GenSan ExPat FAQ Page


General Issues

USA related issues

EU Related issues


How safe is it here?

GenSan is probably the safest location in Mindanao. It is not 100% safe... but nowhere in the Philippines, or Thailand, or, or ,or... is it truly safe. But with precautions, you can live a good safe life here. However you can improve your personal safety by being respectful of your hosts, the average Filipino and the customs of the place. Yes, sometimes that means holding your tongue. But if you are here long enough, you will discover that your way is not always the best way.


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I am older than dirt. I hear that I can have a beautiful wife in the Philippines. Is that true?

What you consider old and what your prospective Girlfriend thinks is old will be a world apart. The answer is a simple Yes.


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How do I stay here if I am not married?

If you are just looking around, you have either of these two options:

  1. come into the country and get a 21 day Visa stamp in your passport at the airport and then go to an immigration office for an extended stay visa

  2. or apply for one via your consulate before you come

Either way you get a 60 day visa. Every 60 days you have to go back and renew it. You can stay either six (6) months or twelve (12) months before exiting the country before returning. (The difference is based on country of origin.) That does not mean you have to go home. You can get a  cheap ticket to a neighboring country and reenter the very next day.


If you want to live here long term and not marry, and you can get an, SRRV Visa, a Special Resident Retiree's Visa. You will see comments on other websites that say now that the cost has increased, it's a bad deal. That is just silly. It removes the every 60 day trip to the Bureau of Immigration and the subsequent fees. It removes the requirement to leave the country every so often. Costwise, it is cheaper than the alternative. It does require an investment, but as it can be in a condo you secure, or your bugout funds, it's well worth considering..


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I am married to a Filipina. How do I get Immigrant Status?

See the Bureau of Immigration website HERE.


I want to get Married here!

The US Embassy has a good description of the process HERE. If you are from an EU country contact your embassy in Manila for their specific steps for them but you can use this link as a good starting point.


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Can I drive on my foreign driver's license?

Yes for up to 90 days.


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How do I get a Philippine driver's license?

See #3 on THIS PAGE. However the page is wrong. You do not convert, i.e. lose your existing license, you get an additional one. This is one of the places that as a foreigner, you are going to probably pay more than you should because the organization is corrupt. It should cost P617.63 (plus P100 for the eye test). But you will probably end up spending between P2500 and P3500 or end up being taught a lesson by corrupt officials. On the bright side, even if you come at 2PM in the afternoon, you will have your official license by 10AM the next day. Consider it concierge service and don't blow a gasket.


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How do I get a document notarized for the USA?

The Philippines notaries are not recognized in the USA. So you either need to make an appointment at the US Embassy in Manila for Notarial Services or use an online service such as At the time of this post, the cost of the on-line service was $25.00, far less expenseive than a flight to Manila, plus taxis, meals, and a hotel for a night.

However, to use the on-line service, you will need to have some history in the USA. Here is what they told me via an email exchange. "The PI expat community with no current US address can supply the US address at which they resided for a long period of time (years v. months). Our third-party identity verification service MAY be able to build the identity challenge questions from that address."

If you still have a mailing address in the States, it should work. They need to tie you to a State under which they are licensed to operate. If you don't, the question becomes, can they find any historical record of you?


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What type of Visa's are there?

See THIS PAGE at the Bureau of Immigration. But note that there is also the SRRV Visa that is listed only on its own separate site.


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What is a 13A Visa?

It's an immigrant, non-quota visa. It is for spouses, (and unmarried children under the age of 21,) of Philippine Citizens. 

If you are already living in the Philippines and want to gain Immigrant status, see the Bureau of Immigration website

If you will apply for the status from the USA, or possible any other home country, your Embassy or Consulate will have different instructions. In the USA there are a variety of locations (the Philippine Embassy and consulates around the USA). HERE is what you need to do if filing from the the USA. Remember to file in your correct region.


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What is an ACR-I Card?

