COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Philippines is an emerging economy with a democratic system of government. Located in Southeast Asia, the country is an archipelago consisting of more than 7,100 islands, of which more than 800 are inhabited. The major island groupings are Luzon in the north, the Visayas in the center, and Mindanao in the south. Tourist facilities are available within population centers and the main tourist areas. English is widely spoken in the Philippines, and most signs are in English. Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on the Philippines for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit the Philippines, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local Embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Telephone (63) (2) 301-2000
Facsimile: (63) (2) 301-2017
There is a consular agency in Cebu City, which provides limited services to U.S. citizens, but is not authorized to issue passports. If you are requesting service at the consular agency, you should call ahead to verify that the service requested will be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.
U.S. Consular Agency
Ground Level, Waterfront Hotel
Lahug, Cebu City
Telephone: (63)(32) 231-1261
Facsimile: (63)(32) 231-0174
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: U.S. citizens may enter the Philippines for purposes of tourism without a visa if they present their U.S. passport, valid for at least six months after their date of entry into the Philippines, and a return ticket to the United States or an onward ticket to another country. Upon arrival, immigration authorities will annotate your passport with an entry visa valid for 21 days. If you plan to stay longer than 21 days, you must apply for an extension at the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation's main office at Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila, or at any of its provincial offices. If you are coming to the Philippines for purposes other than tourism, please check the Embassy of the Philippines website and/or the Philippine Bureau of Immigration for visa requirements. You may be denied entry or be given a fine if your purpose for entry is other than tourism and you do not possess the correct visa.
U.S. citizens may obtain a multiple-entry transit 9(b) visa to permit travel from one country to another via the Philippines. Travelers must obtain a transit visa from a Philippine embassy or consulate prior to traveling to the Philippines—transit visas are not issued upon arrival in the Philippines. The transit visa generally is valid for one month and allows the traveler to remain in the Philippines for up to three days. The transit visa is not convertible to any other type of Philippine visa and cannot be extended. U.S. citizens holding an approved transit 9(b) visa should possess the following to qualify for entry to the Philippines: a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into the Philippines, confirmed onward tickets to another destination, and a valid visa for the country of final destination, if required.
Persons who overstay their visas are subject to fines and detention by Philippine immigration authorities. Please remain aware of your visa status while in the Philippines and strictly follow immigration laws and regulations. Travelers departing the country from international airports must pay a Passenger Service Charge in Philippine Pesos. Visit the Embassy of the Philippines web site for the most current visa information.
Special requirements exist for the entry of minors who are not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and who do not possess a valid visa. The Bureau of Immigration recently strengthened its enforcement of penalties for these requirements. Children under 15 years of age unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian must obtain a “waiver of exclusion" before entering the Philippines. These waivers are available from Philippine embassies and consulates or from the Bureau of Immigration and Detention in Manila. Please check with these entities for further details and clarifications. At this writing, children attempting to enter the Philippines without a waiver of exclusion will be assessed a fee of 3,120 Pesos upon arrival (payable only in Pesos). The Bureau of Immigration will retain a photocopy of the child’s passport.
HIV/AIDS restrictions: The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors. However U.S. citizens applying for residency status in the Philippines can be excluded based on this illness. Please verify this information with the Embassy of the Philippines at 1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone 202-467-9300 before you travel.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens contemplating travel to the Philippines should carefully consider the risks to their safety and security while there, including those risks due to terrorism. The southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago are of particular security concern. Travelers should defer all travel to the Sulu Archipelago and should exercise extreme caution on the island of Mindanao. For further information regarding the continuing threats due to terrorist and insurgent activities in the Philippines, see the Travel Warning for the Philippines.
Terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jema’ah Islamiyah, as well as groups that have broken away from the more mainstream Moro Islamic Liberation Front or Moro National Liberation Front have carried out bombings resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. Bombings in the central and western areas of Mindanao have targeted bus terminals, public buildings, public markets, and local festivals. While those responsible do not appear to have targeted foreigners, travelers should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. Official U.S. Government visitors and Embassy employees must seek special permission for travel to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago. When traveling in Mindanao, U.S. official travelers attempt to lower their profile, limit their length of stay, and exercise extreme caution. Some foreigners who reside in or visit western and central Mindanao hire their own private security personnel.
