Want to work in the Philippines? Your first job is the paperwork…

work Philippines
There is no avoiding the paperwork if you want to work in the Philippines – but don’t let that daunt you!

So, you want to work in the Philippines?

There are plenty of opportunities for gainful employment here, but whatever you’re planning to do, your first job is to get yourself a visa.

While the thought of dealing with Philippine bureaucrats may not be the most delightful proposition, being caught working without the relevant paperwork is a whole lot worse.

As it happens, with a bit of preparation and a clear plan of action, getting your work visa isn’t too much of a hassle.

In this brief guide, we will make frequent reference to the following acronyms:

BI — The Bureau of Immigration (BI)

AEP — Alien Employment Permit (AEP)

DOLE — Department of Labor and Employment (NOT the pineapple company!)


An AEP grants permission to work in the Philippines.

Although not a work permit per se, an AEP is an important legal document required to secure a work visa.

Some foreign nationals are exempted from obtaining an AEP. These include:

• All members of the diplomatic service and foreign government officials;
• Owners and representatives of foreign principals whose companies are accredited by Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); and
• Permanent resident foreign nationals and probationary or temporary resident visa holders under the Philippines’ law.

Besides these, if your employer is located abroad, or if you do not have an employer, you are also excluded from securing an AEP.

An AEP is valid for a year, or for the duration of an employment contract of up to three years.

It must be stressed that the AEP is valid only for the position and company that it was secured for. A new job — even within the same company — requires a new AEP.

The application for an AEP may be filed by your employer or yourself.

Documents required to secure an AEP:

• Application form;
• Photocopy of employee’s passport with valid visa;
• All documents related to the contract of employment;
• Photocopy of current AEP (in cases of reissue); and
• Photocopy of mayor’s permit or photocopy of business permit.

Pre-arranged Employment Visa or 9(G) Visa

Also known as the Pre-arranged Employment Visa, this is the most common work visa.

It allows for the employment of foreign nationals who have skills, qualifications and experience that are in short supply in the country.

These visas rely on having a would-be employer in place, who sponsors your application with the BI — and yes, you still need to obtain your AEP first.

And again, this visa only covers work with the company that your application. When your contract is over, you will be downgraded to a tourist visa. Any new job will require a new 9(G).

A 9(G) is valid for an initial period of one, two or three years, and can be extended by up to three years at a time, depending on your contract.

But don’t forget your AEP — although the visa can be renewed multiple times, it cannot exceed the period granted under this document.

Documents required for applying for a 9(G) Visa

• A Notarised Certification of Number of Foreign and Filipino Employees of the employer;
• Application form;
• Photocopy of employment contract, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) certification, and Articles of Incorporation (AOI);
• A certified true copy of AEP from DOLE;
• Original newspaper clipping showing publication of AEP application by DOLE;
• BI clearance certificate;
• Alien certificate of registration;
• Applicant’s passport; and
• Other documents supporting the employment of the applicant.

Treaty Trader’s Visa or 9 (D) Visa

This is for citizens of countries that have a bilateral trade agreement with the Philippines, namely the United States, and Germany.

To qualify, you must prove the following:

• You or your employers are engaged in substantial trade, involving investment of at least $120,000 between the Philippines and your country of origin;
• You intend to the Philippines upon the completion or termination of the work contract;
• You hold the same nationality as your employer or the company’s major shareholder; and
• You hold a position of a supervisor or executive in the company;

This visa is valid for up to two years.

Other employment permits

• Provisionary Work Permit (PWP)

The Philippines offers expatriates an option to work in the country even if their work visa (9D or 9G) has not yet been issued through a PWP.

This is issued if you have your AEP and your work visa application is pending approval.

A PWP is valid for up to six months.

• Special Work Permit (SWP)

In the case of short-term work contracts that are of six months or less, you are only required to apply for a SWP with the BI.

Applicants generally include people like musicians, actors, athletes or anybody else providing “temporary services”.

An SWP is basically a permit to work under a standard Tourist Visa (9A) for up to three months. It can be extended once for a maximum of the same length of time.

So, all very straightforward in principle, but as with all things involving paperwork in the Philippines, it’s not always a walk in the park.

Good luck!

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