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.

New Visa Regulations in the Philippines

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.

ID Card for Foreigners in the Philippines

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?

12 responses to “The Most Expensive Visa Extension – Ever!”

  1. avatar plutocrat says:

    Thomas. I sympathise with you. I’ve been living here for three years and the first six months was a constant battle with the crooks at Immigration. I went there three times to renew, and each time I went, they’d introduced some new fee or other. Asking, for example, why there are two express fees, is met with a shrug … “Because there are”.

    The last time I went there, I turned up and was refused entry. The thug in mirror shades at the door just pointed at a sign on the door, written in pen, which said “No shorts or flip-flops” My alternatives were to go home, change clothes and come back (about 4 hours through rush hour traffic), or pay the smirking Fixer standing by the door an extra 1500 pesos. I think the total for that was about 6,500 pesos, and that was without the residency card they seem to have introduced recently.

    Those guys are on a serious power trip. They have no accountability and they are systematically ripping off all the tourists. I really wish there was something I could do to change things.

  2. avatar Thomas says:

    I honestly don’t remember what we were wearing when we went to the immigration office, but I’m glad they didn’t send us back.

    It’s amazing what you have to think of. “Fortunately,” things can easily be solved with some extra cash.

  3. avatar bert says:

    This is the dark side of our country..People are friendly, lots of amazing places, but our government sucks big time! Oh, and our policemen too…

    • avatar Thomas says:

      I guess, you can’t have it all. I want to say Germany is much better when it comes to corruption. Then again, Germans are not known for their friendliness and nothing in Germany compares to the amazing beaches and the fantastic underwater world of the Philippines.

  4. avatar kitty says:

    Really sad to hear this happen. My uncle-by-marriage is an American expat who retired in the Philippines. His company did all the paperwork until his retirement. Then he had to do it “the right way” via the office in Intramuros. Not only were his fees ridiculous, they kept delaying the release of his paperwork.
    Doing it the right way in the Phils is never the right way, it seems. That’s why even the nicest people know all the shady people and workarounds, cause they have to know how to evade the even shadier branches of government -its a survival technique in our country.

  5. avatar Gringo (yep that's my name) says:

    I call this dark-comedy. 😛 I’d be bummed out myself if I get to pay that much an extension.. I hope it was worth it, though.

  6. avatar pating says:

    im a filipino and i just hate THE SYSTEM here in the philippines. i dont know the other side of the story why and how you got that very big rediculous bill but its really rampant here in the philippines… these things make me feel ashamed of being a filipino sometimes. its not about filipinos it all about the system…

  7. avatar Maria says:

    Not nice! but I paid for nearly a hundred UK Pounds for initial tourist visa to China in 2010. Also in 2001, i paid nearly a hundred pounds for a tourist visa to Russia. Daylight robbery! at least the first 21 days in Phil is free.

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Maria, that’s true, the first 21 days are free. But the Philippines is way too big to be explored in a 3-week period. Even 5 months weren’t enough for us!

  8. avatar Gary says:

    Try a 6 month extension with ACIR, P13,500. But, that’s the price, it’s consistent between the Cebu and Tacloban offices I’ve used. If you want to stay here without fees, Special Retiree Resident Visa is the way to go. $20,000 US or 1 million pesos deposit, and no more hassles. You can even make investments with the deposited money and collect the interest.

  9. avatar Rob Tompson says:

    Its disgraceful how the Philippines is ripping tourists off with there visa prices and it is one of the reasons myself and my friends have chosen to go to thailand and spend our money there with a Visa costing far less than the RIP off prices charged by the Philippines.we went for a 70 day stay in the Philippines and had to pay nearly 12,000 pesos each.They charge you for a I’d card that you have to come back for at a later date so most tourists don’t actually even recieve the worthless I’d card anyway.Avoid the Philippines and go somewhere that is not wanting you to spend your hard earned money and then rip you off with a expensive visa for your troubles.

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