The Balikbayan Program as instituted by Republic Act 6768 (amended by Republic Act 9174) was launched by the Philippine Government to attract and encourage overseas Filipinos to come and visit their motherland. This is in recognition of their contribution to the economy of the country through the foreign exchange inflow and revenues that they generate.
The following are considered Balikbayans:
- A Filipino citizen who has been continuously out of the Philippines for a period of at least one (1) year
- A Filipino overseas worker
- A former Filipino citizen who had been naturalized in one of the following countries and who comes or returns to the Philippines: Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vatican, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
The Balikbayan Program also extends to immediate family members (spouse and children) of the Balikbayan, who are nationals of one of the countries above, and travelling together with the Balikbayan. The program allows visa-free entry into the Philippines and visa-free stay or a period of one (1) year for Balikbayans who are former Filipinos and/or the immediate family of Balikbayans who are from the above countries.
Balikbayans traveling to the Philippines who are former Filipinos are advised to declare before the Philippine Immigration Officer at the port of entry that they are availing of the privilege and have to present either their old Philippine passport or copy of Philippine birth certificate as proof of their former Philippine citizenship.
Accompanying family members of the Balikbayan should bring appropriate supporting documents:
- For the spouse: copy of marriage certificate
- For each child: copy of birth certificate
- For adopted children: copy of adoption papers
Former Filipinos and or their immediate family who are nationals of countries not found on the above list will need to secure a visa before going to the Philippines. Please see the requirements for a visa here.
Aside from visa-free entry to the Philippines, Philippine Law (R.A. 9174) provides benefits to Balikbayans:
- Tax-exempt maximum purchases in the amount of USD 1,500, or the equivalent in Philippine and other currency, at Philippine Government–operated duty free shops
- Exemption from Travel Tax, provided that their stay in the Philippines is one year or less. If their stay in the Philippines exceeds one year, Travel tax will apply to them.