Extending your tourist visa in The Philippines...
Updated: Apr 13
I have just extended my British tourist visa by 29 days, hassle free. I know before I was a little nervous, so I've written down what advice I followed beforehand, and what I did. Here's to another 29 days of this view..
Before you go:
Dress smartly- an important one. Don’t rock up beach casual, stick on a shirt and shoes- it's important sign of respect. Most people in Immigration Bureau were smart to smart casual. I wore trousers and a shirt.
You obviously need your passport. You might need photos. I didn't need anything other than my passport when I got my visa. But if you're extending for two months- you might need passport photos. Double check, as I can only vouch for what I needed for a 29 day extension in August 2018.
Where and when to go?
I upgraded my visa in The Immigration Bureau in J Centre Mall in Cebu. I asked in the airport on arrival- but they said to head into Cebu a week before it expired.
Do not risk it. The Immigration Bureau recommends extending a week before it runs out. I also recommend this. In The Philippines (or any country) any number of things can happen to delay your visa extension. An unknown public holiday, bus break downs, a 5 hour taxi ride, a weeks processing time. Your extension is from the date it runs out- so extending early doesn't cost you days. Do it early and save yourself and the people at immigration a lot of stress. Whilst I was in the visa office, an elderly gentlemen came in to extend PAST his expired visa. He wasn't even admitted past check in, he was just told to go to the airport and leave.
The shopping mall opens at 10am, but I THOROUGHLY recommend arriving BEFORE the opening time of the The Immigration Bureau at 8am. I was there at 7.40 and was still fourth in line. By 8.30am they were well into the 30’s. I was number four and it still took an hour to get through the express system. Everybody seems stressed and anxious. I got there early, got a seat and tried to relax. There are cut off times for applications also, check current times, but 3pm was the latest when I went.
Note: When you arrive at the Mall, double check with security where to go. On the upper floor of the mall, is the Drugs Checks. This is where people go to have, well drugs checks, when they've been caught before. I didn't realise and walked into a crowd of people looking a little worse for wear (!) and almost joined in thinking it was the immigration queue. It's a bit shady, and it's not the kind of place you want to hang out when you've got a heap of cash and your passport. A simple way to avoid this is to make sure you know where you're going.
Be nice. Obviously be nice always, but with immigration (both here, and in airports) have stressful jobs, and are often faced with angry irrational foreigners. Being nice is very simple to make their day a little nicer and staying sane yourself.
The Process I went through:
When you walk into immigration- there will be a desk on the right. This is a check in desk, where you’ll be given a form, and a number. Fill the form- (don't forget height and weight) and give it back to the officer who will stamp it. Go straight to check in counter 1. You will not be prompted to do this by anybody, and lots and lots of people don’t go over, unless a kind person waiting tells you to do it. If you don’t go over, you won’t start the process and will be waiting all day!
Once you’re registered at counter 1, you need to wait until your name is called at window 4. At window 4 you need to pay for your visa. You will have to pay cash, so get some out in advance. I paid 3130 PHP. This included a 500 express fee, so that my passport would be released immediately. This 500 PHP is totally worth it, especially as cheap hostel accommodation in Cebu is about 500PHP per night- and the process can take 5-7 days.
I waited a further 25 minutes until I was called at Lane 7- the release lane. Here I was given back my passport ant granted my visa. Ta-dah! The process of extending by 29 days was very simple. Arriving early certainly made it a lot easier than online forums state. The whole process took a little over one hour. Very easy. Be respectful and diligent and you’ll be fine.