The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is now reviewing the visa upon arrival (VUA) policy to determine if the scheme should be refined or be completely scrapped. Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the BI’s review started about a month ago and has already identified loopholes in the system. The VUA is a facility available to Chinese tourists only. Perete however said other foreign nationals can also avail of it if they fall under the following categories:1) Foreign investors/businessmen endorsed by the BOI, PRA, PCCI and other chambers; 2) athletes and delegates to sports competitions; 3) delegates/participants to international conventions; 4) foreign investors / executives in investments endorsed by the govt; and 5) officials of the WB, ADB and other development partners.
Perete said the BI will still formulate a proposal which will then be submitted to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who has authority over immigration matters. Perete said based on the initial findings of the BI, one of the loopholes identified is the length of period covered by the VUA which is initially valid for three months and is subject to an extension of three months. According to Guevarra, foreign nationals who avail of the VUA privilege can then convert the visa into a work visa or a special work permit to be able to stay longer and work in the Philippines. “Doon kelangan ng more adequate monitoring and essentially intelligence work by the BI to prevent those situations na itong visa upon arrival which is supposed to be for tourism purposes ay magagamit for some other purpose,” said Guevarra. Perete added that the grantees conversion of the VUA to any other type of visa is prohibited. Scrapping the scheme is possible but they still have to take into consideration the possible adverse effect specifically to the country’s tourism. “That scheme was developed to encourage tourists from China so the immediate impact if we abolish it will be on the tourism side,” said Guevarra. Another issue that they have to look into, according to Guevarra is the security issue raised by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on the influx of Chinese nationals in the country. Guevarra said after the BI’s review, they will coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the matter before deciding on whether to scrap or fine tune the system.