Bureau of Immigration COVID-19-Related Issuances
With the issuance by President Rodrigo Duterte of Proclamation No. 929 series of 2020 on 16 March 2020 [which declared: (i) a State of Calamity throughout the Philippines due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 for a period of six (6) months, and (ii) the imposition of an Enhanced Community Quarantine (“ECQ”) throughout Luzon until 12 April 2020], land, air and sea travels have been restricted by the government.
Pursuant thereto, the Bureau of Immigration (“BI”) has issued various advisories relating to transactions with them:
- Temporary Suspension of Transactions with the BI
`The BI has issued an Advisory to the Public dated 19 March 2020 directing that the following transactions with the BI have been temporarily suspended, except as to outbound passengers intending to depart from the Philippines during the effectivity of the ECQ:
- Filing of applications for extension of/conversion to non-immigrant/immigrant visa including hearing/interview;
- Filing of applications regarding Filipino citizenship including hearing/interview;
- Filing for downgrading of visa status;
- Filing for extension of tourist visa;
- Filing of applications for Special Work Permits/Provisional Work Permits;
- Filing for the renewal of ACR I-Cards; and
- Implementation of BOC-approved visa applications for extension of/conversion to non-immigrant/immigrant visa.
All aliens whose visa will expire during the duration of the ECQ shall be allowed to file their applications for extension provided they file their applications within thirty (30) days from the lifting of the ECQ.
Additionally, under the Note with Recommendation dated 24 March 2020, all process and pending applications for the following are suspended and shall remain on pending status except for urgent matter and for unrestricted passengers intending to depart:
- Grace Period;
- Inclusion and Lifting of Alert List;
- Non-immigrant Visa under Executive Order No. 226 as amended by Republic Act No. (“RA”) 8756;
- Retention and Reacquisition of Philippine Citizenship under RA 9225; and
- Recognition as Philippine Citizen.
Relatedly, the BI has suspended the Board of Commissioners agenda for the entire period of the ECQ. Further, in the interest of public health, safety and security, the BI has deemed appropriate to defer applications of visas and resume normal transactions by 13 April 2020 or once the ECQ is lifted or amended.
- Securing ECCs at International Airports for 9(a) Visa Holders
An ECC is issued to (a) temporary visitors, i.e., holders of 9(a) visas, who have stayed in the Philippines for more than six months, and (b) holders of residence, work, or student visas who wish to leave the country for good.
Pursuant to its Press Release dated 26 March 2020, the BI declared that holders of temporary visitor’s visa/9(a) visas, who have stayed in the country for less than one year, may acquire their ECC at the international airports instead of the BI offices. Further, biometrics capturing and fingerprinting, and the issuance of Special Security Registration Numbers (SSRNs) as requirements for processing of ECCs have also been suspended.
- Dispensing with the Requirements of Securing an Alien Certificate Of Registration Identity Card (“ACR I-Card”) Waiver
An ACR I-Card Waiver is required if a foreign national departs from the Philippines after the implementation of the 9(g) Visa, but prior to the issuance of the ACR I-Card.
Under BI Note with Recommendation dated 23 March 2020 approved by the BI Commissioner on even date, during the ECQ, departing passengers with approved and implemented visas but pending release of their ACR I-Cards will no longer be required to secure ACR I-Card Waiver Order from the BI. In lieu of the ACR I-Card Waiver, the departing foreign national should present to the Immigration Officer the following:
- Passport with valid visa (implementation stamp) affixed therein; and
- Official Receipts (“OR”) of their:
- ACR I-Card Waiver Application Fee; and
- Emigration Clearance Certificate (“ECC”)/Returning Permit or ECC/Special Resident Certificate, whichever is application.
- Suspension of Arrivals by Foreign Nationals starting 22 March 2020
In its Press Release dated 20 March 2020, the BI announced that it will be implementing a total suspension of the entry of foreign nationals to the Philippines starting 22 March 2020, including temporarily restricting the entry of foreign nationals who have converted to both immigrant and non-immigrant visas, those under visa waiver agreements, as well as special visa holders, in accordance with Foreign Service Circular No. 29-2020 which suspends visa issuance and visa-free privileges for foreign nationals arriving in the Philippines.
Exempted from this suspension are foreign spouses and children who are traveling with a Filipino national, foreign crew members, as well as foreign government and International Organization officials accredited to the Philippines.
- NAIA Operations
In a Press Release dated 29 March 2020, the BI relocated all its offices and operations at Terminals 2 and 3, to Terminal 1 where all flights to and from NAIA shall take place.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) earlier announced that it was moving all its operations to NAIA’s Terminal 1 in view of the suspension of many flights by different airlines due to the ECQ.
 BI Note with Recommendation re: Amended Skeletal Workforce Schedule dated 19 March 2020.