The Most Expensive Visa Extension – Ever!
The Philippines is one of the easier countries to get a visa extension, even for longer periods of time. But it comes at a hefty price – and we had to learn that the hard way.
While looking for a new camera in Manila, we realized we had to extend our visa NOW. The expiration date had totally snuck up on us and we only had a few days to remedy the situation. Warnings all over the Internet about the Manila Bureau of Immigration made us quite wary. Even Lonely Planet urged not to use the Manila office and warned of long, long lines.
But we didn’t have a choice. With the looming threat of becoming illegal aliens, we ducked into the big, blocky immigration building. What we saw was beyond our imagination. Instead of a dark, maze-like nightmare, we saw a light-colored, airy office that seemed very well organized.
Using their expedited service, they promised to deliver our visa extensions within the hour. We were extremely impressed. At least, until we went over to the cashier. He presented us calmly with a $340 bill for our 2 extensions. At first, we started laughing. But when the cashier looked back at us stoically, we realized he was being serious.
How could this be? We had gotten our initial 59-day visa in Bangkok for $40 each. Well, a recent change to the visa extension process now requires tourists to pay for a Filipino ID card if they want to stay longer than 59 days. With this card, visitors can open bank accounts or rent apartments. (Yeah, how about just using a passport?)
Needless to say, we were outraged. We ran out of the building after Tony gave them a speech about corruption and stealing from tourists. We were so ready to get out of the Philippines. After we calmed down, however, we realized it didn’t make sense to leave. We had just bought our non-refundable flight tickets to Palawan in the west of the Philippines. So, with our heads held low, we went back inside and paid up.
7,630 Pesos each! This is the largest amount we have ever paid for a visa or an extension. And what a sham. The total bill was comprised of ten different fees and taxes including $50 for the ID card and $30 for the express lane. And did you notice my official height on the card? 5,364 centimeters! You would think after paying 50 bucks for a piece of plastic, they would at least get my height right. Sure, I’ve always wanted to be a little taller, but 53 meters (175 ft)? Really?