Getting an extension has become a pain. I don’t know if the death of the express fee did it or if just more people. It might be the time of day I get there too.  Close to noon, lots of people and some workers might be at lunch too. I was happy when the express fee went away but only until I went to the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

In Cebu, you have to go to the J Center Mall in Mandaue. That’s not a problem, it’s always been in Mandaue but you really can’t tell if you are in Cebu City or Mandaue. Only the signs of the stores change.

You should expect to spend at least two hours at the BI. We left at 11:44 and returned home at 3:44. So it took us 4 hours including the drive time of probably about an hour there and back.

They open at 8:30 and close at 5:30 but stop accepting new visa applications at 3:30. So it seems the two hours is expected.

There is rarely a place to sit. I usually find something outside their office. That also seems expected as you can hear the names being called while sitting near BI in the mall.

There are three windows to go to. Receiving, teller and the pickup window. The longest wait is after you pay and while you wait to get pick up your receipt and day that you can return to actually get your passport back with the new extension

I’ll Smash Your Face In

Between the time of paying and waiting for the date I can return with my receipt, two chairs opened up inside BI. I went to sit there.Bureau Of Immigration

There was a foreigner sitting between the two seats. He put a book in one as I got close.  As I walked past him, he covered the other chair with his leg. I asked him if he had someone with him. He couldn’t understand me. He was not American. So I started walking back to the other seat and sat down. He mumbles something about my sitting there. I asked why, even though I didn’t understand him. He said, “because I don’t want anyone sitting next to me.” At least, I think that is what he said. Again, I asked if he had someone with him and he didn’t understand me again but muttered some more stuff. At this point, I decided to ignore him. I was sitting and the jerk could just get used to it.

A few minutes later, a woman showed up. She seemed to be apprehensive. I think he said, “I hope you’re happy.” I didn’t acknowledge him. The other chair was still vacant or I might have offered it to her. Probably not since he was a certified jerk. She pulled him up and away but before he left he said: “I’ll smash your face in.” I think it included “If we were not at BI.” But, I didn’t understand him again. I didn’t look up. He stood there for a minute and I thought he might follow through with his threat but I sat there without an expression at all and ignored him.  He finally walked away. I really wish I knew his name so I could smile when he gets himself thrown out of the Philippines after spending some time in jail. I’m sure he will be in the papers soon.

I get that tempers are short after a long wait in a slightly warm, crowded place.  All I wanted to do was sit and this jerk was not going to prevent it and didn’t.  I was a little amazed that I didn’t lose my temper. But, I was glad that I handled it the way I did. I’m not in the sixth grade anymore. All boys learn about that time the way to handle a bully is smash him in the face. By fourteen, it’s usually better to just ignore them.

Using an Agent to Extend Your Visa

In the past, I used an agent to get my extension taken care of. It was only P500 when I first got here. But now, BI is more restrictive on who can act as an agent. Jessie did it for me for years but she no longer can, at least not officially. I used Travelways here in Cebu City. Now the fee is P1500. That’s a bit more and more than I find painless to pay. I am not sure that it is more painful than the four hours and two trips I have to make to BI though.

The next time my extension is due, Jessie will be in Tacloban so it is likely that I will use an agent that time. I’m not sure about the rest of the time. I got a price from another agent and they didn’t want to tell me their fee. They just said 6000 all in. They finally said that their fee was P2000. It’s not, the normal extension is only P2000 so they were going to pocket P4000!  No way, I’m sure I could sit before I would pay that.

The first extension does cost about 6000 but includes your ACR-I card. When you get that, you have to go back two times. Once to get your passport with the extension then after a month, you can go back to get your card. I didn’t go back. I waited until it was time to get my extension again.

On the next extension, the one where the guy offered to rearrange my face, I thought I would get the card then. But no! I would not get that until the extension was ready.  So, this time it was four windows to go to. One was across the hall. The fourth stop did go quickly though. You need to get the ACR-I card once per year.

In summary, your visa extension will cost you about P2000 now but when you get your first one you’ll need about P6000.  As much of a pain as it is, at least we have this option. It’s nearly impossible to get into the USA on a tourist visa now.  I have no idea how long they last for and I would dread getting an extension if it is even possible.

Do you have any fun and fascinating stories on your trips to BI? There was one other time I was there when some guy, an American, was complaining loudly. The BI officer told him to be quiet as it is illegal to raise your voice to a Filipino. He complained again asking, “What are you going to do.” She politely replied with “I will arrest you.” That got him quiet. I would like to have fun at BI but I really just hope for something besides this kind of amusement. 

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