IMMIGRATION requirements can be overwhelming for an expatriate, especially for one who has just arrived in a completely new country. But these must-haves and must-dos are manageable if the ground rules are understood.
The Philippine immigration requirements for foreign nationals looking to work in the country have several layers of applications and often involve various government agencies, such as the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE ), which issues the Alien Employment Permit (AEP).
The AEP is a plastic card, much like a credit card, issued by DoLE through its regional offices or field office having jurisdiction over the intended place of work of the foreign national. Foreign nationals who will be assigned to subsidiaries, branch offices and joint ventures, and headquarters with oversight functions in any of the branch offices, operations, or projects in the country, may apply for an AEP at any of the DoLE regional/field offices near their places of work.
Besides the basic information such as the foreign national’s name, assignment in the country, and nationality, the AEP card also shows the individual’s Tax Identification Number (TIN), position, name and address of the employer, date of issuance, and validity of the assignment. The card validity is parallel with the employment contract submitted to DoLE.
In a recent development, DoLE Advisory 19-06, dated August 23, 2019, required the submission of a board resolution from the petitioning company, authorizing and designating a signatory in the AEP documents. This advisory was meant to address reports that fraudulent documents are being submitted relative to the application of AEPs. The board resolution shall authorize the signatory in the contract of employment, which should be equivalent to a managerial level position in the company hiring the foreign national. Furthemore, any amendment relative to the designation of the person should be reported to DoLE .
DoLE Department Order 126, Series of 2017, “Revised Rules for Issuance of Employment Permits to Foreign Nationals,” declared that, “…the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) is not an exclusive authority for foreign national to work in the Philippines. It is just one of the requirements in the issuance of a work visa 9(G) to legally engage in gainful employment in the country.”
Gainful employment, as defined in the same Department Order, refers to “…a state or condition that creates an employer-employee relationship between the Philippine-based employer and the foreign national where the former has the power to hire or dismiss the foreign national from employment, pays the salaries or wages thereof and has authority to control performance or conduct of the tasks and duties.”
An AEP application is the first stop for foreign nationals who seek long-term employment in the Philippines. Upon arrival, the employee or the employer (in most cases the latter) should apply for an AEP with DoLE . The application will include a labor market test to confirm that no local Philippine national or any person in the country who is competent, able, and willing at the time of the application, objects to the foreign national performing the service desired. When granted, the AEP will allow the foreign national employee to work with the specific employer in a specific function, provided that the foreign national carries a 9G pre-arranged employee visa or other applicable visa type.
A foreign national, therefore, cannot start working legally until he or she is in possession of both an AEP and a work visa (i.e., 9G visa). It is the 9G pre-arranged work visa that allows the foreign national to work.
A foreign national cannot apply for 9G pre-arranged Employee Visa and an AEP simultaneously. The worker has to apply for an AEP first at DoLE. The application for 9G pre-arranged employee visa will only be filed with the Bureau of Immigration once the AEP is granted.
Since the process of securing a 9G visa takes time, a foreign national may start working, pending the approval of the visa when he/she secures a Provisional Work Permit (PWP). The PWP is a document order issued by the Bureau of Immigration allowing an individual to start working immediately, pending the approval of the 9G visa. An AEP or at least a receipt as proof of filing is a requirement to apply for a PWP.
While Philippine government agencies are working hand-in-hand to simplify the requirements and improve inter-agency coordination in the immigration process and applications, it is important to remember that a foreign national’s entry and admission to the country is a matter of privilege and not a right. Hence, once admitted, foreigners are bound to respect the law and comply with relevant regulations.
The author is a manager with the Tax & Corporate Services division of Navarro Amper & Co., a member of the Deloitte Asia Pacific Network. Deloitte Asia Pacific Limited is a company limited by guarantee and a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. Members of Deloitte Asia Pacific Limited and their related entities, each of which are separate and independent legal entities, provide services from more than 100 cities across the region, including Auckland, Bangkok, Beijing, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Osaka, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo and Yangon.