Philippines Expat Guide

The Philippines is a great place for expats, and what you value most will decide where you’ll want to live within the country, so let’s take a look at the various nuances and considerations for expats to this country.

We also have various stories and advice on the Philippines section of our expat blog.

What Visas are Needed to Live in the Philippines?

Getting a long-term visa as a foreigner is a bit tricky most anywhere in Asia, but there are certainly some countries more open to expats than others, the Philippines makes it fairly easy for longer-term expats, though there are still some variances in visas available. Also, remember to secure your visa before you enter the country–locate a Philippine embassy nearest you and apply there!

The quick and dirty Filipino visa situation looks like this:

  • Many Western travelers can enter the Philippines wit an on-arrival Temporary Visitor’s Visa that lasts a mere 21 days; ideal for travelers passing through, but expats will want a longer-term visa.
  • For expats looking for just a year or two in the Philippines you can purchase a Tourist Visa (now extendable to 16 months). This is fairly simple and easy to get, but the one stipulation is that you have to check in and extend every 60 days at the Bureau of Immigration.
  • For full residency you must first be married to a Filipino or Filipina, then file for a 13(a) Permanent Residency Visa. This process takes several months after the marriage and the foreigner will have to report annually to the Bureau of Immigration.
  • Like many Asian countries, retirees are encouraged and the Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV) has many requirements (mostly monetary) but if you can meet them you are nearly guaranteed a visa.

A great place to find other information on this topic is at this expat’s blog.

Where Should You Live in the Philippines?

Manila
More expensive than most other places in the Philippines, Manila is a big city and not particularly charming. It is quite expat friendly, and you will find them throughout the city (many working in the city) but there are more affordable and enjoyable places to live in the country. If you do choose Manila, consider the southern area of the city, righ around Alabang, Paranaque.

Cebu
Not far behind Manila on the price scale, but a bit better! Same sort of situation though, a bustling and busy city and a pace of life much faster than the vast majority of the Philippines.

Davao City
Very popular with expats of all ages (but particularly retirees), this city stands out as a great all-around mid-sized expat city. The healthcare is top-notch, the prices reasonable, and the quality of life is high. My recommendation is that you find a cheap hotel in Davao for a week while you look for an apartment while you are there on the ground.

Surigao City 
A really great small city in the Philippines, perhaps the best of this size. The people are friendly, there are other expats but you can still fully immerse in Filipino culture, and all of the Western amenities are on hand if you require them. The quality of life here is wonderful and the city has a good balance and vibe.

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