VISA PROGRAM FOR BALIKBAYANS

The Philippine Leisure and Retirement Authority (PLRA) launched its new special visa program for Filipino balikbayans in recently, bagging a Filipino woman millionaire as its first enrollee.

Gov. Antonio Leviste, PLRA chairman, signed on Ms. Loida Lewis, chair of the National Federation of Filipino-American Association (NFFAA), as the first affiliate of the PLA program, including her organization's members.

Leviste and Francisco Lirio, PLRA executive officer and general manager, were on a 10-day mission to ten American cities to promote the PLRA special balikbayan visa program to former Filipinos residing and working in the United States.

Leviste said that through the Investors and Retiree Resident Balikbayan Visa (IR2B2), overseas Filipinos, including those who have acquired foreign citizenship, are granted special privileges, including the right to own real estate.

Foreigners and balikbayans availing of the PLRA visa are granted permanent non-immigrant status with multiple entry privileges, and are exempt from payment of customs duties on personal effects up to a certain amount.

Former Filipinos or balikbayans who are at least 35 years old can obtain the PLRA visa by making an investors' deposit of $1,500 with any accredited bank, compared to the $50,000 to $70,000 deposit required of foreigners, said Leviste.

"More importantly," said Leviste, "IR2B2 visa holders can own real estate up to 5,000 square meters, whether they be residential, urban or agricultural."

The balikbayan retirees can also purchase $1,500 worth of goods from duty-free shops. They can avail of additional tax exemptions for the purchase of livelihood tools under the Kabuhayan Shopping Privilege for up to $2,000.

Balikbayans availing of the PLRA program can also engage in business under Republic Act No. 9178, otherwise known as "An Act to Promote the Establishment of Barangay Micro-Business Enterprises" which is funded by the government for P30 billion.

The PLRA is a government agency tasked with running a program for foreigners and former Filipinos who wish to retire or make extended vacations in the Philippines, thereby availing of the country's warm and hospitable climate, as well as its beautiful scenery and modern health and care-giving facilities.

Among the benefits granted by the program are exemption from customs duties and taxes for the importation of personal effects, appliances and household furniture worth $7,000. There are also exemptions from exit clearance and reentry permits, payment of travel tax and work permit.

The deposit requirement can be used by the special visa holder to engage in business in the Philippines and repatriation of capital and profit is guaranteed.

19/07/2003

Thanks to : DD

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