2.15.2020

Return To The USA Part 3

Return To The USA Part 3





It's almost flight time.

Driver's License


I do not want my US license to expire leaving me with no license at all, so before that happens I need to go down to the LTO and apply for a Philippine driver's license.

Requirements for conversion of a foreigner driver's license:
  1. Duly accomplished Application for Driver's License (ADL) form
  2. Original and one (1) photocopy of passport with entry date of at least one (1) month and visa duration of at least six (6) months from date of application
  3. Original and machine copy of valid visa or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) if the foreign applicant temporarily resides in the Philippines
  4. Electronically transmitted medical certificate in LTO prescribed form (present original)
  5. Original and one (1) photocopy of valid foreign DL. If the foreign Driver’s License is not in English language, original and one (1) photocopy of official English translation
  6. Original copy of drug test result issued by DOH Accredited Drug Testing Center;
  7. Expired NPDL / PDL if applicable
If you are converting a foreign license that is valid, then no exams are required. If it is expired, then you will be subject to both practical and written exams.

In the US, when you apply for a license in a different state you must turn over your old license. This is NOT the case when you apply for a Philippine driver's license. Make sure that you get your US driver's license back.

The fee for conversion of a foreign driver's license is 752.63 PHP.

You can download the driver's license application, but you are probably best off to fill out a copy from your local LTO.

A Philippine driver's license is valid for five (5)years:
Non-professional driver's licenses, professional driver's licenses and conductor's licenses shall be valid and effective for five (5) consecutive years reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee, unless sooner revoked or suspended.
Note the statement, "reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee." If you want it to be valid for a full five years, then apply on your birthdate, because the timer begins on your last birthdate not your next birthdate.

Staying current with a Philippine driver's license may or may not make it easier for me to get a US state driver's license, but at least I will be able to use it temporarily to get around. I intend to take all of the tests for a state license so I can keep my Philippine license. I will be required to establish residency according to state laws before applying for the applicable driver's license.

Emigration Clearance Certificate


If you have been in the Philippines for many yeers, as I have, then you will be required to obtain an Emigration Clearance Certificate prior to leaving:
BI Spokesperson Elaine Tan said that based on airport statistics, foreign nationals who failed to present their ECCs comprised 33% of travelers who were denied departure. “It is unfortunate that we have to deny the travel of our foreign friends, but we have to implement the law”, Tan said.
Section 22-A of the Philippine Immigration Act provides that a foreign national who is about to depart from the Philippines temporarily or for good should seek clearance from the Commissioner of Immigration to insure that the foreign national has no pending obligation with the government of the Philippines.
There are two types of ECC.

The ECC-A is for those who are departing the Philippines permanently:
  • The following foreign nationals are required to secure regular ECCs at any of the 17 BI offices and present the same upon departure:
    • Holders of Temporary Visitor Visa (tourist visa) who have stayed in the Philippines for six months or more;
    • Holders of expired or downgraded immigrant or non-immigrant visas;
    • Holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who are leaving for good;
    • Philippine-born foreign nationals who will depart from the Philippines for the first time;
    • Holders of tourist visa with Order to Leave;
    • Seafarers who have stayed in the Philippines for 30 days or more. 
  • Applications for regular ECCs shall be filed three days prior to departure and shall be valid for one month upon issuance. Foreign nationals must submit the following requirements upon filing of the application:
    • Application form;
    • Photocopy of passport (bio page, visa pages, latest arrival);
    • Original and photocopy of ACR I-Card;
    • Photocopy of receipt of latest visa extension;
    • Photocopy of order of downgrading (if applicable);
    • Five pieces 2x2 photo
The ECC-B is for holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who intend to return to the Philippines. The ECC-B may be secured at the airport.

Fees for ECC:
  • 1210 PHP (approximately)
  • Additional fees may be charged if the foreign national is found to have arrears 
If you get an ECC-A, then make certain that you get both a receipt for payment AND the actual ECC certificate.

Even though the BoI directive states that, as a 13a holder, I can obtain my ECC at the airport I am a little concerned about leaving that to chance and being told something different when I get to the airport. Having never done this before, I still want to talk to BoI about it to put my mind at ease.

