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Immigration and Immigration Policies | Philippines |

Philippines Historical Development Immigration and Immigration Policies Emigration and Emigration Policies Citizenship and Naturalization Refuge and Asylum Irregular Migration Challenges and Future Development References

Immigration and Immigration Policies

Michael R.M Abrigo

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Celebrations for Chinese New Year in front of the Manila stock market. (© picture alliance / landov)

The 2010 Census of Population registered 177,368 foreign nationals in the Philippines, representing just 0.2 percent of the total population. They are comprised largely by prime aged adults (20 to 59 years old), and by males (cf. Table 1). Countries of citizenship were more diversified in 2010 compared to 40 years ago, when Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans, and US Americans comprised about three quarters of foreign nationals in the country. Top countries of citizenship in 2010 included the US (16.9%), China (16.2%), Japan (6.5%), India (5.1%) and South Korea (3.3%).

Foreign Citizens by Sex, Age Group, Education and Country of Citizenship, 1970 –2010

Note: 1970 figures from Concepcion, M.B. (Ed.) (1977). Population of the Philippines. Quezon City: UP Population Institute. Estimates for 1990 are based on a 10 percent sample of the census. 2010 estimates are based on full census. Total is in units; all others are in percent. Distribution by education refers to persons aged 5 years and older.
By sex (in %)
By Age Group (in %)
< 20-41,134,9
20 – 59-48,558,2
59 < -10,56,9
By Education (in %)
Less than primary completed -27,7-
Primary completed -20,5-
Secondary completed -25,1-
Tertiary completed -10,8-
Not reported-3,2-
By Country of Citizenship (in %)
South Korea5,70,33,3
United States8,713,616,9

Source: Battistella und Asis (2013).
License: Creative Commons by-nc-nd/3.0/de
The Federal Agency for Civic Education, 2014, Externer Link:

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has sole jurisdiction to enforce and administer immigration and alien registration laws, including the admission, registration, exclusion, deportation and repatriation of aliens, as well as the supervision of the flow of aliens to and from the Philippines. In 2012, a total of 203,753 foreign citizens registered with BI under its annual alien registration program provided for in the "Alien Registration Act of 1950" (Republic Act (RA) 562). Of the total foreign nationals registered, 28.9 percent were foreign students, which have more than quadrupled in number since 2008. 47,000 foreigners were non-immigrant aliens . Males dominate the number of new aliens registered between 2004 and 2012 (cf. Table 2). During the same period, the flow of permanent immigrants has declined in terms of proportion. The flow of temporary students and workers with pre-arranged employment has become more prominent.

New Aliens Registered by Category, Sex and Age, 2004 –2012

By Category
Treaty Traders1,92,60,50,80,80,81,21,81,8
Temporary Students4,53,93,87,914,518,520,621,519,9
Pre-arranged employment30,014,912,128,436,435,138,538,143,0
By Sex
By Age Group
14 and below5,35,87,39,810,611,610,410,711,2
15 – 249,99,27,49,715,017,319,020,520,0
25 – 349,110,812,817,424,424,625,623,523,9
35 – 4415,514,616,218,619,618,819,118,419,1
45 – 5422,219,319,116,114,012,612,212,612,4
55 – 6417,217,516,212,68,58,38,08,88,8
65 and above20,922,821,115,87,86,75,75,64,7

Source: Battistella und Asis (2013).
License: Creative Commons by-nc-nd/3.0/de
The Federal Agency for Civic Education, 2014, Externer Link:

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issues Alien Employment Permits (AEP) to foreign nationals who are allowed to work in the country. Between 1978 and 2010, the number of foreign nationals issued work permits did not exceed 15,000 annually. Among the 14,325 AEPs issued in 2010, a plurality was employed in manufacturing (33.2%), transportation, storage and communication (22.9%), real estate, renting and business activities (15.4%) and construction (7.6%), with large concentrations working in high-skill occupations as administrative, executive and managerial workers (55.7%) and as professionals and technicians (38.3%). Although the country has rather conservative protectionist policies on foreign ownership of capital , the visa system is somewhat liberal. The country allows visa-free entry for qualified foreign nationals wishing to stay in the Philippines for at most 30 days. This privilege is extended to citizens of 151 countries with passports valid for at least six months upon entry into the Philippines. For longer periods of stay, a visa may be required under the "Philippine Immigration Act of 1940" (Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 613, as amended). Former Filipino citizens who have been naturalized in a foreign country and their family who hold foreign passports may stay in the country visa-free for up to one year. Executive issuances starting in the 1980s providing for special resident visas, such as retiree, employer and investor visas, were designed to attract foreign investments to stimulate the local economy, which has been the main thrust of immigration policies in the past 30 years.

While the Philippines have been ranked favorably in terms of openness to immigrants , integration policy in general has not taken prime importance in public debates. There were efforts, however, to provide targeted services to specific types of immigrants. In 1985, for instance, the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) was established to develop programs for and provide services to foreign nationals wishing to retire in the Philippines. As of 2012, a total of 27,000 foreign retirees from 107 countries had been issued Special Resident Retiree’s Visa by PRA.



  1. The government requires annual registration of foreign nationals living in the Philippines.

  2. This generally includes persons who are not given permanent residence status by the government. While non-immigrant aliens cannot stay permanently in the country, certain classes, such as retirees, may stay for an extended period of time.

  3. The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership of capital in key economic sectors to at most 40 percent.

  4. In 2011, for instance, the Philippines ranked 8th of 31 countries in terms of friendliness to expatriates by Forbes Magazine based on the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey.


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Michael R.M. Abrigo is Research Specialist at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). The opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the PIDS.
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