Virginia, US
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| Ramona Perera

The Alien Registration Project -­ Increased Registration Requirements for Foreign Nationals in the Philippines

In late 2014, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) commenced implementation of the Alien Registration Project (ARP). The project mandates all foreign nationals to attend a BI office between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015 to obtain a Special Security Registration Number (SSRN).
 
What exactly is the new Alien Registration Program?
 
The ARP is an initiative by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the BI based on a three-phase project. The first phase will capture the biometric data of foreign nationals in the Philippines. The second and third phases will use this data to better assist foreign nationals with immigration-related matters, e.g. implementing the use of servers and data analyzing devices.
 
Collected biometric data will be linked to a credit card-sized Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card), similar to the current ACR I-Card. The new version is an identification card issued by the BI to foreigners staying in the Philippines on long term visas and serves as a re-entry permit, Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) and Special Return Certificate (SRC). The card also displays a photo of the individual, their personal details, fingerprint and signature, visa type, and other relevant information.
 
All foreigners who avail themselves of the new ARP will be issued with a permanent SSRN, which will be printed on their new ACR I-Card. This SSRN will become their permanent identification number while in the Philippines, and the issued card will be the basis from which they may raise any concern or request assistance from the BI or other Philippine government offices.
 
Registration for the ARP requires a personal appearance by the foreign national at any of the 43 BI offices nationwide.
 
Why was the new Alien Registration Program introduced?
 
According to the BI and the DOJ, the ARP was introduced to:
 
  • Account for each foreign national;
  • Simplify registration;
  • Capture information;
  • Update BI’s alien database; and
  • Provide assistance for visa-related problems.
 
The ARP will help immigration officials to better track how many foreign nationals are legally residing in the Philippines for specific periods of time and to maintain updated records of these individuals. The issuing of an SSRN will also assist foreign nationals to quickly and easily raise and resolve any issues they may have with the appropriate authorities.
 
Who will be affected by the new Alien Registration Program?
 
Generally speaking, all foreign nationals extending their stay in the Philippines beyond 59 days are required to present themselves at a BI office to register under the ARP. Foreigners who do not spend 59 days continuously in the Philippines do not need to meet this requirement.
 
Although registration is currently not mandatory for all foreigners in the Philippines, those who have stayed for more than 59 days as a tourist will need to register for the ARP as they will be unable to obtain an ECC without the SSRN granted at the time of ARP registration.
 
Foreign nationals who hold long term work visas and who need to cancel their visas prior to leaving the country (referred to as Pre-Departure Cancelation) will also need to register for the ARP as an ECC is also required for visa cancelation. In essence, the ARP is now being tied to the ECC process for departing foreign nationals.
 
Holders of a short term work permit, known as the Special Work Permit (SWP), and who have stayed in the country continuously for more than 59 days will also need to register for the ARP. However, if an SWP holder travels frequently and does not spend 59 days continuously in the Philippines, registration will not be required.
 
When will the new Alien Registration Program be in operation?
 
The new ARP, which was mandatory when first introduced, was implemented on 1 October 2014 and will end on 30 September 2015. However, due to initial teething problems, the ARP has now been made voluntary. After all issues have been ironed out, it is expected that registration will become mandatory once more, although it remains to be seen how it will be implemented and the time scale for doing so.