The Bureau of Immigration has a new policy on clearances for foreign nationals who are leaving the country for good.
Under the new rule, Emigration Clearance Certificates (ECC-A), more popularly known as exit clearances, will no longer be issued to holders of valid immigrant or non-immigrant visas who are leaving the country for good (not just temporarily). They should first downgrade their visas or have them canceled. Under the new rule, the BI no longer allows automatic cancellation of visas by having the ACR I-Card canceled.
The new rule (dated 14 June 2017 amending BI Advisory SBM-2013-001) removed from the list of those who are allowed to apply for ECC-A those persons with immigrant and non-immigrant visas who are leaving for good.
What’s the difference?
The previous procedure allowed foreign nationals to have their visa canceled automatically when they depart. They just need to file an application for an ECC-A as a holder of a Philippine visa who is leaving for good. The previous procedure did not require a foreign national to take time and expense to downgrade his current visa. For those with work visas, this allowed one to work up to the last day, or even the last minute of his stay in the Philippines.
The new rule changes this.
Now, foreign employees have to cease work with their company when their visa status is downgraded.
Remember that canceling or downgrading a work visa would remove the right of the person to work in the Philippines. After the visa of a foreign national is downgraded, he cannot work anymore unless he obtains another visa or special work permit. Any company that continues his employment may be sued for violation of immigration and labor laws. The foreign national may also be put in harm’s way and may be held by the BI for violation of immigration laws if he is found out.
NOTE: Companies should let their employees know about the effects of downgrading.
Companies should therefore be careful about this policy and should take this rule into account with regard to their alien employees, and consider as well the timelines for issuance of a downgrade and ECC-A.
I hope that the BI will address this gap in the rule to avoid problems. It is not economically feasible for a company to pay for the upkeep of a foreign national while waiting for his visa downgrade, and then waiting again for the EEC-A to issue.
Of course, companies can also protect themselves. They should inform their foreign employee at the start of the employment that they will not work or be paid while waiting for issuance of the visa downgrade and ECC.
Foreign nationals should be wary. Companies who do not downgrade the visas of their employees, but secure only an ECC-B (issued only to foreign nationals who are leaving the country temporarily) so that they can leave can put their future visa applications in jeopardy. Their visas will not be canceled. The effect is that they will still be considered to have a visa (even if expired). They will be unable to obtain a new one when they apply for one in the Philippine Consulate. Their remedy is to have the company apply for cancellation of their visa first.
Please note that this new rule only covers those visas that require exit clearances. It does not affect those who have visas that are exempted from obtaining clearances and certifications from the Bureau of Immigration.