The Alien Certificate of Registration (or ACR-I) card is issued by the Bureau of Immigration automatically in certain situations. It is a microchip-based credit card-sized identification card issued to registered aliens replacing the paper-based ACR. It has an embedded computer chip with biometric security features capable of data management and can be updated electronically.

Those who automatically get an ADR-I card include:

If you are coming in as a Balikbayan, and you want one, you have to go to Davao, Cebu or Manila offices of the BoC and submit a request for one with a letter.


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What does an ACR-I Card do for you?

It is an official and sometimes required form of Philippine ID. You need one to open a bank account!


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What is a TIN?

Tax ID Number. This is not mandatory but it is another form of ID and may be needed for some type of transactions. Such as, if you have a Filipina wife and she buys land. Your name and is on the Title, as the husband, and your TIN is needed.


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What is PhilHealth and how do I get it?

PhilHealth is the National Health program. It is available to Philippine citizens and their dependants. So if you marry a Filipina, she can list you as a dependant. It does not replace the need for other healthcare, but it is never the less good to have and very inexpensive.


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How do I get Blue Cross Insurance here in the Philippines?

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is available to those who live here. It is inexpensive compared to the US though those from the EU will groan! If you are under 66, they will try to talk you into a Dollar plan, take a pass and select the Select Plus plan.


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Please explain this confusing mess of cell and land line systems!

There are a number of cell phone and landline companies. Calling across companies and across the technologies can be either impossible or pricey.

However within each cell phone company, depending on the "load" (for pre-paid phones), or plan (for post-paid service) you have selected, you can call their own cell phones anywhere in the Philippines without any charges. Some Cellphones have dual SIM support. That call allow you to access the two main providers, SMART and Globe.


Landline to landline calls are subject to Long Distance  fees within the Philippines, even within the same provider, unless your provider is offering you a special promo.


DSL is available from a number of these providers. The quality is marginal. Fiber service has been added to some areas. The cost of fiber is lower per MB than is DSL and the quality of the service is better. 4G broadband is also available in some areas by Globe. The results are mixed, but it does come bundled with a LandLine Phone that can call Globe Cell numbers free of charge.


The 'old man' of the land line companies and the phone company that both the Philippine Government, and the US Embassy use, is PLDT. They own a cell phone company called Smart Communications. But if you have a PLDT landline, you will pay P15 per minute currently to call their own cell phones.


Globe offers both cell and landline services. You can call a Globe cell phone from a Globe landline.


Bayan Telecommunications is major landline and DSL provider, but no cell. It has recently been bought by PLDT.


Sun Cellular is cell service only. The corporate name is Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) and it is a wholly owned subsidiary of. Digital Telecommunications Phils., Inc.


Digitel is the landline brother in this paring. Their website, makes it clear that Digital Telecommunications Phils., Inc. is a "member of the PLDT group." There is currently a migration of all Digitel customers over to PLDT lines.


TM a cell phone company apparently owned by Globe. 


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Department of Foreign Affairs

Robinsons Place GenSan,
J. Catolico Sr. Ave., Lagao
General Santos City
T: (083) 553-8380
H: (083) 826-9089
F: (083) 554-2742



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Bureau of Immigration Offices <-- click for all offices

Bureau of Immigration Davao District Office
JP Laurel Avenue, Bajada, Davao City  
Tel. # (082) 300-1446 | 228-6488 / Map

BI Davao International Airport (BI DIA)
Davao City
Tel. # 
(082) 232-8076

Bureau of Immigration Glan Sarangani Field Office
Ruiz Street, Poblacion, Glan Sarangani Province  
Tel. # (083) 225-9029 | 225-9035 / Map

Bureau of Immigration General Santos Field Office 
2nd Flr. Arcade II East Asia , Royal Hotel
National Highway, General Santos City 
Tel. # (083) 552-3442 / Map


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What is PDOS?

