Not long ago I wrote about my experience with acquiring my 13a Permanent Resident Visa in the United States. Specifically I dealt with the Philippine Counsulate in San Francisco, as that was the consulate that is assigned to Washington State, the area I lived in up to just recently.

Overall it went well with just a few issues, the cost ending up to be the biggest, as it was a lot more than I had anticipated. Most of the extra cost came from the required medical examination and tests. Come to find out that was still going to haunt me once I got here and finished my requirements in Davao. Yes, I said Davao and NOT Manila.

I had spoken to least one person that had finished their requirements in Davao, so I knew it could be done. There wasn’t any official information on doing so that I could find. I questioned the San Francisco consulate, and while they were typically unclear, it did seem like I got a “yes’ out of them. That along with the knowledge that my friend had done it gave me enough confidence to give it a try.

I really didn’t want to deal with the Bureau of Immigration in Manila, if there was a way to avoid. I was not sure how long I might need to stay either. I have heard first hand of those that finished it all in a day, and others that were there over a week. I had decided that I was going to attempt it complete it in Davao.

The requirements that I needed to meet were basically getting my quarantine stamp for my visa, and completing the paperwork for my ACR-I card. It was a bit more complicated than that, and of course no matter how many copies I brought they always want more.

I got to the Bureau of Immigration Davao District Office around 7:00 a.m., not knowing how crowded they might be. It was the first day they had been open after 3 days of holidays, and the weekend. Officially I was a day late, as immigration at the airport required that I get there in 7 days. I couldn’t do that due to the closures of the office, but no one seemed to care. They didn’t even charge me any extra pesos (for that anyway). They wouldn’t wait on me until 8:00 a.m., but since they had their clock set 30 minutes ahead I only needed to wait about a half hour.

Once I got to the window, they asked for all me documents, and proceeded to go in back. After a consultation of some minutes, the officer came back and informed me that I need 3 complete copies and I needed to visit quarantine. I was prepared to visit quarantine, I just didn’t know they weren’t at the same location. We had to grab a cab and head to another part of town. Not too far away, but it ended up taking a great portion of the morning.

Quaratine seemed to be a little put off that I was there so early, and based off their behavior it didn’t seem they were all that familiar with dealing with this. They found a number of things that weren’t happy with, the biggest issue being my chest X-ray which only had the required CD (or film) and not some report they wanted to see. They argued quite a bit about this, and even brought some upper management person in to tell me that I would need to leave, and get my x-ray read and bring a printed report. I tried to get them to see if the CD included what they were looking for, but they resisted that. Seemed all they really wanted to do was send me away.

I finally got them to look at the CD, but there didn’t appear to be a report. They did get on the phone with a radiologist from a nearby hospital and were proceeding to explain to me how to get there. Then somewhere in the middle of this they decided that I needed to fill out a new medical form along with new 2 x 2 photos. This is at the point that I refused. They had the original medical form, with my original 2 x 2 photo NOTARIZED with my physicians signature. It seemed to me they were asking me to start over with it.

Well after some back and forth the person I was dealing with left and brought back the upper management guy again, and he got irritated. He wanted to know why I refused to get new 2 x 2 photos, and I explained that I had done all that already, and that I did not have enough time to do all the things they were asking, which again seemed to be starting over. He got really mad, and I had to ask him calm down. He finally said that I didn’t need to go to the radiologist, all I needed was the 2 x 2 photos. I was really confused, but at this point it seemed an easy thing to do. I clarified that was all they needed, went across the street got a bunch of 2 x 2 (for future issues), paid them there reuqired P250, got my stamp and was on my way back to immigration.

Thinking about it later, all I could come up with is they realized I didn’t need anything further with the x-ray, and decided after all the fuss they needed to require me to do something. The something seemed to be the 2 x 2 photos that served no purpose.

While getting the photos my asawa was next door getting the 3 sets of copies of all my documents that I had prepared for the consulate to begin with. It was with all this in hand that I entered the Bureau of Immigration again. This time they were very busy, as I suspected they might be. I waited in line, and once I got to the window again with the same officer as the first time, he ran off for a new consultation. This didn’t last long. He brought it all back and informed me that the officer that handled the ACR-I was at the airport, and I’d need to come back tomorrow.

