With the Philippine government’s imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon initially up to April 30, 2020, and as extended to certain parts of the Philippines up to May 15, 2020, business operations and transactions by and among public and private entities have been significantly affected. Various advisories have been issued to address the effects that the ECQ may have particularly on applications for the issuance and renewal of work permits and visas by foreigners assigned in the country.
Work Permit Applications
As of the date of this article, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has suspended until further notice processing of original or renewal Alien Employment Permit (AEP) applications.
In consideration of the ECQ, no penalty or administrative fine shall be imposed on AEP’s that expired or will expire during the DOLE’s suspension period with no renewal application being filed. Upon lifting of the suspension, AEP applications for permits that expired during the suspension period shall still be considered as renewal applications.
Employment contracts that became effective during the suspension period and are not filed within the usual 15 days grace period to file an AEP application will likewise not be subject penalty by the DOLE.
Work Visa Applications
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has mandated that the Legal Staff (Office of the Chief State Counsel) shall only process visa applications filed under their department (whether original issuance or extension) received as of 13 March 2020. The DOJ suspended the receipt of visa applications under their supervision beginning 16 March 2020.
Applicants with no urgent need to process their visa have been requested to defer the filing of their application until such time that the ECQ is lifted. For applicants whose visa will expire during the ECQ are advised to file their application immediately after the lifting of the ECQ. Holders of visas, other than those issued by the DOJ, which will expire during the ECQ and will be applying for conversion to a DOJ-issued visa are, in the meantime, advised to have their visas extended before the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Also, the BI, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has temporarily suspended issuance of visas to foreigners effective 22 March 2020 until further notice. Foreigners shall also not be able to enter the Philippines during the ECQ period, subject to certain exceptions. All visas previously issued to incoming travelers have been temporarily suspended effective 12:00 am of 22 March 2020 and no new visas will be issued, EXCEPT to (a) Foreign spouse and children of Filipino nationals travelling with the Filipino national AND that previously enjoyed visa upon arrival privileges; and (b) Foreign Government and international Organization officials accredited to the Philippines. This issuances, however, does not affect the visa status of foreign nationals already in the country and they may continue to stay in the country during the ECQ.
With all transactions at the BI offices in Luzon temporarily suspended during the ECQ period, the BI Commissioner has stated that all foreigners whose visas will expire during the ECQ shall be allowed to file their visa extension applications without penalty, within thirty (30) days from the lifting of the ECQ.
Further, with the recent policies in place for the duration of the ECQ, Philippine employers may do well to reassess the existing and future assignments of foreign employees that they’ve hired or are looking to hire. Postponement of renewal or original applications must be seriously considered until the ECQ is lifted and the relevant government agencies have come out with amended issuances on the matter to preclude any issues that may arise.
 Advisory No. 20-04 dated 23 March 2020 regarding the Suspension of the Processing of Issuance and Renewal of Alien Employment Permit
 Department Circular No. 11 dated 13 March 2020 regarding the Suspension of Receipt of Application for Special Non-Immigrant Visas under Section 47(a)(2) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended, and Applications for Recognition of Refugee Status and Statelessness
 Memorandum dated March 19, 2002 regarding Temporary Travel Ban for Arriving Foreigners
 Foreign Service Circular No. 29-2020 dated March 19, 2020 regarding Temporary Suspension of Visa Issuance and Visa-free Privileges