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'Balikbayans’ get one-year visa-free stay on each entry

‘Balikbayans’ get one-year visa-free stay on each entry

RETURNING Filipinos or balikbayans will have a one-year visa-free stay every time they arrive in the country, the Bureau of Immigration said yesterday.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan told reporters he had ordered immigration officers at all ports of entry to extend the privilege to returning Filipinos regardless of their frequency of travel to the Philippines.

“The law is clear. A balikbayan is entitled to a maximum of one-year stay without a visa every time he returns to the Philippines and not only once a year,” Libanan said.

The privilege is extended to former Filipino citizens, their foreign spouses, as well as the minor and unmarried children of Filipinos and former Filipinos—provided they are traveling here together with their balikbayan relatives or parents.

The bureau issued its order after it was swamped with questions from returning Filipinos who complained that some immigration officers had granted them only a 21-day stay instead of a year, because they had been in the country more than once over a 12-month period.

“We would be doing our balikbayans a disservice if such mistakes are not addressed and rectified, especially in light of our government’s thrust to encourage our countrymen abroad to visit the land of their birth and even settle and do business here,” Libanan said.

Immigration regulation chief Gary Mendoza said balikbayans who received the 21-day arrival stamps had been going to the bureau’s main office to have them corrected.

Mendoza said the once-a-year restriction applied only to the duty-free privileges of balikbayans, and not to their entry privileges

Source: Manila Standard

Published Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:02 PM by EDWIN GUMBA, Real Estate Broker
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