A United States citizen intending to travel to the Philippines for up to 21 days whether for leisure or business purposes is not required to apply for a visa. It is only required that the U.S. passport is valid for a minimum of six months beyond the planned stay in the country and there is already a proof of a confirmed plane ticket going back to the United or going to other countries before arriving in the Philippines.
The immigration officer checks the U.S. citizen’s passport once he arrives at any of the Philippine airports in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Laoag or Zamboanga. Aside from the six month validity requirement following the departure date from the Philippines, the passport should also have blank visa pages available. After careful checking of the passport and validation of the return airplane ticket (or an onward ticket to another country) within 21 days after the date of arrival, the immigration officer grants the traveler an entry visa free of charge. This allows him to stay in the Philippines for a maximum of 21 days.
Travelers should make sure that the passport has adequate unused pages (at least two free pages in the visa section) for the stamps needed during arrival and departure. If needed, a U.S. citizen should request for extra pages in his passport. A request can be processed within an approximated time frame of 24 hours.
Unlike if staying within 21 days where a person holding a U.S. passport can obtain a Philippine entry visa for free upon arrival at a Philippine airport, the application for a Philippine tourist visa is required for U.S. citizens intending to stay in the country beyond 21 days. If staying for up to 59 days, the traveler should apply at any Philippine embassy or consulate in the U.S., or apply for an extension in one of the immigration offices when already in the Philippines at the time of deciding to stay longer. Considerably, it is better to get the visa from the embassy or consulate prior to the travel in order to maximize the stay in the Philippines instead of having to line up at the usually packed immigration offices.
If arriving to any of the Philippine airports with a visa, the traveler should show it to the immigration officer so he can place an annotation on the arrival stamp indicating that the visa holder is allowed to stay in the country for 59 days, instead of the default 21 days of stay.
When applying for a visa extension at an immigration office, the first visa extension available is for 38 days which makes a total length of stay in the Philippines of 59 days. The next visa extension is any time between three to four months. The final decision depends on the immigration office and the supporting documents provided by the traveler (crucial of which are financial documents proving the capacity to stay in the Philippines longer). Obtaining other Philippine visa extensions is possible, although past six months already requires additional regulations including the need for fingerprints and police clearance.
All travelers regardless of nationality, except for babies without their own seats, are required to pay the airport terminal fee of PHP 750 (approximately $16.50 USD as of April 2010) upon showing their boarding passes. This amount should be paid before granted entrance to the immigration area of the airport when leaving the Philippines.
Upon reaching the booth of the immigration officer, a U.S. citizen’s passport is carefully checked. When the visa is overstayed, the traveler needs to pay a fine based on the number of days overstayed in addition to all the supposed visa fees that should have been incurred if the visa were extended properly. Custom officials may also arrest or prosecute any foreigner for this offense at their own reasonable discretion.
Other Traveling Advice
A U.S. traveler is urged to remain aware of his visa status while in the country. He should strictly abide by the immigration laws and regulations and carefully follow the departure date from the Philippines based on his visa to avoid any hassle. He should also confirm if transit visa is required for any connecting flights. Ideally, air travel from the U.S. to the Philippines has direct flight options. However, if traveling to multiple country destinations, it is best to check with the airline company for specific transit visa requirements.
Filipino citizens and foreigners with residence permits are also required to pay hefty foreign travel taxes. There are several exemptions for Filipinos with permanent residence permits in a foreign country (a green card in the case of those from the U.S.), or others who have been away from the Philippines with a temporary residence permit for more than one year. In such cases, the traveler needs an exemption certificate which can be paid at the departure area of the airport for PHP 100 (approximately $2.50 USD) upon presentation of the requirements. For updated details, it is always best to check the website of the Philippine Tourism Authority at philtourism.com before the intended travel.
Embassies and Immigration Offices
The Embassy of the Philippines in the U.S. is located in Washington, D.C. There are also consulates in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Chicago, Guam and Saipan, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Livonia.
When a foreigner plans to extend his stay in the Philippines beyond 21 days and he only carries a general entry visa, he should apply for an extension at the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation's main office at Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines or at any of its provincial offices. Other immigration offices are located in top tourist provinces including Cebu City, Cebu; Angeles City, Pampanga, San Fernando and La Union. You may also pay a travel agent for processing the visa extension for a reasonable fee.