Kidnap-for-ransom gangs operate in the Philippines and have targeted foreigners, including Filipino-Americans. Such gangs are especially active in the Sulu Archipelago, and a number of foreigners have been kidnapped there in recent years.
Occasionally, the U.S. Embassy is the target of planned and/or spontaneous demonstrations. While Philippine security forces generally prevent such demonstrators from reaching the Embassy, protestors in rare instances have made their way successfully to the Embassy perimeter. In such an instance, Embassy security authorities may take appropriate measures to safeguard personnel and visitors, including restricting access to the compound. U.S. citizens or other individuals having business at the Embassy should keep this in mind and be prepared to defer their business until any such situation is resolved.
U.S. citizens in the Philippines are advised to monitor local news broadcasts and consider the level of preventive security when visiting public places, especially when choosing hotels, restaurants, beaches, entertainment venues, and recreation sites.
Stay up to date:
CRIME: Just as in many of the major metropolitan areas in the United States, crime is a significant concern in Metro Manila. As a rule of thumb, U.S. citizens should exercise good judgment and remain aware of their surroundings. Reports of confidence games, pick pocketing, Internet scams, and credit/ATM card fraud are common. U.S. citizens should be wary of unknown individuals who attempt to befriend them, especially just after their arrival in the country. It is best not to accept food, drink, or rides in private vehicles from strangers, even if they appear to be legitimate. There have been several cases of solo travelers meeting people on Roxas Boulevard in downtown Manila, striking up a conversation, developing a relationship, and then being invited to a tourist destination outside of Manila under the guise of meeting their Philippine family. The travelers are taken to the area and, typically, during a meal are given a substance that knocks them unconscious. They are then robbed of valuables, including their ATM cards, which are then used to drain their bank accounts. While U.S. citizens are not typically targeted for kidnapping, kidnappings and violent assaults do occur in the Metro Manila area.
Taxis are the recommended form of public transportation. The following safeguards are important: do not enter a taxi if it has already accepted another passenger and always request that the driver use the meter to record your fare. If the driver is unwilling to comply with these requests, wait for another cab. It is also a good idea to make a mental note of the license plate number of the cab, or text it to someone, should there be a problem. There have been several instances of travelers arriving at the Manila international airport and, shortly after they leave the airport area in a taxi or private vehicle, their vehicle is stopped, typically by an intentional rear-end collision, and the travelers are robbed. When driving in the city, make certain that the vehicle doors are locked and the windows are rolled up. For both safety and security reasons, avoid all other forms of public transportation, such as the light rail system, buses, and “jeepneys.”
You should also be vigilant when using credit and debit cards. One common form of credit/ATM card fraud involves the illicit use of an electronic device attached to ATM card readers that retrieves and records information, including the PIN, from a card's magnetic strip. The information is then used to make unauthorized purchases. To limit your vulnerability to this scam, never let your card out of your sight. When using an ATM, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid ATM locations in dimly lit areas. Be careful to prevent observation by others when entering your PIN code. Avoid ATMs with unusual coverings attached to the card receiver. A continuing problem is the commercial scam or sting that attempts to sell or to seek negotiation of fraudulent U.S. securities. Visitors and residents should be wary when presented with supposed Federal Reserve Notes or U.S. securities for sale or negotiation.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The Philippines has a victim compensation program to provide financial compensation to victims of violent or personal crime and of unjust imprisonment. Information may be obtained from the Philippine Department of Justice at 011-632-523-8481 through 89, local 344.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Philippines is 117.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the Philippines, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. Criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in the Philippines, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating the Philippines’ laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Philippines are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. If a traveler is found to have any amount of drugs on his or her person, or nearby, when arriving at or departing from the Philippines, he or she will be charged with trafficking. This offense is non-bailable, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. There have been instances where persons carrying controlled substances (i.e., medical marijuana or morphine) as well as a doctor’s prescription for the substance were charged with drug possession because they did not possess the proper prior clearance from the Philippine government before entry.
