Travel restrictions to the Philippines

US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin - The Freeman

The present COVID-19 pandemic has terribly upended everything that touches our lives. From the most basic of things as simple as frequent handwashing to the most complex activities such as conducting our business affairs in a post-modern world. Travel, which has always been the means by which people from around the world interact with one another suddenly came to an unexpected halt which profoundly affected business transactions, college reunions, family gatherings, or even just those trips taken for pleasure. People are scared to board airplanes as they may potentially expose themselves to other infected travelers. It also doesn’t help that most countries have decided to close their borders from international passengers to minimize their growing number of coronavirus cases.

On July 13, 2020, the Civil Aeronautics Board of the Philippines issued an advisory that specifically mandates airlines that, as part of the Philippine government’s response to the COVID-19 threat, foreign nationals are restricted from travelling to the Philippines except the following:

1.) Accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents

2.) Foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals, and

3.) Foreign airline crew

The advisory also adds that airlines are advised to exercise extra prudence in marketing services, mindful of the existing restrictions imposed by the government and the need to spare passengers needless inconvenience.

So what does this mean to the rest of the public?

First of all, this advisory doesn’t specify which countries foreign nationals must originate from or are citizens of. Thus it covers everyone except those enumerated. So it does not matter if you are from the USA, Middle East, or Asia, as long as you are a foreign national not specifically exempted, then the restrictions apply to you.

Secondly, if you are a dual citizen, for example both an American and a Filipino citizen, technically, your being a Filipino allows you to be admitted in the country. But your problem arises when upon checking in at the immigration counter at an international airport in the Philippines, you present your US passport. Your passport being a general evidence of your nationality gives the immigration officer a reason to deny your admission to the Philippines. As a dual citizen, you must carry either your Philippine passport or your dual citizenship documents.

However, the latest update related to this matter now says that effective August 1 the Philippines will allow entry of foreign nationals with valid and existing visas subject to some restrictions. Foreign nationals will be required to secure a pre-booked accredited quarantine facility and a pre-booked coronavirus disease testing provider.

Thus, if you are planning to travel to the Philippines, please take note of the ever-changing policies. Confirm with your airline first what are the prevailing guidelines and make sure that you have all the documents and requirements ready.

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