Coronavirus has upended many parts of life, maybe none more than the travel and immigration aspect of peoples’ lives. In March 2020 the Philippines government implemented a nationwide lockdown in attempt to contain and slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. Since its start, the Philippines has created one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world to curb the spread.
The movement of both foreigners and Filipinos has been greatly hampered by these lockdowns. There were initial proclamations in March that foreigners would have 48 hours to be able to exit the country, these were then walked back afterwards and for the most part foreigners were able to exit. The difficulty, of course, was finding an available flight that was reasonable enough to purchase.
Then during the height of Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ for short, all inbound and outbound flight (save a few diplomatically arranged ones) were all suspended until the beginning of June. Once flights resumed Filipino travellers were not allowed to leave the country for any reason and only Filipinos abroad return. Foreigners holding work visas and work permits would not be permitted to enter the country should they leave or currently be outside. The only foreign nationals allowed to enter were those holding a diplomatic visa or those married to a Filipino spouse.
However, there finally appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for both Filipinos and foreigner workers. This past week the Inter-Agency Task Force IATF in charge of issuing guidelines announced that Filipino citizens would be allowed to travel for ‘whatever reason’ (meaning both leisure and work). This is good news as many OFWs would already be resuming work but were unable to leave the country.
And just last Thursday, July 16th, the presidential advisor said in a press briefing that foreigners holding valid long term visas would be allowed entry into the country starting August 1st. This is great news for foreigners holding Philippines work visas that have not gone back to their home countries for fears they would not be allowed back into the country until an unknown time. Additionally, many companies had foreign staff that were out of the Philippines at the start of the lockdown and were not able to return to work. As the Philippines Economy switches back on and adjusts to the new normal many companies are returning to partial in-office work and having these employees present is much needed.
Still, foreigners who have not yet received their work visa or immigrant visa (most applications are processed in the country when a foreigner enters on a tourist visa) are not yet allowed to enter. This means that new visa applications for those abroad will still have to wait. While we are not sure when this move will come, it seems likely that given the current trend of transitioning to an open ‘new normal’ economy, the government will announce plans to allow new visa applications soon.