In my January 19. 2014 post "My Annual Report: Filing: An Unexpected Twist" I mentioned the Philippines Bureau of Immigration's findings that my permanent residence visa was incorrect. The type that I should have been issued when I originally applied in 2005 at the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate for approval to live in this country was a "13g". This visa is given to an applicant whose spouse is a former Philippine citizen, which was my wife Lydia's status at that time. Instead, that office mistakenly issued me a "13a" visa, which is for an alien whose spouse is a current Philippine citizen. Now, at the time I didn't know the difference, and moreover it wasn't really my responsibility to be aware of this distinction anyway. As far as I was concerned, I had completed the application that I was given accurately and in good faith, paid the fee, and got my clearance to reside here. And that should have been that.
I have held this visa for over 8 years. During this time I have conducted various transactions with the BI such as annual reports (yearly alien registrations); an application for and receipt of an I-card (the Philippine counterpart of an U.S. green card) along with its replacement when the original expired; and an exit from and reentry into the Philippines.. Not once in all these years did an Immigration official notice any discrepancy in my visa. It was only at this year's annual report filing (which was more thorough than those in the past), that the examining officer caught the error.
And as I mentioned in "An Unexpected Twist" after I followed up on the matter with the Bureau of Immigration visa section, I was led to believe that I might be off the hook and wouldn't need to take any further action. This was a relief. because in accordance with BI rules, changing my visa classification would likely have resulted in a downgrade of my status to that of a non-permanent resident and an imposition of a P5,000 fee to upgrade it again, even though the necessity of making this change was not my fault but that of the Philippine government.
As it turns out, however, the issue at that point was far from settled. After going through various channels including the BI executive office, my case finally wound up in the legal department. At that point I was informed that I would have to present myself to an attorney in that division When I learned of this disposition, I became extremely concerned as I had heard tales of irregularities about that office. But the lawyer who interviewed me was quite helpful. His advice was that the simplest way to solve my visa problem was for Lydia to reacquire her Philippine citizenship. In doing so, her status would be retroactive and would thus legitimize my 13a visa status. Further, this step would benefit her as well. She would then be eligible to vote in political elections here and enjoy other perks that Philippine citizenship confers.
However, ever since Lydia had become naturalized in the States several years ago, she was leery about taking any actions that could jeopardize her American citizenship. But as it turns out, the U.S. has accepted dual citizenship for several decades, and many Filipinos hold both U.S. and Philippine passports. Her other concern was that regaining her Philippine citizenship might be a big bureaucratic hassle. The BI attorney explained that this is now a fairly simple process involving a two-page form along with a few other minor requirements and usually only one appearance at Immigration. Thus he convinced her on the matter,. On April 23, the process was completed, and she is now a dual citizen. Needless to say it was a big relief for both of us to have this task out of the way and to know that my visa status is finally in compliance. I am very grateful to Lydia for making this happen, especially in light of the frustrations that she encountered to regain her citizenship and which I will narrate in a future post.