Amazingly I didn’t get upset, or not so you could tell. I explained to him that my asawa had taken the day off work, and since she was supposed to be here, I could not come back tomorrow, as she was working then. He had another consultation, and let me know that I could stay for another hour or so, and maybe ACR-I card officer’s assistant would be in, but they were not sure. Just as I had resigned to that, he then mentioned that I could come back at 4:30 p.m., as the officer in charge of the ACR-I cards was due in about that time.

I decided to try to wait out the assistant, as I figured if the officer was due in about 4:30 p.m., it likely would be much later, and they closed at 5:00 p.m. Of course the assistant didn’t show, but I went up to the window to be sure, before leaving for awhile. They indicated she in fact hadn’t shown, but they could help me a little by letting me pay the fees, so when I did meet with the officer that would be done. I could also fill out the ACR-I card form in advance. Great.

I was prepared for the cost of the ACR-I, and to some extent the express lane fees. I wasn’t quite prepared for the rest. I ended up paying about P6900, not including the P250 for quarantine, or the cost of copies, and transportation. I could break it all down, but I’m not sure it matters. It would likely be different next time anyway.

We left for awhile and had an enjoyable time waiting hours in lines at two banks. I must say that I’m really glad I bank with BDO and not BPI, as they way the two banks handled the volume of traffic after being closed for five days was night and day. Suffice to say that BPI only had four tellers working, one of which was exclusive for business customers (and no she did not help others when there were no business customers), and another was for privileged (seniors, disabled, etc.). There were only two tellers waiting on hundreds of people. BDO was slow, too, but they had many more tellers working and funneled people to the customer service counters when they were free.

Anyway, it worked out great. That ate up all the time I had to wait, and I actually had to hurry back to immigration. They hadn’t missed me.

I wasn’t there long, and the ACR-I officer came in shortly. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one waiting for him, so I got to wait some more. I was getting a little nervous, as it was approaching 5:00 p.m. I finally got to him, and it went fairly smoothly. Seems the form they gave me was missing the backer, so we had to fill that out, and get some more photo copies. He also needed more 2 x 2 photos, but at this point we not only had the new ones, we had also found some old ones (I think I’ll keep a stack of those with me at all times).

I got my photo taken for the card, and had the electronic fingerprints done. They surprised me, and had me do further black ink fingerprints on index cards in addition to the digital, but at that point I knew I was getting close, and just happy to be getting it done. They finished up, informed me that I could probably pick up my card in about 3 months, and tried to send me on my way.

I had a couple of questions first.

Would it really take three months, I had been told it would be between one and two, if done in Davao. How would I know when it was ready? Could I check online?

I could stop by, try to call but can’t check it online. It is likely to take up to three months.

I had one further question, brought up by a conversation I had when assessing the fees they were charging. Was my 13a visa probationary or permanent? They fellow helping me with fees had indicated that is was not probationary, and I was quite surprised by that. I had read online that all 13a visa issued, in the US or Philippines, are probationary now. I asked him to explain the one year expiration, and he answered that was the usage time limit. In other words, I needed to enter the Philippines within one year, or the visa was no longer valid.

Not feeling fully comfortable with that answer, though I surely wanted him to be correct, I asked the same question of the ACR-I officer. Without hesitation he said, “oh no sir, this visa is permanent already”. My only requirement is to check in once a year within the first 60 days. He repeated that several times.

So with that I left feeling pretty good about it all. Another day completely required to accomplish one goal, but done already, and with great news, too.

Well…..a week later I get a call from the assistant telling me she is sorry to inform me that there is a missing document from my package. Silly me, I thought the documents had gone on to Manila already. Seems in all the confusion that my bio page of my passport was missing. I know that was in there, and my guess is that it ended up at quarantine prior to the copies, as they were looking at it. Regardless, after some discussion it was decided that I could fax it, as they did not have internet there to receive email, so the story went.

Promptly faxed the document, and got another call the next morning. “Sorry, sir, it is all black and can’t be read”. I gave up. Printed three copies, hopped in a taxi, delivered the three copies, and am now living in bliss, believing that my documents are in Manila being processed.

What is that saying? Ignorance is bliss?

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