RT Cunningham

Permanent Residency in the Philippines – I’m Still an American

permanent residency in the Philippines

After years of permanent residency in the Philippines, I’m still an American. I don’t have the ability to act like a Filipino when I’m not a Filipino. I’m not quite fluent in the local language, but I have no problem communicating.

As I write this, I’m not even in the Philippines. I’m on an extended vacation in the United States, in the state of Hawaii right now. I was in the state of Florida for several months before getting here. I should be returning to the Philippines in October or November 2020.

Permanent Residency or Extended Tourism

Which one is better? It depends on the person and civil status. If an American is married to a Filipino, the American can get a permanent residency visa, but only if the Filipino spouse requests the American’s presence in the Philippines in writing.

A single American (for any reason) can only extend a tourist visa or get a special retirement visa. The first month of a tourist visa is “visa free”, meaning the passport itself serves as the visa. I won’t get into the details of all the extensions because I’m not familiar with them. All I really know is that tourists can stay in the Philippines longer with extensions now than they could before.

I don’t know much about the special retirement visa either. The rules for it have changed so many times that what I say would probably be wrong. I can’t see any American married to a Filipino opting for this instead of a permanent residency visa.

Natural Disasters

I wasn’t in the Philippines during the last natural disaster. Josie, my wife, left a day or two before an intense earthquake. It was near the end of April 2019. According to our relatives, who live next to us there, the only damage to our house was a crack in the finish of one of the walls. I didn’t pay attention to the exact location. It’s just something else I have to fix the next time I go there.

I was in the Philippines during many natural disasters. I’ve endured both earthquakes and typhoons. I’m sure I’ll have to endure even more when I return. I can’t remember experiencing anything other than minor earthquakes in the United States, in the state of California, during my early years in the military.

My extended vacations are going to be a thing for some time. The plan is to eventually split my time in the Philippines and the United States every year. I don’t want to deal with the heat in either place if I can help it. Typhoons and earthquakes don’t scare me, and they don’t last for very long. Heat lasts for months.

Will My Permanent Residency Ever End?

I like living in the Philippines. I like the people and I like the food (well, most of it). There are things that could be better, but I’ve been back in America and I don’t like what I experience here.

I’m covered by TRICARE health insurance in both the United State and the Philippines, so getting treatment isn’t an issue. That treatment, minus deductibles, would be much less expensive in the Philippines. In Olongapo, there are two hospitals that accept TRICARE. One is actually at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone next to the city. Josie is covered as well, as a military retiree dependent.

If I have my way, I’ll still be living in the Philippines on the day I die. That’s regardless of my permanent residency status.

More Information

If you want to know about a visa-free entry for single Americans, look at this page. If you want to know more about permanent residency visas, look at this page. It’s best to obtain as many of the requirements as possible while in the United States and finish the process at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila. You will have to go there anyway.

I got a “probationary” immigration card in 2006, a five-year card in 2007, another in 2012 and another in 2017. I replaced my passport at the American Embassy in 2012. These are the things you can expect to experience if you do what I did. Once a year, in January or February, I register as resident alien for a whopping 310 pesos (less than $10 USD). In the long run, a permanent residency visa is the least expensive route to take.

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RT Cunningham
May 31, 2019
Philippines