The Philippines has a generous visa-free policy. Citizens of over 100 nations are able to spend from 14 to 59 days in the country visa-free. To take advantage of this scheme, travelers must present:
- An eligible passport valid for the duration of the stay
- Evidence of onward travel such as a flight reservation or return ticket
Anyone without a valid passport and transport arrangements for departing the Philippines will be denied entry.
Foreigners from visa-exempt countries who wish to stay for longer than the time specified must apply for a Philippines visit visa, meeting all the requirements laid out by the government based on the purpose of the trip and nationality.
The Taiwanese are required to apply online for the Philippines eTA visa waiver in order to enter the country.
Access to Boracay Island has been limited to those with a confirmed hotel booking at an accredited hotel. The island was closed for part of 2018 to allow for environmental improvements to take place. Admission to the island has been restricted to help preserve its natural beauty and clean beaches.
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions in the Philippines
In line with actions taken by governments across the globe, restrictions on movement have been imposed in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, has now reached most countries and there is a worldwide effort to contain the disease.
Temporary measures, such as travel bans, are considered to be an effective means of control, preventing the movement of people and therefore the diffusion of the virus. The Philippines visa policy has been adapted to prevent further cases.
Who is affected by the Philippines visa suspension?
From early in the outbreak, the Philippines placed restrictions on visitors arriving from China, Hong Kong and the Gyeongsang province of South Korea, as the areas most severely affected. The visa on arrival scheme usually available to Chinese nationals was suspended until further notice.
On March 19th it was announced that, to keep coronavirus cases as low as possible across the Philippines, further measures were to come into effect.
All visas for foreigners are now suspended: no new visas will be issued and those previously granted are canceled. Only visas issued to non-Filipino spouses and children of natives continue to be valid.
The Philippines visa-free policy has also been stopped. Passport holders from over 100 countries can, under normal circumstances, enjoy visa-free access to the country but will be prevented from doing so until the situation improves, blocking almost all overseas travel to the Philippines.
All these measures are temporary, the normal visa policy will resume once COVID-19 has been brought under control. There is optimism that this can happen soon, with fewer and fewer new cases being reported in China, where the virus originated, daily.
Are travelers already in the Philippines affected?
The good news for foreigners currently in the Philippines is that they will not be made to leave immediately. International visitors in the country are able to stay until their departure date.
Although the measures were announced on 19th March, they did not come into effect until Sunday in order to allow for those already en-route to the Philippines under the visa-free arrangement to arrive.
Upon entering the Philippines these arrivals would be subject to the Department of Health and Bureau of Quarantine measures.
Advice for foreigners in the Philippines during coronavirus
Foreigners currently in the Philippines should follow the standard health recommendations being issued by governments worldwide:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer
- No contact with anyone displaying symptoms
- Avoid touching the face
- Practice social distancing, a least 1 meter between people
People in the Philippines who display any of the symptoms (dry cough, difficulty breathing, fever) can call one of the recently launched coronavirus helplines: 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555.
Many countries have diplomatic missions in the Philippines which can be contacted for advice and assistance in case of an emergency.
Other Preventative Measures in the Philippines
Previous to the visa suspension, the island of Luzon, where the capital city of Manila is located, was placed under ‘enhanced community quarantine’.
Residents on the island are requested to stay at home unless shopping for essential items such as food and medicine.
Only diplomats and Filipino passport holders are able to enter the island of Luzon through its international airports.
Such measures have been adopted by countries across the world in response to the new coronavirus and will be lifted as soon as possible.