Published 9 March 2020, The Daily Tribune

With the constant influx of foreign nationals seeking to work in the Philippines, the Philippine government has taken the appropriate measures to regulate  the issuance of alien permits and visas.

The Joint Memorandum Circular No. 001, series of 2019 (JMC), which took effect last 1 November 2019, provided for the rules and procedures governing foreign nationals intending to work in the country.

The JMC aims to harmonize the regulations and policy guidelines governing the issuance of the following documents to foreign nationals: (1) Alien Employment Permit (AEP) by the Department of Labor and Employment; (2) Special Temporary Permit (STP) by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), if he/she intends to practice a regulated profession in the Philippines (i.e. engineer, nurse, or accountant); (3) Special Work Permit (SWP), Provisional Work Permit (PWP) and 9(g) visa by the Bureau of Immigration (BI); (4) Authority to Employ Alien (AEA), if the sponsor is engaged in a partially nationalized industry, and 47(a)2 visa by the Department of Justice; and (5) Authority to Hire Foreign National (AHFN) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB), if the sponsor is engaged in mining.

Under the JMC, a foreign national and/or the employer/withholding agent shall secure Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) as part of documentary requirements in securing permits and visas.

Previously, foreign nationals were free to apply for work-related permits, visas and authorities in our country even without a BIR-issued TIN. Thus, this JMC became a priority matter for the concerned agencies because many foreign workers were found to be unregistered and untaxed, thus the need to regulate them to ensure payment of appropriate taxes.

Definitely, this is a much-awaited rule following the government’s initiative decades ago under Executive Order No. 98, series of 1999, which directed all government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and/or controlled corporations, and all local government units, to incorporate TIN in all forms, permits, licenses, clearances, official papers and documents which they issue to persons transacting businesses with them, be they natural or juridical.

Aside from the TIN requirement, foreign nationals seeking to work in the Philippines are also required to secure a “no derogatory record/information” from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and National Bureau of Immigration (NBI). This is pursuant to their mandate to conduct background investigations on foreigners to be employed to manage possible national security implications on their entry in the Philippines.

All government agencies issuing work-related permits, visas, and authorities are also now required to secure Certificate of No Objection (CNO) from the DOLE prior to the issuance of said work-related permits, visas and authorities. This requirement does not apply to DOJ in issuing an AEA and the BI in issuing an SWP. Should there be an objection, the DOLE will conduct a labor market test to determine whether a Philippine person is competent, able, and willing to perform the job at the time of application. It must be noted, however, that the DOLE’s issuance of the CNO shall not be construed as an automatic approval of the application for work-related permits, visas and/or authorities.

This highlights the rule of thumb that once a Filipino signifies an interest to perform the job offered to the foreign national, then the work permit for that alien can no longer be issued. This is in line with the constitutional mandate imposed on the State to accord preferential use of Filipino labor.

But for foreigners, despite job availability, the rule is, no TIN, no work.

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