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Filipino American Expat in Singapore

Posts from the Immigration Category

Surprise, it’s faster this year!

I got my ACR I-Card Annual Report completed in less than 30 minutes. It’s a pleasant surprise because I did it on the first working day of 2017. That’s a record-breaking completion after having doing this for several years.

This is assuming you have all your papers in good standing. For this, I open this journal entry with a “good job” Bureau of Immigration – Manila!

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Displayed with large texts because there are many elderly who file for this each year.

ANNUAL REPORT 2017

Like in recent years, the Annual Report steps are displayed in large texts. It’s streamlined effectively into three steps: EVALUATION, ASSESSMENT, and PAYMENT.

I noticed this year they created a PAYMENT counter at the open area outside of the main building. This helps ease traffic for the people doing the annual report. No longer having to crowd inside the main building and queuing side by side with the rest of the public who are paying for other transactions at the bureau. Good job.

I hope it could be done like this every year.

ACR I-CARD RENEWAL

Now, we move onto my ACR I-Card renewal. It has been five years since I experienced hell at this same building.

Let’s recall in 2012 the endless queues on those horrific January mornings. I remember the people holding ACR I-Cards that were printed WITHOUT EXPIRY DATES. Stories of people being held up at the airport because when the Immigration Officer (IO) checked their ACR I-Card, it was expired! And poor souls, true enough when you look at their cards… the expiry portion is BLANK! WTF talaga.

You can imagine the anxiety I have for my ACR I-Card Renewal going into 2017. However, I gave positive thoughts. The BI has improved over the years based on how they seem to improve the Annual Report each year. I can see improvements in efficiency. LORD. Salamat.

  • Total Cost: PHP 2,988.50
  • Total Time to Accomplish Submission of Documents: 4 hours

For the complete process for the ACR I-Card Renewal, visit this page on the BI website. It’s what I used to prepare my documents.

George’s Tips:

  1. Prepare all the documents and place them in the proper order.
  2. Put them into a folder 8×14 (see website for details).
  3. Have a pen, stapler, binder, …all of these extra stuff in your bag just in case.
  4. It helps to smile even if you must fake it. Nothing helps if you are mean to the people at the windows. Imagine they have to deal with hundreds of grumpy faces everyday.

I will admit… people need a stroke of luck when dealing with the BI. Sometimes your papers are all correct and in order. But with the shuffling between windows or photocopying… something can easily fall out of place. Or a misplaced document might not even be your fault. Andami kasing papel!

Luckily, no problems with my paperwork. I followed procedure. I went to the BI armed with information available on the BI website. I hope they keep that website updated with the processes. Kasi malaking tulong na po ito!

The renewal processing will take 3-4 weeks. I heard someone actually say one month. I have authorised my parents to claim it on my behalf. Again, visit the website for details!

Next… because I work in Singapore… I need a…

ACR I-CARD WAIVER

I don’t have the luxury of waiting 3 to 4 weeks for the release of my new ACR I-Card. While I believe this whole waiver could be streamlined if they changed the rule to “KEEP YOUR OLD CARD UNTIL THE NEW ONE IS ISSUED.” … sayang naman if BI can’t cash in on another process.

So I applied for my ACR I-Card Waiver. Which in itself takes three to four days to process. Their website says apply for the waiver at least 48 hours before your scheduled departure. Eh how!

Learn how you can apply for an ACR I-Card Waiver by visiting this page on the BI website. I used the information there to help me apply for mine.

Because of the website, I arrived prepared with my letter addressed to the commissioner (derecho talaga sa commissioner wow). You have to get the letter stamped and they do a check if you have any derogatory record.

  • Cost of Waiver including the Express Lane Fee: PHP 1,010.00
  • Total Cost including the Exit Permits, etc.: PHP 3,180.00
  • Total Duration (achieved with some running between windows): 1 hour

Included is the Exit Permit, Clearance, etc. which is normally paid at the airport prior to departure. The IO at the window issues me a six months waiver after I informed him I’ll be back in the Philippines in April. On the receipt it says “Grace Period”. I have to claim the waiver tomorrow or on Friday.

