Amendments to the guidelines on PEZA visas

It is the mandate of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to attract foreign investments through the establishment of various economic zones in the Philippines. The creation of these zones aims to generate employment opportunities for Filipinos and ultimately stimulate the repatriation of Filipino capital through the provision of prolific business incentives.

In this light, the PEZA and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Nov. 11, 2021 to streamline the process for the issuance of PEZA visas (PV) to foreign nationals working for PEZA-registered enterprises. The MoA was signed by both agencies to facilitate the conduct of business in PEZA-registered ecozones, and to provide “efficient, simplified and harmonized rules and procedures on the issuance and/or implementation of PVs.”

Ten months after the issuance of the MoA, the PEZA and BI have issued additional guidelines to improve the PV application process.

On June 20 this year, the PEZA and BI issued Joint PEZA-BI Memorandum Circular No. 2022-001, otherwise known as the Amended Guidelines Governing the Documentary Requirements and Procedures for the Application, Evaluation and Processing of the PEZA Visa. The Memorandum Circular sought to address “various requests for clarifications,” and to “conform to the mandated thrust of government to constantly improve government processes and services to promote ease of doing business.”

Among the notable clarifications which the PEZA and BI have issued are with respect to the documentary requirements for the PV application.

In the Memorandum Circular, the PEZA and BI clarified that the petitioner-sponsor may submit a mere photocopy of its PEZA Certificate of Registration, in lieu of a certified true copy of the Certificate that was initially required to be included in the PV application folder.

On the requirement to submit the foreign national’s Alien Employment Permit (AEP), the PEZA and BI clarified that the submission of an e-mail confirmation from the relevant Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Regional Office stating that the AEP Card is valid and genuinely issued will suffice. To recall, the earlier MoA required PEZA-registered enterprises to submit a certified true copy of the foreign applicant’s AEP Card, together with its corresponding Official Receipt, before the PV application could be filed. Notably, however, the BI has reserved its right to require the presentation of the original AEP Card prior to the stamping of the PV, once approved.

The PEZA and BI also clarified the requirements for the qualified dependents of the foreign national. Previously, the applicant’s legal spouse and/or unmarried children below 21 years old who are included in the PV application must submit their original and duly-apostilled marriage/birth certificates at the PEZA. Under the new Memorandum Circular, however, the PEZA and BI distinguished between new/initial PV applications and PV renewal applications.

For new/initial applications, the PEZA shall now accept any of the following documents: the original apostilled, authenticated or attested marriage/birth certificate; a certified true copy of the apostilled, authenticated or attested marriage/birth certificate that was issued by the appropriate foreign office; or, a print-out of the foreign office’s e-mail of the apostilled, authenticated or attested marriage/birth certificate, which must be accompanied by a notarized affidavit of undertaking from the applicant attesting to the veracity and genuineness of the same. On the other hand, a mere photocopy of the apostilled, authenticated, or attested marriage/birth certificate will already suffice for PV renewal applications.

The Memorandum Circular also provides that PV renewal applications which are filed less than 30 days prior to their respective expiration dates may still be accepted by the PEZA, provided that the application comes with a letter of explanation stating specific and justifiable reasons as to why the application was belatedly filed.

It has been the practice of PEZA to accommodate PV renewal applications only when they are filed at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the current 47(a)(2) or PEZA visa. Foreign nationals whose applications were filed within the 30-day period were directed to downgrade their visas and thereafter apply for the conversion of their downgraded 9(a)/temporary visitor visas to new PVs. The acceptance of PV renewal applications, as long as the same is filed while the current visa is still valid, is therefore a welcome development.

The Memorandum Circular also emphasized that only applications with complete requirements shall be received, evaluated, and processed. It is therefore imperative that PV applications comply with the PEZA’s latest checklist of requirements at the outset so that these applications may be accepted and considered by the PEZA as having been officially filed.

From the issuance of the Memorandum Circular, it appears that the PEZA and BI have acknowledged that the implementation of their guidelines is fairly recent and subject to continuous refinement. PEZA and BI stakeholders must therefore continue to be proactive in ensuring that both agencies adopt measures that favor the public’s interests, and ultimately implement regulations that adhere to the ease of doing business. n

This article is only for general informational and educational purposes and is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or opinion.

Christianna Manami Y. Salud is an associate of the Immigration department of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW).

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