If you are arrested in the Philippines, authorities of the Philippines are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request that the police or prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest.
Marriage in the Philippines: The Philippine government requires foreigners who wish to marry in the Philippines to obtain from the U.S. Embassy a “Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” before filing an application for a marriage license. Because there is no national register of marriages in the United States, the U.S. Embassy cannot provide such a certification. Instead, the U.S. Embassy provides an “Affidavit In Lieu of Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry,” which is widely, though not universally, accepted by Philippine government offices. The affidavit is the only document the U.S. Embassy provides. U.S. citizens may execute this fee-based affidavit at the U.S. Embassy in Manila by appointment only Monday-Friday, except for Philippine or U.S. holidays. Appointments may be obtained by visiting the website of the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The U.S. citizen must present his/her U.S. passport. Philippine authorities will not accept any substitute document issued in the United States. Military service members please note, before traveling to the Philippines to be married, U.S. military personnel should contact their personnel office regarding Department of Defense joint service regulations.
Execution of the affidavit by a U.S. consular officer is a notarial act, and the consular officer is authorized by U.S. law to refuse to perform the service if the document will be used for a purpose patently unlawful, improper, or inimical to the best interests of the United States (see 22 Code of Federal Regulations section 92.9b). Entering into a marriage contract for the principal purpose of facilitating immigration to the United States for an alien is an unlawful act, and the U.S. Code provides penalties for individuals who commit perjury in an affidavit taken by a consular officer. Relationship fraud is a persistent problem in the Philippines. Relationships developed via correspondence, particularly those begun on the Internet, are particularly susceptible to manipulation, and sometimes result in financial fraud. There have been several instances in which U.S. citizens traveling to the Philippines to meet a fiancé/e or to reside permanently in the Philippines have had their finances drained by the person they met on the Internet or the person’s family. Once their finances have run out, these U.S. citizens are sometimes turned out of the place they are residing or are threatened unless they can obtain more funds to give to those they came to visit. In other instances, U.S. citizens who have been providing financial resources to an Internet fiancée arrive in the Philippines only to find that the “fiancée” is nowhere to be found
The Marriage Application Process: Once a U.S. citizen has obtained from the U.S. Embassy an “Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage,” he/she may file an application for a marriage license at the office of the Philippine Civil Registrar in the town or city where one of the parties is a resident. It usually takes ten days to receive the marriage license. The U.S. citizen applicant must present: (a) the affidavit; (b) divorce decree(s) or death certificate(s), if applicable (these may be required to verify civil status and legal capacity to contract marriage); (c) his/her U.S. passport; and (d) documentation regarding parental consent or advice, if applicable. (Persons ages 18 to 21 must have written parental consent to marry in the Philippines; those ages 22 to 24 must have received parental advice. Philippine law prohibits marriage for persons under the age of 18.) A judge, a minister, or other person authorized by the Philippine government can perform the marriage ceremony.
Marriage to a U.S. citizen confers neither U.S. citizenship nor an automatic eligibility for entry to the United States. A foreign spouse requires an immigrant visa to live in the United States. Questions about filing a petition to bring a foreign spouse to the United States may be directed to the nearest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service office, to the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Office (telephone: (202) 663-1225) or, while in the Philippines, to the U.S. Embassy’s Immigrant Visa Unit. U.S. citizens who marry in the Philippines and wish to remain in the Philippines should review the Philippine Embassy and Bureau of Immigration websites for procedural information on establishing residency.
Disaster Preparedness: The Philippines is a volcano-, typhoon- and earthquake-prone country. From May to December, typhoons and flash floods often occur. Flooding can cause landslides and road delays and cut off bridges. Typhoons in the vicinity of the Philippines can interrupt air and sea links within the country. Updated information on typhoons is available at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services website. Volcanic activity is frequent, and the Philippine government periodically announces alerts for specific volcanoes. Updated information on volcanoes in the Philippines is available from the U.S. Geological Survey. Earthquakes can occur throughout the country.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. In the event of an emergency, if it is impossible to communicate with the Embassy by telephone, please check the local news and the Embassy's Facebook page for U.S. citizen information and Embassy opening/closing information.