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OVERALL

It will take much to completely reform my view of the Bureau of Immigration in Manila. Because when I was a teenager, I remember a lady at one of the windows here asking for (about) my mom’s jewellery. Which is the most absurd thing di ba. Grabe, alahas talaga. Pwede ba Jollibee lang?

But over the years, processes seem to be improving at least in speed. Seeing younger faces at the BI gives me some hope. The saddest thing is having young and promising government officers be influenced by the ways of old. By the stinking system of yesteryear.

Continue improving, BI Manila. 🙂

I was like, why are you so obsessed with me? LOL. Read about my ACR I-Card experiences documented in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This is the third year I’m sharing my experience in filing my annual report (AR) at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) main office in Intramuros, Manila. If it is in anyway useful, you can read about my experiences in 2014 and 2015. Do be forewarned if I was ranting in the previous instalments.

What’s the AR? It’s a requirement for ACR I-Card Holders (Alien Certificate of Registration) to report in person to the BI within the first 60 days of the calendar year.

I’ve had traumatic experiences at the BI with epic queues and overly bureaucratic procedures. I thought, who else writes about this? The senior citizens clutching their brown envelopes in confusion?

Giving credit where it is due, I have observed that in recent years… things DO LOOK BETTER. There are true blue express lanes for Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). These days you will see younger immigration staff who are far more welcoming than their roughened superiors. The AR itself is now a three-step “simple” process.

Since I’ve been based in Singapore since 2012, filing for my annual report must be done during my annual “Christmas holiday” in the Philippines. It’s the sexy part of my holiday itinerary. Sadly leeching on my precious paid leave days.

What’s the secret to getting it done quickly?
(more…)

It’s that time of the year again when ACR I-Card Holders in the Philippines have to troop to the Bureau of Immigration and file their annual report.

Since I’m working in Singapore, I have to extend my holiday leave to cover at least one or two working days of 2015. I went to the bureau on 5th January, the first working day of 2015.

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I was anticipating crowds who were rushing to file their annual report. We have to physically file within the first 60 days of the year or face penalties.

The annual report fee is PHP 310.00. The same as in previous years.

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While the setup may change as crowds thin out over the next few weeks, here were the four steps during the crowded first working day.

Step 1 – Evalutation. You show the officer your ACR I-Card. The officer will input data on his/her computer.

Step 2 – Queuing. Once you are cleared by the evaluator. He/she will issue you a queue stub number.

Step 3 – Assessor. Show them your ACR I-Card and then he/she will issue you the invoice stating how much you need to pay (PHP 310.00).

Step 4 – Payment. Pay the cashier the amount in the invoice. And then you are done.

It took me 3 and a half hours to complete the four steps above during my visit on January 5, 2015.

“Improvements” would be the queueing system and the large signs saying where you should go. The immigration staff I encountered were courteous. Even if you are exhausted while waiting for your turn, it pays to smile at them as well because in fairness it felt like they were dealing with hundreds of people that day. Improvement is the senior citizen/PWD lane. I saw many in wheelchairs and I saw so many elderly clutching their brown folders… Surrounded by hundreds of people.

There can be ways to streamline the process of the annual report.

– Payment available thru electronic means (e.g. Credit card, debit card)
– Annual report that is staggered according to your last filing (e.g. July 2014 was last filing, must file before July 2015 and not within the crunch time of first 60 days of the year; useful for ACR I-Card holders who are working abroad).
– Space. The building is overcrowded.
– Sign that says how much is the standard annual report (PHP 310.00) so people can prepare before they reach the cashier. Instead of causing a delay.
– More windows for Step 3 Assessor. It was a bottleneck there when some card holders were stuck due to some reason.

It’s that time of the year when foreigners residing in the Philippines have to troop over to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to file their annual report. Holders of the super digital and incredibly innovative ACR I-Card (Alien Certificate of Registration) have to report to the BI within the first sixty (60) days of the year to settle a fee.

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After my traumatising experience during the renewal of my ACR I-Card in 2012, I hate visiting the BI in Intramuros. It is stressful and having a degree in broadcast journalism makes me hyper critical and highly observant (e.g. long time to return change, staring contest, red tape… so on). When I went to the bureau this morning I was already expecting to spend the whole day there just to process my annual report because the deadline is March 1. [ACR I-Card holders who are abroad during the first 60 days of the year are allowed to just fly back to the country to settle this within the first 30 days, if I am not mistaken… so take that with a grain of salt].

