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Working in the Philippines if you’re a Foreigner

Many foreigners move to the Philippines for different reasons. Most are men and most are in retirement age. Maybe you just got tired of life and stress in your home country. To move here you must have some savings or pension to support yourself and your possible new wife if you’re single. Maybe you know of a lady from the internet or from a past visit. Maybe you are unattached and think; once you’re here you will find that special lady.

When you first move here your days are filled finding your way around and finding places to live, where to shop, and how to live here. You probably had visited the Philippines before you decided to move here. From these trips you already knew where in the Philippines you wanted to live.

Unless you had an extended stay in the place you decide to live, once you’re here there is so much to learn about this new place.

When you first move here you think your pension, savings or disability pensions will be enough for a good life. Once you’re here and get settled you might realize the income you’re getting from back home is not enough to live the way you want. So, what are your options? Get a job? Start a business?

You might have been a businessman or experienced in many different occupations where you rose to a high level in your native country.  You might think with the advanced schooling and technology from your home country there will be many businesses excited to have someone like you on their staff to help them with their business.

When you first move here you are probably on a tourist visa. According to the rules under that visa you are not allowed to work. If there is some company that does want to hire you they need to get you a work visa and a work permit. To get a work visa the perspective employer has to apply you. But you cannot take a job that can be filled by a Filipino.

To be legally able to work here you need to get resident status. To get that, the easiest way is getting married to a Filipina or file for a PRA (Philippine Retirement Authority). To get a retirement visa there are age and monetary requirements to satisfy. If 35 to 49 years old you need a US$50,000.00 time deposit and if   50 years old and above you need to make a US$20,000.00 time deposit. There is a cheaper way if you’re over 50 years old, and that is if you have a pension, but with that visa you cannot work or own a business.

So, your first problem is being able to work legally. Once you satisfy that hurdle you need to find a job offer. As I mentioned before, you are a highly skilled or experienced person. You think you will be in high demand for your knowledge. For me, I had 15 years in architectural drafting, project management and studio management. I came here and did work a short time for an Engineering and Architectural firm. All the Filipinos I worked with were college graduates and most licensed in their field of specialty. They also knew AutoCAD to a level they could function. I learned things from them that I did not know and they learned from me.

Here in the Philippines families will work hard to put their children through college. With the fact that employees are a large commodity, even a low level job needs a college degree. At the better hotels, even a cocktail waitress is a HRM graduate (Hotel and Restaurant Management).

So what do you do? Maybe open a business. To open a business is difficult for a foreigner with investments so most will open it under their wife or girlfriend’s name. Then if you’re going to work at the business, you will need to be careful or still get the work visa and permit.

Anyone who has opened a business, please comment on the problems or situations.
One other idea is an internet business. They are some that make good income with the right site. There is talk of niche sites. In some ways this is a niche site, but making money from ads is difficult. There is a term of “ad blindness.” That is after a while readers see the articles and not the ads. Or as many who read blogs, they have no interest in the ads on the site.

Whatever your plan, I think it is best to have a savings or pension backup. If you do find a way to make an income here, it will be extra.

29 Responses to “Working in the Philippines if you’re a Foreigner”

  1. Riza says:

    Just my thoughts. I have encountered a disgruntled American online, actually he went to the Philippines, put up a business with a couple of Filipino friends, but he lost everything he owned and went back to the US disgraced, because he got addicted to gambling. Another call center friend met a foreigner on the streets of Makati begging for some change because he hasn’t eaten yet, told her that all he owned was taken from him because he lost in a Casino. Like my grandmother always use to say, do not count your chickens before they hatch. And to always tend to your business, not all “friendly” Pinoys are to be trusted. This morning at Western Union, there’s this foreigner who’s practically screaming on his phone because a supposedly friendly Pinoy should have been helping him establish a business here in Manila that turned out to be a fraud and he’s now being blackmailed. I wished that I could have talked to him, but he was too mad. I don’t really have any solution I can tell, but I guess we all should be careful in what we do specially when investing.

