(Article published in the Jun 30,2003 issue of TODAY, Business Section)
estate planning just might get an unexpected boost from the new initiative
of the Philippine Leisure and Retirement Authority (PLRA) to attract
retirees to come for an extended stay in the Philippines to make an
informed decision to take up or not take up residence in the country.
If through the program enough foreigners come to our sunny isles
and like what they see, then there just might be a thriving niche for
estate planning practitioners who specialize on foreigners who choose the
Philippines as their retirement home.
the PLRA and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) entered into a Memorandum of
Agreement (MOA) that put in place the very first requirement needed to
attract foreign retirees to visit the country to see for themselves
whether they would like to come and settle here --a visa that entitles
them to stay long enough to learn and like the place.
Two visas, in fact, were designed for this purpose: first, a
Special Visitor’s Visa (SVV); and second, a Special Retiree Visitor’s
Visa (SRVV). Since the main
purpose is to give the visitor ample time to make up his or her mind, they
are referred to as the “Look-see Visas”.
Look-see Visas are granted to foreign nationals (natural persons, of
course) who have contracted, directly or indirectly, to stay for not less
than a continuous four week (28 calendar days) period at one, or at a
series of, resorts, hotels and establishments that are accredited by
either the Department of Tourism (DOT) or by the PLRA and are currently
certified by the American Association of Foreign Retirement Resorts (AAFRR)
as suitable for accommodating extended stay foreign retirees.
confers on the holder the same privileges and duties as an ordinary
visitor’s visa --free mobility within the country during the period of
the authorized stay, for pleasure or for investment prospecting, and for
reasons of health ; but cannot engage in gainful employment or do
business. But, instead of the
usual twenty-one (21) day period, he is given all of thirty-one (31)
calendar days. In effect, he
is awarded with an automatic extension of ten (10) days.
automatic extension, is not to be scoffed at.
While for many an extension is something that is routinely granted,
strictly speaking, an extension is not a matter of right.
A temporary visitor acquires no right to remain in the Philippines
beyond his authorized period. Extensions
of stay are a matter of grace which are strictly interpreted.
Just as the entry and admission of an alien are matters of
privilege, an extension of stay is discretionary on part of the
Commissioner of Immigration who is under no ministerial duty to grant it
the SVV, which is costs the program participant only Php 500 for the
additional ten (10) days, not only frees the visitor from the hassle of a
trip to the BI seeking as extension, but also removes the risk, no matter
how small in the eyes of many aliens, that the extension will not be
granted. It also gives him
more lee-way and opportunities to plan his out-of-town trips to see the
those who are not content with the opportunity to go looking around and
would like to actually try out life in the Philippines for a longer
period, the appropriate visa is the SRVV which comes at the cost of Php
8,500 visa fee. Participants
with this visa are given up to one (1) year of authorized stay from date
of arrival. They, like the
SVV holders, are also expected to have contracted to stay at places
accredited by the DOT or by the PLRA and certified by the AAFRR.
program participant need not choose between the two new products being
offered to him by the PLRA and the BI. One can initially ask for the SVV
and then, should he wish to continue staying to try things out, apply for
the SRVV. All he has to do is
to apply in writing for conversion of his status from SVV to SRVV holder
at least ten (10) days prior to the expiration of the thirty-one (31) day
period initially given to him. It
is important, however, that the program participant files his application
for conversion with the PLRA, which will forward it to the BI within the
ten (10) day period because the BI will not entertain any request for
conversion unless endorsed by the PLRA.
the SVV and SRVV are marketing tools,--they are expected to increase the
patronage of the accredited institutions as well as of the country’s
tourist facilities in general, not to mention bring in the visitor’s
spending dollars, and eventually convince the visitor to settle in the
country that would then consequently reap the benefits promised by the
concept behind the formation of the PLRA,--the visitors are met with the
red carpet upon their arrival. Five days prior to their arrival. The PLRA
will give the details of their coming to the BI which is bound to forward
the relevant list to its officials at the designated points of entry and
provide representatives of the PLRA with the necessary passes they may
need to meet the incoming participants at deplaning point.
participants are to be met at their designated ports of entry by duly
accredited persons to promote the extended stay program, called
“Marketers” and, if the participants come as a group of more than ten
(10) at a time, by an authorized PLRA representative whose function is to
help gather them together for ease of processing and assist them comply
fully with BI entry procedures and requirements.
for purposes of control and monitoring, to see to it that the program
participants are duly taken care of as well as to insure continued
compliance with the requirements of the program (after all, not all the
intending retirees are angels and both the BI and the PLRA were not born
yesterday), the PLRA and the participating resorts, hotels and
establishments are at all times to account for and be responsible for
monitoring the visitors’ compliance with the conditions of their SVV or
SRVV status. Violations are
to be reported immediately to the BI which will take the appropriate
action under the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 (C.A. No. 613), as
expiration of the respective periods of their SVV or SRVV status, both of
which are non-extendible, the visitors are to promptly leave the country
and those who fail to depart at that time are to be reported by the PLRA
and/or the participating resorts, hotels and establishments to the BI.
without deciding to stay does not foreclose the possibility of a retiree
eventually wanting to settle here. Thus,
program participants are given the opportunity, in good faith, to return
and further look and see. Thus,
if after the first visit, the foreign retiree thinks that he has to go
home and think things over, or, his trip is unexpectedly cut short due to
a death in the family or unforeseen twist of fortune in his home country,
he could leave the Philippines and be assured that he is welcome to return
under the program. Should he
decide to resume his look-see visit, the previous periods used during his
first and prior visits are not counted against him.
Each entry is treated as new and the retiree is accorded the same
privileges every time he visits under the program as if he is doing it the