RT Cunningham


Renewing My ACR I-Card at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila

ACR I-Card I went through the process of renewing my ACR I-Card (Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card) yesterday. It was due to expire on October 10, 2017.

It’s a good thing I brought more than enough money with me. The Bureau of Immigration page on re-issuance hasn’t been updated since March of 2014 and the fees are more than triple of those shown.

The Trip to Intramuros

Intramuros is synonymous with “old Manila”. It’s a walled in area within the modern city of Manila, on the south side of metro Manila. It’s the original Manila of Spanish occupation.

Even with horrible traffic in metro Manila, a trip to the Bureau of Immigration isn’t an all-day affair. It became one because my wife, Josie, decided to stop at a hospital in Caloocan City, which is way off the beaten path. One of her aunts was there after having a stroke.

Josie, Cathy (our daughter-in-law), Alex (our driver and a sister-in-law’s husband) and I left home at about 4 am and we arrived at the Bureau of Immigration just before 8 am. I finished everything I needed for my ACR I-Card by 10 am.

Why is Renewing an ACR I-Card such a Pain?

Because there’s always something to muck things up. I don’t know if it’s an intentional government thing or because they’re unorganized. This will be my third ACR I-Card in less than 12 years. The first year was a probationary ACR I-Card, good for only a year.

When I renewed my ACR I-Card in 2012, it wasn’t a flawless process but it much less of a pain. I didn’t have a pen, so I had to buy one. I needed copies of specific pages in my passport, so I had to pay for them. Other than that, and waiting in line at one of over 40 windows, it wasn’t so bad. I was late in renewing my ACR I-Card and I didn’t even have to pay a late fee.

This time, they told me their records said I didn’t pay for my 2007 annual registration. I either had to prove I did or pay the fee again. After two trips to the second floor, I finally paid at a window on the first. From now on, I’m keeping the receipts every time I pay my annual registration, if only to make the process smoother the next time.

In 2012, I received my new ACR I-Card before leaving the Bureau of Immigration. This time, I have to wait two to three weeks for it. They told me to call a number before returning to pick up it up. After I explained I was from Olongapo, they sent me to another window to arrange for me to pick it up at the local office.

That probably means I won’t get it in under a month. I’ll stop by their office when I do my rounds at the beginning of November. In the meantime, I have the receipt to prove I’m legal.

What’s the Purpose of an ACR I-Card?

An ACR I-Card is proof I have a Permanent Resident Visa and that’s about it. All the places that ask me for ID cards won’t accept it. That’s why I have to renew my Philippine driver’s license after my birthday this year. They’ll accept my passport and my driver’s license but no other identification I have.

I accept the fact that a foreigner can’t live in the Philippines free of charge. It isn’t terribly expensive being a permanent resident. It’s just a pain. If I have to pay around $100 USD every five years and less than $10 USD per year (for the annual registration), so be it.

It’s going to and from the places I have to go to get things done that irritates me. I learned one thing from this trip. I can go the Bureau of Immigration office in Angeles City next time, instead of Manila. It’s only about an hour away. In five more years, I’ll have to renew my ACR I-Card again, along with renewing my passport at the United States Embassy in Manila.

By 2022, the same year I start drawing my social security pension, maybe both governments will have their ducks in line. Somehow, knowing what I know, I seriously doubt it.

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By RT Cunningham
October 3, 2017
Expats and Foreigners