Customs: Philippine customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Philippines of items such as currency and firearms. The transport of ammunition is illegal, and Philippine officials have arrested U.S. citizens for having even a small number of bullets or ammunition casings or shells in their luggage. Even items that look like bullets or weapons may cause delays. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, DC, or one of the Philippine consulates in the United States (Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco) for specific information regarding customs requirements, including importation of agricultural and pharmaceutical items. Counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available in the Philippines; transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. Please see our Customs Information.
Accessibility: When traveling to or in the Philippines, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is available in the United States. Government efforts to improve access to transportation for persons with disabilities are limited due to weak implementing regulations. The streets, roads, and most other public places in the Philippines lack facilities for persons with disabilities. Many public buildings, particularly older ones, lack functioning elevators. Two of Manila's three light-rail lines are wheelchair accessible; however, many stops have out-of-service elevators. Buses lack wheelchair lifts, and only a small number of sidewalks have wheelchair ramps. Commercial establishments such as malls also have few accessibility-related facilities, such as wheelchair ramps and restrooms designated for persons with disabilities.
Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport provides some accommodations such as ramps, lifts, and accessible toilets. Passengers requiring any special assistance should inform their airline prior to travel. Travelers to regional airports and provincial areas should not expect similar accommodations, as facilities for persons with disabilities are extremely limited outside of metropolitan areas. Travelers with disabilities should review the Department of State’s information sheet "Traveling with Disabilities".
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate medical care is available in major cities in the Philippines, but even the best hospitals may not meet the standards
of medical care, sanitation, and facilities provided by hospitals and doctors in the United States. Medical care is limited
in rural and more remote areas.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost several or even tens of thousands of dollars. Most hospitals will require a down payment of estimated fees in cash at the time of admission. In some cases, public and private hospitals have withheld lifesaving medicines and treatments for non-payment of bills. Hospitals also frequently refuse to discharge patients or release important medical documents until a bill has been paid in full. A list of doctors and medical facilities in the Philippines is available from the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
In the past, the Philippines has seen outbreaks of dengue and schistosomiasis. The CDC website has additional information about both diseases
Schistosomiasis is transmitted by waterborne larvae. It is endemic in the Philippines, and there has been a recent outbreak in the Leyte area. The disease presents a risk on Mindanao, Bohol, and Samar, as well as the provinces of Sorsogon (the southern tip of Luzon Island) and eastern Mindoro Island. Travelers should avoid freshwater exposure in these areas.
To reduce the risk of contracting dengue, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing clothing that exposes as little skin as possible and applying a repellent containing the insecticide DEET (concentration 30 to 35 percent) or Picaridin (concentration 20 percent or greater for tropical travelers). Because of the increased risk of dengue fever and the ongoing risk of malaria in the Philippines, the CDC recommends practicing preventative measures.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in the Philippines. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, including in the Philippines, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. Medicare, for instance, does not cover care received outside of the United States or its territories. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in the Philippines, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Philippines is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Travel within the Philippine archipelago is possible by boat, plane, bus, or car. Few U.S. citizens rent cars to drive, as the roads are more crowded and drivers are less disciplined than those in the United States. It is particularly dangerous to drive off the national highways and paved roads, especially at night, and you should avoid doing so. There have been nine major inter-island ferryboat accidents in the last two years, eight with significant loss of life. The safety record is such that U.S. government employees are advised not to take inter-island ferry boat services unless this is the only means of transportation available. There have also been a series of bus accidents as a result of poor bus maintenance. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid overcrowded or unsafe transport and to exercise caution in planning travel by inter-island ferryboats or other public conveyances.
For specific information concerning Philippine driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, at tel. (202) 467-9300 or one of the Philippine consulates in the United State (Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco). Please see also related information from the Philippine Department of Tourism and the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of the Philippine’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Philippines’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Philippines dated June 8, 2012, to update the section on Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens, Threats to Safety and Security, and Special Circumstances: Marriage in the Philippines.