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Philippines e-Visa to Launch with Pilot for Chinese Citizens

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines has announced that the Philippines’ first electronic visa (e-Visa) system will launch on August 24.

The Philippines already has an Electronic Travel Authorization system in place for Taiwanese nationals. However, the new system marks the first time that any visa-required nationality can apply for temporary visitors’ visas online for tourism or business purposes. 

The e-Visa for the Philippines will first be piloted for Chinese citizens. However, it is expected to be rolled out to other visa-required nationalities, including Indian passport holders, by the end of 2023.

According to the Philippines Visa Policy, Indian nationals are currently only permitted a visa-free stay of between 14- to 21 days without a visa.

This is dependent on them having a valid or unexpired visa or permanent residence permit from Australia, Canada, Japan, the Schengen Area, Singapore, the UK, or the US.

However, once they are eligible for the e-Visa, they will be able to obtain visas for stays longer than 21 days online.

Philippines e-Visa to Launch with Pilot for Chinese Citizens

Why the Philippines is Implementing an Online Visa System

The Philippines e-Visa system is being implemented as part of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. push to digitize the country’s government services.

“The e-Visa system is part of the DFA’s strategic goal of optimizing its consular services and is aligned with the President’s emphasis to embrace digitalization in government’s transactions in his State of the Nation Address last Monday,” Jesus Domingo, the DFA Undersecretary, said of the launch.

There is also a hope that the e-Visa system will allow the DFA’s foreign service posts to process more visas in China specifically and help the number of tourist arrivals from China recover.

According to the Philippines Department of Tourism, the Philippines has only recorded around 130,000 Chinese visitors this year so far. Additionally, only 48,000 Philippine visas from China have been processed in 2023.

In contrast, it’s estimated that the Philippine Embassy and Consulates in China processed around 250 to 300 visas a day prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s more, China ranked as the Philippines’ 2nd top tourist market in 2019, with 1.7 million Chinese nationals visiting in that year alone.

How the Philippines e-Visa System Works

According to DFA Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr., those eligible for the e-Visa can complete a simple online application form from the comfort of their own home. They will simply need a personal computer or mobile device with an internet connection.

They will then need to

  • Pay the visa fee
  • Submit the printed and signed form along with original documents (either via courier or personal appearance)
  • Wait for the e-Visa to be sent via email.

However, Bensurto Jr. also said that the government may still request the applicant to have a face-to-face interview with a visa officer.

Nevertheless, he said that this will only be requested “if the visa officer is of the view that there are certain points that need to be clarified or there are certain questions that need to be amplified. And they will be given a date and time where they have to see the visa officer”.

The DFA added that certain features of the system are still being enhanced and refined based on tests that were held in July. They are hopeful the final version will go live by late September or at some point in the third quarter of this year.

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