As a holder of a 13a Permanent Resient Visa, I’m required to check in with the Bureau of Immigration every year within the first 60 days of the new year. Having just moved here in August of 2012, this was my first time to go through the process.

It seemed like it was going to be a fairly easy process. The main issue I had heard about was the extra crowds at immigration due to this requirement. Many had told me to wait awhile, until the crowds settled. Actually, almost everyone I spoke to indicated that they waited, just for this reason. I decided, since I had plenty of time, to go the first day and see how it really was.

As it goes with most things regarding requirements here, I got conflicting information. There had been an article on the website of the Bureau of Immigration stating that all that was needed was my ACR-I card and my Certificate of Residence. Others had told me that I needed a CEDULA (sometimes referred to as a Certificate of Residence, but most commonly as a Community Tax Certificate). A fellow down the street that was interning at the local BI gave me a different list stating that I needed: 1) Filled out application form, 2) Copy of my passport bio page & Visa page, 3) Copy of my passport last entry page, 4) Copy of ACR-I card front & back.

The only thing that troubled me with the whole deal was the CEDULA. The CEDULA is a document that seems to be a bit of a mystery to most expats. It is a residence tax, that you pay at your barangay office. They will determine your fee based off your income, and in turn will give you the certificate upon payment. I didn’t have that particular document, and wouldn’t be able to get it until after all the holidays had passed. That wouldn’t allow me to be there the first day. I did attempt to get one, just in case, but ran into closed offices.

I did some further research and determined, at least in my mind, that I already had my Certificate of Residence. As part of my fees to get the ACR-I card, I had to pay P1400 for an ICR (Immigrant Certificate of Residence). My ACR-I card lists “Cert. of Res.” as the last item on the front, and has a number starting with ICR. The application form had a place for that, so I entered the number off my card there.

I decided to go into with what I had, and made the appropriate copies of the other items. I got to immigration bright and early, 8:00 a.m. by my watch, 8:30 a.m. by their clock. I wasn’t that surprised to find I was the second person at the office. This has been true each time I’ve gone. If I get there right when they open, there is almost nobody else there. I guess tourists and retirees like to sleep in?

Much to my surprise, and happiness I might add, they had a sign posted at the first window stating the requirements for the 2013 Annual Report. They were exactly what the fellow down the street had told me, and neither the CEDULA or Certificate of Residence were on it. I went straight to the window and handed them my documents. The officer kept looking at my copies, because evidently they are not use to you having all your copies, and their first action is to send you around the corner to get more photo copies. He finally agreed it was complete and asked me to take a seat.

Within a few minutes they came back with my file and asked me to sign it. At this point I’m feeling really good and thinking it’s a matter of minutes before I pay and head to coffee. Silly me.

Time went by, the office filled with foreigners requesting various items, and everyone waited. I kept looking at the lady at the payment window, but she called up no one. Finally after about an hour and half, she started calling people to pay. Being the first I expected I would be called relative to my place in line, and knowing that my check-in was basic, it should be quick. Well that didn’t happen. Many names were called before I went back up to the original window and asked why I hadn’t been called. That’s when I was informed of a computer problem with the Annual Reports. But they were working on it.

Another half hour went by and some of the people getting tourist renewals and other documents were getting their Official Receipts and leaving. I then went up to the payment window and asked, “is there a problem with the processing of the Annual Report?”. “Yes, sir, the system is down, I suggest you come back in the afternoon.” Well it wouldn’t do me a lot of good to head home, because I live no where near the BI and take the jeepney back and forth. I headed to Victoria Plaza for coffee, followed by lunch.

Having wasted an hour and a half there, I decided to check back at the BI. Good news, they were processing the Annual Reports now. I was able to pay (though I lost my place in line by leaving), only another half hour more and I had my Official Receipt. I placed this securely with every other document I’ve ever taken to or received from them. I don’t know if I need them, but they all go with me each time I go to the BI.

If I had gone into this without expecting something to go wrong, I might had been a bit upset. At worst I thought I might have to go to the barangay and get a CEDULA, so only spending half a day there, and not needing to come back another day felt like a victory. Not a big one, but all wins are good, right?

Will my experience reflect yours? Probably not if you don’t live in Davao, and no guarantee for me next year even at this same office. I’m glad it’s done and out of the way. Oh BTW, the fee is P310, as advertised.

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