The Queen City of the South has many charms. From pristine beaches and awesome mountainscapes to its vibrant nightlife and thrilling food scene, Cebu doesn’t disappoint.
Chances are you’ll end up wanting to stay longer than planned. To do that, you’ll need to request for a visa extension ideally at least a week before your visa expires. This guide explains how and what to expect.
Citizens of over 150 countries can enter the Philippines and stay up to 30 days without a visa. Specifically, Brazilians and Israelis are allowed to stay visa-free for up to 59 days.
For a longer stay, you may apply for a visa waiver which will grant extension for another 29 days. And after that, it can be renewed for periods of one (1) month, two (2) months, or six (6) months.
If you know beforehand that your trip to the Philippines will exceed 30 days, then you should apply for a tourist visa (9A) prior to your visit. The single-entry tourist visa is valid for 59 days – no need to exit the Philippines within that period.
You can apply for a 9A visa at any Philippines Embassy or Consulate in your country of origin. This visa can be extended for up to 36 months (for non-visa nationals) and 24 months (for visa-required nationals) through a series of renewals. The extension period will be counted from the date of your latest recorded arrival.
If you are a foreign national legally married to a Filipino citizen, you can ask for the Balikbayan Stamp upon arrival at the airport. This stamp is valid for a year and can be extended once for another six months for no charge at all. Just make sure you have with you your spouse and your marriage certificate in English.
What do you need?
To receive your visa waiver or entry permit, you need to present the following documents at the immigration desk at your port of arrival:
- your original passport (must be valid for at least six months beyond your departure date)
- your return flight ticket or ticket to your next port of destination. Few airlines will allow you to board without proof of onward travel.
Where can you extend your visa in Cebu?
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has two locations in Cebu:
- 2nd Level, J Centre Mall, A.S. Fortuna St., Mandaue City – (032) 345 6442
- 1st Level, Gaisano Mactan Island Mall, M.L. Quezon National Highway, Lapu-lapu City – (032) 495 2852
Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday thru Friday. Make sure to hand in your application before 3:00 p.m. and pay the fee before 4:00 p.m. For groups, the cut-off time for visa application submissions and payments is 2:00 p.m.
At J Centre Mall main entrance, go up the escalator after clearing the security check. Keep to the right and walk straight. Turn right from the Samsung store – the BI is the last office to the left. If you go before the mall opens, turn right from the mall entrance and follow the signs. Basically, the signage will lead you around the building.
The application process is pretty straightforward, but it’s always best to plan ahead. Here’s a step-by-step guide for a first-time renewal:
1. At Gaisano Mactan, you’ll find the BI office at the north end near Jollibee.
2. Once at the immigration, go to the desk on the far right and sign in on the notebook ledger.
3. Tell the official you are extending your visa. He will give you the visa extension application form TVS-C-VE-2016 (Immigration page with forms, direct link to the form). If you already have the duly accomplished form, you can skip to step 5.
4. Fill out the form. Be sure you know the name and address of your hotel or place of residence, as this is required information.
5. Hand your duly accomplished application form back to the official for stamping.
6. Submit your passport and application form to Window #1. Find a seat and wait for your name to be called. This might take a long while, 10 minutes to an hour or more.
7. Pick up your documents when your name is called, then pay the immigration fees (cash payment only). The cashier is at Window #4.
8. Once again, take a seat and wait for you name to be called. Your receipt will be released at Window #1. This is the only document you’ll have with you when you leave the office. The receipt will indicate when you can retrieve your passport. If you opt for the express service, you will get your visa extended within the day.
9. Otherwise, go back to the BI on or after the specified date.
10. Show your receipt to the official. You will be directed to Window #6 (Releasing), where you’ll sign in another notebook ledger as well as your original application form. The immigration officer will then hand back your passport and receipt together with the certification stating that you’re not on any watch list.
How much do you have to pay?
Here is how much you’ll have to pay currently, Oct 2019, as per BI website.
We’re only listing the total—if you’re interested in the details (Sticker fee, legal research fee, …), check out the respective page on the BI website.
Visa Waiver for another 29 days (after the first visa-free 30 days)
- Total cost: ₱3030 ($59)
- Website: http://immigration.gov.ph/visa-requirements/non-immigrant-visa/temporary-visitor-visa/visa-waiver
EXTENSION OF AUTHORIZED STAY BEYOND 59 DAYS
- Total cost: ₱11,620 ($223)
- Website: http://www.immigration.gov.ph/visa-requirements/non-immigrant-visa/temporary-visitor-visa/extension-of-authorized-stay-beyond-59-days
LONG-STAY VISITOR VISA EXTENSION (LSVVE)
How often can you extend?
The Philippines is an awesome country for slow travelers: If you keep extending your visa, you can stay a very long time before you have to leave the country.
36 months for Visa-Non Required Nationals
24 months for Visa Required Nationals
What to expect
To be honest, the process can be frustrating. But setting your expectations will make it less so. A few tips for a relatively smooth experience:
- Come prepared. Bring the form filled out. You’ll complete the application faster this way.
- Go early. The BI in J Centre Mall is usually packed from mid-morning ‘til around 3 P.M. There’s seating for only 25 people, so you may find yourself standing in a crowd for a while. The other office in Mactan is often less crowded, but that’s because it is quite far from downtown Cebu. If you don’t mind the commute, definitely go there instead.
- With express fee, you’ll get your extension and your passport back the same day. Without express fee, the visa extension processing will take 3 to 5 working days. This means it will take longer if you process it in the middle of the week, since weekends aren’t counted. If you need your passport back stat, Monday (before mall hours) is the best time to go.
- Based on experience, transactions are faster in Mactan BI than in J Centre.
- Although the BI offers express processing for a fee, it doesn’t guarantee that you will get your passport sooner. You may or may not choose to pay this.
- Get your visa extension done at least a week prior to the expiration of your current visa to avoid overstay. Otherwise, you’ll pay a fine. It’s just a few hundred pesos but still a hassle you can avoid.
- If you are sending a representative or using a travel agent to secure your extension, get a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) for them to act on your behalf.
- If you are travelling with minors, additional information on the children may be needed.
- Dress comfortably, especially if you’re planning to have your application done in J Centre. The place can get hot, too, because the AC can’t keep up.
- Have patience or find ways to kill time. After dropping your documents at Window #1, find yourself a cozy café outside or explore the mall to kill time. The processing can take anywhere between 10 minutes to up to 4 hours. The service really depends on the load, your behavior and possibly the mood of whoever processes your extension.
Really, all you need is to go there prepared. Even if slow, it surely gets done.
ACR I-Card for staying beyond 59 days
The ACR I-Card (Alien Certification of Registration I-Card) is a microchip based identification card with biometric security features. It is a mandatory requirement for long-term stay (beyond 59 days).
It allows you to enjoy other privileges such as opening a local bank account, registering a vehicle, or getting a driver’s license without permanent residency.
What happens if I overstay?
It depends. We know people who overstayed a few days and apart from paying fines it was not a big deal. But, if caught staying on an expired visa, you might not only face hefty fines but also the risk of getting deported or blacklisted from entering the Philippines.
The fine for overstaying is at P500 per month, plus all applicable visa fees that should have been paid to stay legally. If you overstayed beyond the maximum allowable period (6 months), you’ll pay an additional P500 to get a Motion for Reconsideration on Updating and Extension of authorized Stay.
Don’t let an expired visa spoil the fun. Hope this helps!
Hey, it’s Chenzi! A writer made in Cebu. Stringing words is my bread and butter, but baking and mothering my 3-year-old are what feed my soul. I have an insatiable thirst for learning.