The official claim is: For Filipinos leaving the country with immigrant VISA, The Commission on Filipinos Overseas, requires Flipinos to take a Pre-departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) or the Peer Counseling Seminar, and pay the authorized registration fee. The PDOS is a brief, two-hour seminar on settlement issues and concerns such as finding employment, rights and obligations of immigrants as well as policies and procedures on how to secure foreign citizenship. The Peer Counseling Seminar is a special session for those with ages 13 to 19 years, which aims to prepare them emotionally for the adjustments they will have to take.


An emigrant who has properly registered with the commission will have in his passport the CFO sticker which will be inspected by the Bureau of Immigration upon departure.


However, if a Filipino marries to a Foreigner in the Philippines and applies for a passport renewal, a document on the Department of Foreign Affairs website indicates that even if the female is not seeking to immigrate, she will need the PDOS CFO sticker in her current passport at time of renewal!


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What is the Exit Clearance and Tax about?

Unless you have a BalikBayan Visa, if you have an ACR-I card, you need to apply for and receive permission to leave the country.

With the advent of the new I-Cards, if you have a 13A visa, this can be done at the airport as you are leaving the country. You will do this when at a special counter where you also present your passport. The cost at that counter for the 13A holder is a little less than ₱2,900 the first time you leave the Philippines in any year. All trips after that will be about ₱700 less.

However, if you are here on a Tourist Visa, you must receive your exit clearance from the local Bureau of Immigration office a about a week before you plan to leave.

If you are taking your Filipina wife, or fiancee, with you out of the country, she must pay an exit tax at the airport, as will you (in addition to either, the exit clearance you paid for at the BI, or the one you will pay later when you present your passport). Here is the official page from Bureau of Immigration


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What is Balikbayan?

Balikbayan, meaning return home, is a program that gives special benefits to overseas Filipinos who have emigrated from the Philippines. On returning the Filipina and spouse get a 1 year visa upon entry and other benefits. Here is the law!


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Can I buy property in the Philippines?

No. You can buy a condo, but not real estate.


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Can I inherit property in the Philippines?

Generally the answer is no, with these exceptions.


If you are married to a Philippine citizen and your spouse acquired the land during your marriage and she dies, you by law are entitled to 50% of the title. However no non-citizens may inherit the property from you.


If you become a dual citizen you may inherit all of it.


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Can I get dual citizenship in the Philippines?

Yes, if your country of origin allows it. Most if not all EU countries do not allow this, but the USA does. Here is the law, the Commonwealth Act No. 473.


I want to bring my fiancée or wife to the USA, how do I do that?

You can marry in the Philippines and apply for her while living in the Philippines, using the I-130 Visa process;


You can marry and apply while living in the USA, using the K3 Visa.


You can intend to marry in the USA and apply from the USA using the K1 Visa process.


All take about the same time. While the K1 and K3 start as a non-immigrant visas, all assume the intent to immigrate to the USA.


If this is your intent, we suggest you join Visa Journey, a web site with many resources.


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Can I bring my Girlfriend to the USA as a Tourist?

Unless SHE (not you) has sufficient money and property in her name the answer is NO.


In 2011 and 2012, more than 2.5 million nonimmigrant visa applicants were denied under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. US law places the burden on nonimmigrant visa applicants (except for H-1B and L-1s) to show that they are not intending immigrants. Nonimmigrant visitor visa applicants must show that they have a foreign residence that they have no intention of abandoning and are visiting the US temporarily for business or pleasure. Student visa applicants have the additional burden of showing they have the qualifications necessary to pursue a full course of study and the intent to return to their home country upon the completion of their studies.


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How can I register with the US Embassy that I am living here?
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines should enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov

STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Manila. 

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As a US Citizen without a valid US address, can I vote in the USA?

Yes you can. To start, go to and click on the section for Overseas Citizen Voters.

Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download. If you request electronic delivery and include your email address or fax number, you'll receive your blank ballot 45 days before general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices. Most states now have voter registration verification websites, and many offer a means of tracking the status of your registration and ballot.

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I want to bring my fiancée or wife to the EU, how do I do that?



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Can I bring my Girlfriend to the EU as a Tourist?



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