MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has begun implementing stricter rules for foreign minors who visit the country without their parents or guardians.
Officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma of the BI issued last week a memorandum order prescribing new rules regarding the issuance of waivers of exclusion to unaccompanied foreign minors entering the Philippines.
Under the new rules, Ledesma said an unaccompanied foreign minor shall be allowed entry only after the minor’s guardian or representative pays a waiver fee of P3,120 to the BI cashier at the port of entry.
Immigration officers are also required to retain for safekeeping the minor’s passport as well as a copy of the child’s plane ticket and arrival card to enable the BI to closely and effectively monitor the arrival and departure of foreign minors who are on limited stay here as temporary visitors or tourists, the official said.
The rules further require immigration officers at the airports to note the date of a minor’s departure and ensure that all important data about the passenger are indicated in the passport.
He said the new rules were implemented following reports that foreign minors are allegedly studying in the country without the required study permits or student visas.
Citing reports, the immigration bureau claimed that many of these foreign minors, mostly Koreans enrolled in English language centers, enter the country by availing themselves of waivers of exclusion for unaccompanied minors provided under the Immigration Act.
“By requiring them to deposit their passports for safekeeping with us, we are discouraging these minors and their guardians from circumventing our immigration laws,” Arvin Santos, BI airport operations division chief, said.
Santos said to avoid inconvenience, representatives of foreign minors planning to visit the Philippines may apply for a waiver of exclusion with the BI-OIC prior to their arrival.
Under Section 29 of the Immigration Act, foreign children under 15 years of age who are “unaccompanied by or not coming to” a parent are considered "excludable aliens."
They may be admitted, however, at the discretion of the Immigration OIC by issuing a waiver of exclusion order in their favor, the BI said. - By Helen M. Flores (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)