    • Bruce says:

      As in all countries, there are good people and there are scammers. Also there are many foreigners who come here thinking they are smarter and can become rich. They are taken. There is another saying “Fools and their money are soon to be parted”
      Foreigners have to realize, they are seen by Filipinos as rich and with the life here, there will be someone looking to scam them. There is another saying “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”

  2. Ray says:

    Bruce you said There is a term of “ad blindness.” That is after a while readers see the articles and not the ads. Or as many who read blogs, they have no interest in the ads on the site.

    In my opinion you need to keep it relevant 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      I have tried ads and even a couple of link ads. The main point of my site is to write about my life, experiences and things for other foreigners to know about living here. Income would be nice but hopefully new planned sites will do better at that.

  3. Banot's Asawa says:

    Maybe its time someone put up a very detailed expense accouting, so that others will know exactly what things cost. I have seen bits and pieces of this type of list but nothing nearing the detail that is needed to plan your life off a pension 🙂 Good thing ive lived for months and months in the PI on and off over the past 10 years, but still would be nice to see.

    For instance out of all the people i have spoke to regarding expenses none of them have a clue of electricity costs. I think that and many other things will be a shocker for them on their arrival.

  4. Tom says:

    It is very difficult to have an all inclusive list because everyone has different needs, also prices will vary depending on where you live. Especially for rental units.

    The best way to see what you need is to go and look in the place you want to live. Check rental and food prices also wether it is conveniently located for the activities you prefer. Anything anyone else can tell you would just be a general guideline that might not be even close to your requirements.

    For example you can rent a 2 bedroom apartment in some areas of Cebu City for P5000. Some might look at it and say I won’t live there. So if I say rent P5000 when you look you might find out it is twice or three times that amount for a place you would live. Am I wrong or are our requirements different?

    • Bruce says:

      You are correct. I know of some foreigners that live in a tiny bachelor apt. with basic features for 6,000 and there are nice apartments for more. I also have a friend in a nice small 2 bedroom house for 5,000, but it is farther away from the main part of town, so you need to spend more on commute. Some apartments electricity is included and some you have your own meter.

  5. Tom says:

    I went so long on my last post that I didn’t even address the topic of this post. There are jobs for foreigners here but they are few and difficult to find.

    If you need a job to support yourself here you would probably do better to get a job with an international company that will post you here. Or have other sources of income. It is important you have this arranged before you arrive so you don’t wind up without any means of support. 😎

    • Bruce says:

      Again your right. If you have smart business sense and good finances to back you up you can open a business. Finding a job once here, or even an foreign company to post you here is not easy either. Investments and pensions is the best way to survive here.

  6. Ralph M. says:

    Hi Bruce;

    If you are careful and have the capital, then it may be possible for a expat who is married to a Filipino to buy rental houses. Be sure that you get title land and a rate of return greater then 7.5 percent per year. (ie: 2.5 mill. peso capital will create 15,625 peso per month from rental income. ) I know a expat who is currently investing in rental housing and the above is his rental income. By the way this is Ralph M. from Vancouver, B.C. Canada who is a yearly snowbird between Vancouver and Baguio.

    • Bruce says:

      Good to hear from you again. Missed our contacts. So you finally made it here. Yes, rentals can be a decent income earner. I have a friend here who would buy Filipino type houses, fix them up nd rent them. For a while he did fine, but then he had problems with the renters and the condition they left them in. Now he is trying to sell most of them. Another good business is boarding houses for Filipinos.

    • Tom says:

      Yes if you have the resources to do that it can do quite well. You of course need a trusted wife or other person to title the property to since foreigners can’t own property. I know some who also have income generated from Agricultural land.

      Many people unfortunately won’t have those options either because they are single or because they lack sufficent funds.

      • Bruce says:

        I worry about men who are married and do not trust their wives. Also there is the problem of some single men who cannot be trusted and how can they trust someone they are scamming.

  7. shm says:

    There is so much I can write about this topic, but let me the boomers are having a very difficult time conceptualizing that the world they thought was very good and normal, was really a very bad and decades long debt bubble. And so they think to fix the problem, you add more regulation, more govt, more govt spending, thus astronomically more debt. They just don’t seem capable of grasping that the US govt has been in back pocket of the Fed since 1913, and that this is a grand blowoff peak in debt for the US. Nothing about the boomers life period was normal. The represent fiat money and all it’s excess. And they will only get wise after the coming Greater Depression teaches them this fact.

