RT Cunningham


Retirees and Other Americans Living in the Philippines

Driftwood Beach Resort - Americans I am not unique when it comes to Americans living in the Philippines, even if my particular set of circumstances is unique.

There are other Americans in the Philippines, and they’re here for a variety of reasons.

Dual Citizens

Whether you regard them as Americans or not is really not an issue - dual citizens as discussed here are legal citizens of both the Philippines and the United States. There are three ways that I know of where Filipinos are also Americans, as dual citizens.

The first and most common now are the Filipinos who’ve emigrated to the United States, gone through the process of alien residency and naturalization, lived in the United States for a while and have moved back to the Philippines. Many of the people in this category move back to the Philippines after retirement, but not always due to retirement.

The second are the natural-born children of Filipinos, who haven’t yet become citizens of the United States, born on American soil. American soil is defined as any of the states in the United States, its territories and its possessions.

Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands are a few of these places. The children are Filipinos by birth due to being born to not yet naturalized Filipino parents and American citizens due to being born on American soil.

The third are those that became American citizens before the Philippine Repatriation Act of 2003 was enacted and lost their Philippine citizenship. The only requirement to becoming a dual citizen is to swear in as a Philippine citizen at one of the Philippine Consulates or at the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.

There are many dual citizens living in the Philippines as retirees and a lot of those are United States military retirees. Again, not all the dual citizens are retirees. One of my neighbors, for example, is a disabled American veteran with a wife and children all being dual citizens. One of his daughters is my younger son’s nursing school classmate.

Other Retired Americans

In my situation, Philippine law allows me to be a permanent resident of the Philippines because I’m married to a Filipina (a female Filipino). I am retired from the United States military and I live in Olongapo City, next to the former United States naval base which is now the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (colloquially called SBMA).

My older son, who is living in the United States with his own family now, is not a dual citizen because he hasn’t completed the steps in the third case above for dual citizenship (he’s my adopted stepson whose real father was Filipino).

My wife and my younger son are both dual citizens. I could become a dual citizen as well, but the Philippine immigration conditions are stricter than those of the United States and I don’t want to play that game.

There are other Americans, retired from the United States military, living here as permanent residents just like me. I don’t know any of them and that may be for the best. I’m too much of an introvert to seek casual relationships with people outside of my own relatives.

There are also other Americans, retired from the United States military, who aren’t living here as permanent residents. They play the visa game because they’re not married to Filipinas. They have United States passports and come into the country for the first periods which don’t need visas.

I don’t remember offhand what that length of time is, but it used to be either 21 or 30 days (military on leave without a passport had 21 days). Regardless, they can pay fees to the local bureau of immigration offices and extend the visas for the better part of a year. They are then required to leave the country for at least 24 hours before they can start the same process all over again.

Some Americans living here are merely United States social security retirees and my mother-in-law is one of them. You can’t live on United States social security payments alone in the United States and it’s difficult to live on them alone even in the Philippines, but at least it can be done.

Other Americans

There are Americans living here who are not retirees at all, but are permanent residents or in the process of becoming permanent residents. They either work for American companies with locations in the Philippines or are using their life savings to attempt lives here based on the local economy.

Yes, if you have the money to invest in something that produces an income, you can live on the local economy just like everyone else.

Finally, there are Americans living in the Philippines as illegal aliens, with expired visas. As long as no one reports them to one of the bureau of immigration offices, they can get away with it. If you think tracking and finding illegal aliens is hard in the United States, imagine how hard it is to do the same thing in the Philippines.

Filipinos and Americans in the Philippines are not required to have social security numbers (except for certain jobs, especially government jobs) and a lot of people have the same names.

One of my nephews, for example, had a difficult time getting an NBI clearance for his passport because he has the same name as one of his uncles (both birth certificates exclude the middle names) and that uncle has a criminal record.


I’m sure there are Americans living in the Philippines who don’t fall under any of the conditions I’ve mentioned. Of course, that depends on the definition of “living”.

Regardless of how or why an American is living in the Philippines, it does no good at all to make assumptions. Unless you know exactly “how and why”, your assumptions are nothing more than guesses. There are those who will take offense if you lump them in with the wrong group of people and I know this because I’ve read about it on open forums.

Luckily, I’ve never been in a position where I wanted to make an assumption - I’ve been told up front the “how and why” of a particular situation and usually through e-mail.

In the past, I offered to answer questions and help people who are thinking of moving to the Philippines. I don’t make the offers anymore because it eats up a lot of time and I usually end up giving out outdated information.

There are websites that specialize in the kind of information sought and searching for “living in the Philippines” as well as “RAO Subic” will bring you to them. Of course, this website will probably appear, but I don’t have the information most people need.

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By RT Cunningham
November 13, 2013

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