The final step of acquiring my 13a Permanent Resident Visa was accomplished last week with the issuing of my ACR-I card. I’m not the first to get my ACR-I card through the Davao office of the Bureau of Immigration. That is actually quite common. My situation was a little more unique, as very few actually complete their US issued 13a visa in Davao. Almost everyone does that in Manila.

The main reason for that, I surmise, is that there really isn’t any information out there stating that you can complete this any place other than Manila. The Philippine Consulate in San Francisco told me to take the packet to immigration in Manila. The instructions on the outside of the packet also stated to present the immigration officials in Manila. So that is what (almost) everyone does.

It was through a conversation that I had with a friend that had recently moved to Davao that I first learned of the ability to complete the visa in Davao. I understood that he had done it here, but I was still a little skeptical as things are not always consistent with regards to rules and regulations in the Philippines. As those will note that have done any online research, you will get many variations of the same process. There is no guarantee that what happened for one, will happen for the next.

I will say that I’ve been very happy with the treatment I’ve received at the Bureau of Immigration Davao District Office. Other than the little issue with quarantine, which really is a different office, I’ve had no problems. I’ve been treated well.

I was told, when doing my final paperwork for the ACR-I Card (ALIEN CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRATION), that I could expect about 3 months to receive it as all my paperwork would be forwarded to Manila. That was longer than I had heard, about 2 months or less was what I had expected. I questioned the length of time, and they said that I could check earlier, but to expect 3 months.

I’m not sure when it actually arrived in Davao, but the issue date on my card was exactly 4 weeks from when I applied. I know that I lost a week because I received a couple of calls in regards to a missing photocopy, and it took about a week to get that sorted out. So my forms couldn’t have been forwarded to Manila any sooner than 3 weeks from the time it was issued. All in all I had my card in hand about 6 weeks from when I applied. So figuring the form delay, and going by the issue date, it may have taken as little as 3 weeks.

For those unfamiliar with the ACR-I card, it is an all encompassing identification card for registered aliens living in the Philippines. It contains virtually all information that should be needed for identification and along with your passport should suffice for just about any ID that you might be required to show, including for banks and internet setup. Those being the only two sources requiring it that I’ve run into so far, not including air travel of course.

Speaking of travel, while applying for the ACR-I Card it is expected that you will not leave the country. They ask that question during the application process. Special arrangements can be made for emergencies, as I understand it, but for the most part you are expected to stay put here in the Philippines. Upon issue of the card you are free to travel but will now be responsible for additional taxes when leaving the country.

From what I’ve heard even if you are living here on a Balikbayan privilege or extended tourist visa beyond 60 days, you are required to apply for the card. Not all are doing so, but it seems they are getting more insistent on it.


The ACR I-Card is a microchip-based credit card-sized identification card issued to registered alien replacing the paper-based ACR. It has an embedded computer chip with biometric security features capable of data management and can be updated electronically. It is fraud and tamper-proof/resistant with the following data:

1 •Personal information such as name, age, date of birth, place of birth, etc.
2 •Photograph
3 •Date and status of admission
4 •Visa type granted/date granted/date issued/expiry date
5 •Biometric information (2 digitalized fingerprint templates)
6 •Signature
8 •Travel details
9 •Payment of immigration fees details

The ACR I-Card likewise serves as the Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC), Re-entry Permit (RP) and Special Return Certificate (SRC) of the holder upon payment of the required fees.

Especially interesting to me was the fact that my card states my visa type is SEC 13A and is valid until PERMANENT. The card itself is valid for 5 years. This confirms to me what the officer in Davao stated, my visa is not probationary and is in fact permanent, I will not need to go back in a year and go through the visa process again. I must check in once a year in January or February with the Bureau of Immigration and other than update my ACR-I in five years, that will be it. To me that makes all the cost and hassle I had processing my visa in the US well worth it. Well worth it!

Reference: Bureau of Immigration ACR-I Card

Anki Bisaya Phrasebook Flashcards