By Jun Ramirez
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) will start restricting on March 22 the entry of foreign nationals into the country.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the move follows the memorandum issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) suspending visa issuance and visa-free privileges for foreign nationals arriving in the Philippines, as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Morente, the DFA suspended all issuances of entry visas for foreign nationals, while all previously-issued visas are deemed cancelled.
The DFA circular adds that the visa-free privileges of foreign nationals are likewise temporarily suspended.
Currently, nationals of 157 countries enjoy visa free privileges, including South Korea, United States, Canada, Japan, and Singapore.
South Korea remains the top in arrivals, with more than 2.1 million visiting the country in 2019.
Exempted from the suspension are the foreign spouses and children of Filipinos, foreign transport crew members, and officials of foreign governments and international organization officials accredited by the government.
“We will be implementing the ban in 48 hours, or 12 midnight of March 22, 2020 to give ample time to the DFA to inform foreign posts and embassies,” Morente said.
The suspension of visa issuance and visa-free privileges is tantamount to a total suspension of the entry of foreign nationals.
“Following the direction of the DFA, we will likewise be temporarily restricting the entry of foreign nationals who have converted to both immigrant and non-immigrant visas, those under visa waiver agreements, as well as special visa holders,” Morente added.