Expired special non-immigrant visas cannot be changed to another visa type in-country

21 Feb 14

PHILIPPINES

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? The Bureau of Immigration will stop allowing foreign workers whose 47(a)(2) Special Non-Immigrant visas have expired to convert to another visa type in-country – including through change of status, or “downgrading,” to 9(a) Temporary Visitor visas.

What does the change mean? Holders of the 47(a)(2) visa must immediately leave the Philippines upon expiration of their visas.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: 47(a)(2) Special Non-Immigrant visa.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals whose employment was authorized through the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). 
  • Impact on processing times: There is no impact on government processing times.
  • Business impact: There could be significant business interruptions if employees must leave and attempt to return before applying for new work visas.
  • Next steps: Employers should be sure to monitor the expiration dates of employees’ 47(a)(2) visas to make sure renewals are filed in a timely manner. Employees who are completing their assignments close to when their 47(a)(2) visas will expire should plan to leave prior to expiration as “downgrading” to 9(a) visas may not be allowed.

Background: The Bureau of Immigration has verbally notified immigration practitioners that it has been instructed by an internal Justice Department memo to disallow “downgrading” and to order foreign employees with expired 47(a)(2) visas to leave the country immediately. Though change of status to a 9(a) visa may still be allowed in some cases, it will only be in order to give employees time to wrap up their affairs and leave as soon as possible without being subject to additional overstay penalties.  If their 47(a)(2) visas have expired, they will only be allowed to apply for another non-immigrant work visa after leaving the Philippines and returning.

BAL Analysis: The unofficial policy is still too fresh to know how it will be implemented in practice. For example, there is no information yet on whether a cooling-off period will be required before re-entering the Philippines to apply for another non-immigrant work visa. BAL will update clients as the details become available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in the Philippines. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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