Philippines Introduces New Economic Zone Authority Visa for Foreigners
In November 2021, the Philippines Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) introduced a new work visa for foreigners who are sponsored to work in the Philippines by companies registered with PEZA.
Under the new PEZA visa, foreign investors and workers must now obtain a PEZA visa in lieu of 47(a)(2) visas. The PEZA applications are processed within 10 business days (from the previous time of 1 month) and the visa is valid for up to two years with the option of renewing once for another two years, for a maximum validity period of four years.Holders of a valid 47(a)(2) visa who are sponsored by a PEZA-registered company can continue to use their 47(a)(2) visas until they expire, after which they must apply for a PEZA visa, provided they are still eligible to work in the Philippines.
Applicants looking to shift from an expired 47(a)(2) visa to a PEZA visa should know that they will be treated as new PEZA visa applications.
PEZA is one of 19 investment promotion agencies (IPA) tasked with assisting foreign investors to facilitate their investments in the Philippines. Each IPA offers its own fiscal and non-fiscal incentives ranging from income tax holidays to exemption of value-added tax to special visa privileges for foreign workers, among many others.
What are the requirements to obtain a PEZA visa?
For the foreign national employed by a PEZA-registered company
The foreign national needs the following general documents to obtain the PEZA visa:
- A notarized application form; and
- A notarized company’s letter-request addressed to the PEZA Director General signed by the company’s President or Chief Executive, which commits to the following:
- The employment of the foreign worker is deemed essential for the operations of the company;
- A document signed by the company stating that the foreign worker will train the Filipino employees of the company. This is known as Undertaking for an Understudy Program in training Filipino workers;
- An organizational chart of the sponsoring company;
- An endorsement letter from the PEZA Zone Manager to the Director-General of the PEZA;
- Evidence that the foreign employee has no pending case against them in the country they last resided for the past five years or in the Philippines; and
- Upon termination or cessation of employment, the company must notify PEZA and must surrender the employee’s work permit to the Bureau of Immigration.
If the applicant is a dependent(s) of the foreign employee
The dependent(s) of the foreign employee must submit the following documents:
- A notarized application form;
- Photocopy of the passport of the dependent(s);
- Birth certificate and/or marriage certificate with English translation; and
- A notarized affidavit of support/guarantee executed by the PEZA-registered company’s President or Vice President.
What are the procedural requirements?
Once the applicant’s documents have been verified, the PEZA-registered enterprise will apply for the PEZA visa on behalf of the applicant to the PEZA zone administrator or manager of the ecozone where the enterprise is located.For IT companies and medical tourism companies located in Metro Manila, the applications must be submitted to the Manager of the zone office, located in the PEZA head office.
The processing fees for the PEZA visa are as follows:
- New – PHP 5,000 (US$97)
- Renewal – PHP 5,000 (US$97)
- New – PHP 3,000 (US$58)
- Renewal – PHP 3,000 (US$58)
Approval or denial of the PEZA visa
The PEZA head office will approve or deny the application within five working days. In case the application is denied, the PEZA will cite the reasons for the denial.
Upon receipt of the PEZA endorsement, the Bureau of Immigration will issue an order granting the conversion of the applicant’s temporary visa to a PEZA visa within five working days. The PEZA will then issue a PEZA visa card, which is valid for up to one year initially and must be renewed yearly for the duration of the corresponding PEZA visa.
What are the grounds for denial of the PEZA visa?
The Bureau of Immigration can deny a PEZA visa for various reasons, including:
- The foreign employee having a delinquent record in the Philippines;
- The misrepresentation of facts in the application form;
- Submitting fraudulent documents;
- The applicant has a deportation or pending deportation case against them;
- The applicant has violated their condition of stay;
- The applicant is deemed a threat to national security.
Downgrading of the PEZA visa
Once the PEZA visa holders’ employment ends in the Philippines, they must downgrade their PEZA visa to a 9(a) tourist visa, which is valid for 59 days.
The PEZA visa must then be canceled, and the foreign employee must obtain an ‘order of cancellation’ from the PEZA and depart before the expiration of their tourist visa. The foreign employee’s sponsor company must notify the PEZA no more than five days following the end of the employee’s employment with the company.
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