I googled "Emigration Clearance Certificate" and read everything I could find about other people's experiences, like this page from TripAdvisor.

Travel Documents Required For Dual Citizens


According to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, it is possible for dual nationality holders to depart the Philippines with only a foreign passport if they present a Philippine citizenship document (like a certificate of naturalization):
Filipinos with dual or multiple citizenships are advised to present both their Philippine and foreign passports in order to avoid paying the Emigration Certificate Clearance (ECC) fee. This is also to ensure that all arrival and departure records are reflected completely on both passports. Those who had only presented only a foreign passport at the time of their admission into the Philippines may be cleared for departure without need of surrendering a certificate, permit or proof of payment of imposable immigration fees, provided they present, at the time of departure, a genuine and valid Philippine passport or an Identification Certificate.

On the foreign passport, the immigration officer shall stamp either of the following, whichever is applicable: “PP” – if a Philippine passport is also presented, or “IC” – if an Identification Certificate is presented.

If the traveler fails to present both his Philippine passport or Identification Certificate, at both arrival and departure, he shall be assessed an Emigration Certificate Clearance (ECC) fee of P710.00 for using a foreign passport upon departure.
So this can be done. But the question now is should it be done. I do not want to take the chance of getting to the airport and running into a customs officer who, for whatever reason, does not want to accept anything that is not a passport.

If at all possible GET A PHILIPPINE PASSPORT for everyone in your traveling party who needs one and do not rely upon a citizenship document to exit the Philippines.

Flights And Fares 


I will be looking at flights through various providers like, Expedia and Travelocity. I will also be looking at various fare prediction sites. I am not recommending or endorsing any of those sites. They are all part of the information landscape and I look at many different sites of different types to get a complete picture of what is available. 

It is also possible to save money on a fare by picking the right Arrival city. From a cursory exploration, it seems that flying into Los Angeles from Manila tends to yield lower fares. If I did that, then I could rent a vehicle at the airport and drive to my final destination. Of course, the cost of the rental car and any lodging will need to be figured in.

Traveling Cash


When you depart the Philippines for the US (or any foreign country) it will be necessary to have a certain amount of both Philippine currency and currency for your destination country. 

There are limits for how much currency you can physically transport out of the Philippines:
Philippine Peso Limit:
A person may bring into (import) or take out of (export) the Philippines, either physically or by electronical transfer, legal tender Philippine currency of an amount not exceeding PHP 50,000 (fifty thousand pesos, Philippine currency) without prior authorization from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.  The monetary forms include legal tender Philippine notes and coins, checks, money order and other bills of exchange drawn in Philippine Pesos against banks operating in the Philippines.
The increase to PHP 50,000 in the allowable amount of Philippine currency brought in or out of the Philippines took effect on 15 September 2016, per Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Circular No. 922, series of 2016, dated 23 August 2016, titled “The Amendments of the Rules on Cross-Border Transfer of Local Currency”.
Any excess amount not covered by specific written BSP authorization is subject to confiscation by the Philippine Bureau of Customs.
Foreign Currency Limit:
A person may carry up to the amount of USD 10,000 (or equivalent in any other foreign currency), in cash or other monetary instruments, into and out of the Philippines. Other monetary instruments include travellers’ checks, other checks, drafts, notes, money orders, bonds, deposit certificates, securities, commercial papers, trust certificates, custodial receipts, deposit substitute instruments, trading orders, transaction tickets and confirmation of sale/investment.
If a person wishes to bring more that the equivalent of USD 10,000, a written declaration must be made in the form of the BSP’s “Foreign Currency and Other FX-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form” which may be downloaded from http://www.bsp.gov.ph/regulations/regulations.asp?type=1&id=631.
I would count on at least 10,000 PHP in airport fees for every person in the traveling party and as much USD as I would be comfortable carrying without having to declare it.

Having A Vehicle Ready To Go In The US


In Part 1 I talked about initially having a rental car for a few weeks, but I have decided against that. I will use either Cars Direct or Cars.com to secure a permanent vehicle prior to arriving in the US. I used Cars Direct before and I know it can work. My plan is to pick three or four vehicles a few days before arrival and then make the final decision in person. I will be working with an insurance agent before I ever get to the US to ensure that I am fully covered before I leave the sales lot.

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