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Visa upon arrival rules tightened: BI

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said yesterday that the rules on the implementation of the visa upon arrival (VUA) scheme had already been tightened early this year.

“Admission is already itinerary-based, with a maximum stay of 30 days. VUAs may no longer be extended or converted to any type of visa,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said.

This came after Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the bureau to terminate the VUA scheme for Chinese nationals to stop the crimes involving Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) workers.

Morente said before the Covid-19 pandemic, the VUA scheme accounted for only about 5 percent of the total arrivals of Chinese nationals in the country.

“Majority of Chinese arrivals then already secured their entry visas from foreign posts abroad,” he said.

Morente, however, said they respect the lawmaker’s call for reforms to further improve the agency’s services.

“We respect the good Senator’s insights on the matter, and we appreciate her efforts in looking for ways to strengthen immigration policies. This is exactly the goal of the new immigration law we are pushing for, to update policies to be in tune with current times,” he added.

The visa upon arrival is a project of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Justice, aimed to attract Chinese tourists and tour groups to enter the country but has been suspended in January due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group, in a statement, mentioned other nationalities, such as Malaysians and Indonesians, which are not recipients of VUAs. Malaysians and Indonesians, along with 155 other countries, are visa-free under EO 408, series of 1960,” he said.

Morente added that kidnapping cases involving foreign nationals cannot be directly attributed to the VUA scheme.

“The rise in kidnappings may not be a direct effect of the implementation of VUA. The number of Chinese nationals increased due to numerous factors, but statistics show that the numbers for most nationalities, not just the Chinese, have risen significantly through the years,” he added.

He said the BI would defer to the “wisdom of the DOT and the DOJ” regarding the future of the policy.

“The BI is ready to implement whatever changes may be deemed proper by policy-makers,” Morente added.*PNA

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