    Now unless we are going to sit down and discuss all the details of what I know to be fact, and all the proofs and references, which will fill a book, then I guess we will just have to wait up to year or so to see who was more well researched.

  8. david S. says:

    Note: According to the Philippine Retirement Authority an SRRV visa will allow one to legally work in the Philippines.

    Once you are an SRRV Visa holder, it opens the door to vast opportunities and benefits. These include:

    1. Option to Retire Permanently

    • You may live, work and study in the Philippines

    2. Multiple Entry Privileges

    • You may travel outside the Philippines and re-enter anytime

    3. Exemptions from:

    • Income tax over your pension and annuities;
    • Exit and re-entry permits of the Bureau of Immigration;
    • Annual registration requirement of the Bureau of Immigration;
    • Customs Duties and Taxes with regard to the importation of household goods and personal effects up to US$7,000.00;
    • Travel tax, if you stay in the Philippines is less than one year from the last entry date; and
    • I-Card

  9. Tom says:

    The root of the problem is we sold our means to make money offshore for a few dollars for a few people and now we are living off the fat. When that is gone we have no means to make more. Unfortunately unless a lot of people wise up fast and realize what has been done the future does indeed look very bleak.

    • Bruce says:

      I am not sure who the “we” is. All I can say, if your planing to move here and you do not have good investments and pensions, do not plan to be able to survive working here unless 10,000 Php a month working graveyard in a call center is good enough.

  10. Jay says:


    You seem to know quite a bit about relocating to the Philippines, and I’ve been trying to do some research of my own. Unfortunately the only answers I find to my questions are located in forums like this. Do you know where I can find the hard facts and laws regarding relocation to the Philippines? Here’s a little more about myself, I am a 28 yr. old single American who would like to relocate to the Philippines with hopes of operating a franchise business. I have been working in Kuwait for the past 3 years and plan on working here for another 5 years to earn more investment capital. Do you or anyone else have any helpful advise?

    • Bruce says:

      I do not have a lot of hard facts. Chan Robles is a good resource. Also look into Foreign investment businesses.
      I know of a person who started a business and had the corporation hire him on paper for him to get a work visa. If your franchise is in Davao and need a manager, call on me. 🙂

  11. rhena says:

    hi, just wanna ask if how can american apply for working permit if he is married to a filipina, thanks

    • Bruce says:

      For an American to get a work permit the employer has to go to DOLE and prove the foreigner is needed and the position cannot be filled by a Filipino. The law is that no immigrant can take a job that could be filled by a Filipino.

  12. Michael says:

    Hey guys! An American here who has been here since 2003. You guys are having a good discussion here and I enjoyed reading it. If I may, could I put in my 2 cents?….
    I have come to learn/experience a lot here and this is why I say the following….FORGET IT. I mean yes you both bring up both points and I can attest to the correctness of what you said…BUT….the culture is just to different and unchangeable to keep on thinking as we westerners do. I am sorry but the ONLY way to survive here is to either start with a pile of cash and pay everyone off as you go. or 2, go native and under the radar. Work without permits, licenses, etc…I mean can you say with certainly that those permits, titles, are worth anything but mere paper and ink if a greedy lawyer or cop or neighbor wants to squeeze you as you prosper? NO YOU CAN’T. And, as far as trusting your local wife…. your missing the point….it is the custom to cheat foreigners…. Now wait. I am not one of those grumpy old guys who complains about everything here, it is just that I have learned how to adapt. Like electricity, I take the path of least resistance. In the long run, you will be happier and longer lasting if you will lean toward this way of thinking. Stop swimming up stream and float like the locals. They get by on P4000 a month and are perfectly happy. If we do that, we will be happier too. Plus we have the advantage of experience that the locals do not have, so it makes it easier for us. By all means start your own business, but stay small unless you want to eventually fight Goliath.

  13. Don says:

    There is a lady I found that I might possibly marry.

    I am only 25 young. I am currently on my way to get a degree in college education.

    What advice can you give me so I won’t feel so afraid. I am willing. She lives 2 hrs north of metro manila…What else do I need to know?

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