Balikbayan Program for Overseas Filipinos

What is the “Balikbayan Program” of the Philippines?

The Balikbayan Program of the Philippines was enacted in November 1989 to attract and encourage overseas Filipinos to visit the Philippines

The following categories of persons can avail of the Balikbayan privilege: (a) a Filipino citizen who has been continuously out of the Philippines for a period of at least one (1) year from the date of last departure; (b) a Filipino overseas worker (OFW); (c) a former Filipino citizen who had been naturalized in a foreign country and holds a foreign passport

A ‘Balikbayan’ is entitled to the following benefits:

(a)  Travel Tax exemption [click here for more information]

(b)  Visa-free entry to the Philippines for a period of one (1) year, for a foreign passport holder;

(c)  Duty-free shopping privilege of up to US$2,000.00 (US$1,000.00 as arriving Balikbayan and US$1,000.00 as arriving passenger) provided that:

  • Shopping must be done within two days upon arrival;
  • Duty free shopping privilege can be availed of only one a year; and,
  • Purchases must be made personally by the Balikbayan.

The Balikbayan privilege is extendible to legitimate members of the family (i.e., spouse and children) of individuals in the above-mentioned categories, who are holders of foreign passports ONLY IF they are travelling to the Philippines together with the above-mentioned qualified individual.

In order to avail of the privilege, qualified Filipino citizens need to present only their Philippine passports showing the date of last exit from the Philippines, which should not be less than 1 year.

Aside from their foreign passports showing date of last exit from the Philippines, former Filipino citizens need to present their old Philippine passport or Philippine birth certificate.  In the absence of these documents, they can present foreign naturalization papers to show former Philippine citizenship or certification from adopted country.

Family members of the former Filipino citizen who are travelling with the Balikbayan should present passports and any of the following: a) birth certificate, in case of children; b) marriage certificate, in case of spouse; c) adoption papers, in case of legally adopted children.

The Commissioner of Immigration Andrea D. Domingo informed the Department of Foreign Affairs on 4 June 2001 that, “All Immigration Officers at authorized ports of entry shall grant the benefits and privileges to all Balikbayan and former Filipinos included every time they enter the country to visit, regardless of their frequent travel”. This means that the above categories of persons could now avail of the Balikbayan benefits and privileges regardless of the number of times they enter the country within a year.

What is the extent of duty and tax-free privileges of returning Filipinos or Balikbayans?

The extent varies as follows:

(1) Returning Resident – Personal effects and household goods used by him and abroad for at least six (6) months and the dutiable value of which is not more than Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP10,000.00) are exempt from duties and taxes. Any amount in excess of PhP10,000.00 is subject to fifty percent (50%) duty for the first PhP10,000.00 exemption across the board as provided for under Section 105 (F) of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

(2) Overseas Contract Worker (OCW) – in addition to the privileges granted to Returning Residents as described above, an OCW may be allowed to bring in, duty and tax free Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP10,000.00) worth of used home appliances provided:

  • The quantity is limited to one of each kind.
  • The privilege has not been enjoyed previously during the calendar year which must be declared under oath by the owner.
  • The owner’s passport is presented at the port/airport of entry.
  •  Any amount in excess of PhP10,000.00 will be subject to taxes and duties.

Are family members of returning residents, OCW and former Filipinos also entitled to certain privileges?

Yes, provided they themselves satisfy the specifications outlined above.

What are the conditions and limitations attached to tax exemption privileges?

The following are the conditions imposed in availing of the duty and tax privileges:

(1)  The Bureau of Customs must be presented with a written endorsement from the relevant government agency
(2) The goods extended duty and tax-free privileges are not to be sold, bartered nor traded
(3) The quantity is not commercial.

(4) The goods are not prohibited importations. Goods that are restricted or prohibited require endorsement from the proper regulatory agency.

For more information, read this