OK ranting about BI is so passe na. I’ll get to it. My experience this year at the BI in Intramuros.

  • Date: 24 February 2014 (Monday) — a few days before the “60 days” deadline ends.
  • Approximate time to finish everything: 1 hour only — despite lots of people, see notes below
  • Annual Report Fee this year: PHP 310.00
  • MUST BRING: Original Passport (not just a photocopy), ACR I-Card (duh), a 2×2 or passport-sized picture that will be pasted onto the form, extra ballpen and your own folder to keep things organized
  • WILL HELP: Bring all your past receipts of Annual Reports just in case some glitch forgot to record your previous payment into their system. Know your parents’ passport numbers and have them ready. Know everything about your status in the Philippines like what visa you have been issued with.

Steps for the 2014 Annual Report

MY STEP 1. Once inside the building, follow the blue line to the back area. It leads down a hallway where you exit the side of the building where tents are set up. Get the new 4-page form and fill it up. There are high tables and plenty of space to write stuff. [Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask around. Dahil, we are all in this together. Do note the people you are queued with so you can determine if you are going in the right direction.]

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MY STEP 2. After accomplishing the form which requires details about your parents passports, get in the queue for [PRE-EVALUATION]. This took only 10-15 minutes for me even if the tents were full of people. There were about four or five officers handling the crowd all at once which was himala (that’s Tagalog for “Miracle”, fantastic. Kudos sa naka-isip na ‘to. The nice evaluator I got skimmed through my accomplished form to individually verify each item I wrote vis-a-vie my passport.

There’s a Senior Citizen lane. +5 points, BI.

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MY STEP 3. After this, proceed to the [ISSUANCE OF QUEUE NUMBER] back inside the main hall. You basically get in queue to get a queue number. Took about 5 minutes and there was a cute officer pa nga. Uhm, hi. Taga-La Salle ka rin?

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MY STEP 4. Hold onto your number and walk a few steps to the center of the main hall where the [ANNUAL REPORT PROCESSING AREA] is located. Wait for your number to appear on the screen. This took about 15 to 20 minutes, with a room full of people. In fairness, it was FAST and a far cry from my 2012 mental breakdown during renewal which took three days.

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MY STEP 5. Once your number appears, head to the designated counter indicated sa screen (e.g. Counter 1) and then hand the nice officer your form. He/she will do an assessment and if clear *fingers crossed*, it gets handed back to you with a [PAYMENT ORDER] slip which indicates how much you have to pay. This time it was a standard PHP 310.00. Walang express lane fee… pag may express lane fee hindi naman ganitong kabilis. Slide to the next counter to settle your payment. Expect the spiel: “Sir, may ten pesos kayo?”

MY STEP 6. Done! I deserve Jollibee or authentic Savoury chicken.

My experience of the Annual Report 2014 went by smoothly.

However, the nice man in front of me during pre-evaluation apparently had an issue that his address had changed when it didn’t change at all. At some point during the pre-evaluation to assessment, he was told that he had to file a “change of address” document of some sort and to have it notarized… he patiently explained to the assessment officer in front of me that his address hadn’t changed at all. The officer elder initiated a staring contest with the man’s forms… if you get what I mean.

Eventually the earnest man’s patience and voice tone worked and the staring contest ended… the elder officer crossed out the “discrepancy” on the form and the nice man got to leave without having to repeat X-amount of processes. Kind of weird na na-hold siya sa ganon… “change of address” was indicated but the guy’s address was the same on the form with the one written on his ACR I-Card. Paano nangyari yun.

Tips:

  • Go early.
  • Be patient and try to smile. (I smiled at one of the Sisters there.)
  • When in doubt, ask people. Conditions or counters change and they will be updated with what’s happening or be just as clueless as you.
  • Bring your old Annual Report receipts to avoid having to double pay something.

To the BI, things have improved with this cycle. +1 point in the restoration of my faith with this bureau.

Share your stories at the BI this year or in previous years!

Let me end with the parting chat I had with my evaluator in Step 1. In a friendly conversation (not interview) she curiously asked me why I was in the Philippines (and not in the United States).

Dahil kahit ganito, mahal ko ang Pilipinas.