea that the best way to address these things is get a package together and consider it a strawman, present it, then get a definitive set of changes to make and come back with the final set with some confidence you now have it right.

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Great info Dave.  I was going to do a post on this very subject after I get my ACR card but you hit most (if not all) of the things involved.

I will still probably add to this topic later though as I did my VISA while I was in the USA.

Great Job!😀

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Thank you for the detailed information Dave! If we can ever get over there, we will probably be going through the same process in Angeles.

So, do you anticipate being able to complete the entire process in Angeles, without any trips to Manila?

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6 hours ago, strap said:

Thank you for the detailed information Dave! If we can ever get over there, we will probably be going through the same process in Angeles.

So, do you anticipate being able to complete the entire process in Angeles, without any trips to Manila?

We almost had to go to Manila.  The guy who initially screened our documents was baffled by my wife's dual citizenship certificate.  One of the documents you note above was she had to provide a government issued ID.  Right across the top of the dual citizenship certificate it says "Certificate of Identification".  He said we had to go to Intramuros to get that validated.  My wife argued with him.  He finally went in and got an immigration officer who came out and looked at it and immediately said it was acceptable.  Whenever dealing with people tasked to review a standard solution, they only know to accept what they've been told to accept.  If you strongly believe they just aren't informed, ask for someone up the chain to take a look.  Politely.  That same officer clarified our confusion over the NBI background check.

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