Over the last several months, most of the questions and requests for assistance the Philippine Consulate has received have to do with travel, particularly travel to the Philippines. COVID-19 has curtailed even essential travel. The problem is not caused by travel restrictions alone; many are trapped or immobilised by a lack of valid passports or travel papers or visas, which at this time have become more important than they have ever been.
We take this opportunity therefore to suggest tips on how to avoid “travel emergencies.”
1. For everyone: be sure you have a valid passport
If you need to travel, the first thing you should have is a passport – preferably one that is valid for at least six months from the date of your travel. This is the requirement by most countries for inbound foreign nationals. Filipinos returning to the Philippines need not have passports valid for at least six months, but you’ll never know what the airline staff will tell you, especially if your flight includes a stopover in a third country.
Issuance of a travel document (similar to an emergency passport used by other countries) is an option available to Filipinos who urgently need to travel but are unable to obtain passports. But this is restricted to one-way travel to the Philippines, and may sometimes pose problems, again, when transiting in a third country.
2. For Australians and other foreign nationals: you need a valid visa
These are extraordinary times. What used to be the norm is now the exception and vice versa. Visa-free privileges accorded to most foreign nationals, including Australians, have been suspended, and only foreigners with compelling reasons to be in the Philippines are allowed to enter, and in nearly every case, they must have a valid visa.
Based on the latest travel guidelines, only the following foreign nationals (excluding former Filipino citizens) are allowed to enter: a) those with valid and existing visas at the time of entry; b) those who hold valid and existing Special Resident Retiree Visas (SRRV) and 9(a) visas, who also need to present entry exemption documents; and c) spouses and children of Filipino nationals, if traveling with the latter.
Aside from these conditions, heightened restrictions are enforced on foreign nationals coming from high-(COVID) incidence countries and territories, especially where the new COVID variants of significant risk are rampant.
3. For former Filipinos (not dual citizens): you need proof of your balikbayan status
The good news is that the balikbayan privileges under Republic Act 6768 of former Filipino citizens have recently been restored. This means that they don’t need a visa to enter the Philippines, and they can remain there for up to one year. However, aside from their foreign passports, they need to present proof of their status as former Philippine citizens, such as their old Philippine passports, birth certificates issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), or balikbayan stamps on their foreign passports.
4. For dual citizens: bring dual citizenship documents
It’s a different rule for dual citizens (or multiple citizens) who have either retained or reacquired Philippine citizenship under Republic Act 9225. They are citizens of the Philippines and therefore have every right to enter and remain in the Philippines for as long as they wish. If they have been issued Philippine passports, they can present these with their foreign passports upon entry (or maybe even at the point of departure, if required) into the Philippines. In the absence of Philippine passports, they can present their Identification Certificates (ICs) or Orders of Approval issued to them when they take their oath as citizens of the Philippines.
5. For all travelers: comply with quarantine, testing and other health protocols
Quarantine is a public health measure implemented by all countries during this pandemic. All inbound passengers from other countries are required to pre-book quarantine facilities at their own expense. Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), while exempt from payment of quarantine fees for designated facilities, are not exempt from quarantine. RT-PCR testing and health declaration forms are also prescribed for arriving passengers, while proof of vaccination, if applicable, may also be required.
Relevant information may be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website, https://dfa.gov.ph.
Travelers are advised to be constantly on the lookout for changes to these rules, as the global COVID-19 situation has been evolving without any predictable pattern, often forcing countries to impose drastic health measures at a moment’s notice.
6. For all travelers: book your own flight
The Philippine Consulate is not a travel agency, nor is it in any way connected to the industry. We are not the best source of advice on available flights, although once in a while we share flight updates announced by Philippine Airlines on its press releases or social media posts. Passengers are better off checking with their travel agencies, travel websites or airline websites.
If you anticipate any imminent need to travel, then you may want to start browsing flight information early in order to avoid emergency situations where you are forced to buy tickets at exorbitant prices.
7. Keep yourselves informed
During these times, information and vigilance are the keys. The COVID-19 crisis is far from over, we need to be mindful of developments all around the world, especially in countries we might have a reason to visit. Pay attention to local conditions, regulations and health restrictions, as these could change at any moment. For most Filipinos, there is always a reason to be home, so nothing is better than being prepared when we need to go.
For more information, please visit our website, melbournepcg.dfa.gov.ph
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