Expat Guide To Living In The Philippines- Costs, Visas, Safety, Pros & Cons (2022)

04/04/2022

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Overview: Living In The Philippines

QUICK SUMMARY- EXPAT LIFE IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • Cost to live in the Philippines for a single person = ~$1000 - $1500 per month <jump to budget details>.
  • Affordable tropical island lifestyle on the best beaches in the world. 
  • Most expats can obtain long-term visas cheaply and easily. 
  • Lots of friendly English-speaking locals to make friends with. 
  • Manila can feel crowded with intolerable traffic and pollution. 

What makes the Philippines the perfect country to live abroad? Simple, try closing your eyes for a few seconds. Imagine lounging on a tropical island. Feel the sand between your toes and smell the saltwater in the air. The sun is warming your face. The chill relaxation of island life is calling your name. For expats living in the Philippines, this is your average morning.

It's more fun in the Philippines. Did you know that sentence is the motto of the country's tourism board? It's no surprise that this archipelago nation made up of 7,621 islands has the #1, #2, and #5 best-ranked islands in the world.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

QUICK TIPS- PHILIPPINES

Get required COVID-19 Health Insurance. Foreigners entering the Philippines as tourists MUST show proof of health insurance covering COVID treatment. Your home insurance will not likely cover you. However, you can find affordable travel insurance for less than $50 that will meet this entry requirement.

Get help with your visa. The Philippines visa process can get complicated. The rules and regulations change frequently. Avoid the hassle of dealing with the immigration bureaucracy by speaking with a Philippines Visa Specialist.

Show a mandatory departure ticket. You cannot enter the Philippines on a one-way ticket if you only have a tourist visa or visa on arrival. You will need a flight ticket with a date leaving the country before your visa expires. Save money by showing immigration you have  a cheap onward travel ticket for just $14

Learn some basic Tagalog phrases. While nearly everyone speaks some English, learning some basic Tagalog is always appreciated by Filipinos. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.

Save On Moving Costs. Save up to 40% on your international moving costs. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with 10,000+ pre-screened global moving companies to save you time and money. Fill out our 60-second form and get 5 free quotes from accredited moving companies competing for your business.

But it's not just the beach life that has over 220,000 Americans calling this little island nation their home. Foreigners stay for the country's combination of affordable prices, friendly locals, low visa costs, and a stress-free lifestyle.

When a short holiday is no longer enough, and you want to know what living in the Philippines is really like, Nomadic FIRE is here to provide you with the insider's view of expat life in the Philippines.

  • Get realistic examples of the Cost of Living in the Philippines and the kind of lifestyle that the monthly budget buys you.
  • Discover the best cities for expats to live in the Philippines
  • Learn the multiple ways that you can legally retire and immigrate to the Philippines
  • Learn the Pros and Cost of expat life in the Philippines

Other Guides On Expat Life In The Philippines

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Who is this guide meant for?

The power of Nomadic FIRE is combining Financial Knowledge with Minimalist Principles and leveraging Geographic Arbitrage to reach Financial Freedom in 10 years or less.

I have designed this series of Ultimate Overseas Living Guides for 3 types of people: 

  1. 1
    Digital Nomads working remotely and looking to jump-start their path to Financial Independence.
  2. 2
    Expats looking to live abroad and leverage Geoarbitrage.
  3. 3
    Retirees and looking to Reinvent their Retirement and upgrade their Quality of Life.

Living In The Philippines- Expat Life

young couple living in the Philippines enjoying the view of Makati


What are the living conditions in the Philippines like?

Quality of Life

The Philippines is a top-rated destination for expatriates. The country has a warm climate, friendly people, welcoming culture, and low living costs make the country an ideal destination for expats. There is a lot to love about expat life here, but living conditions in the Philippines can be challenging even for experienced expats.

Most foreigners (over 60%) choose to live in the Capital city of Manila for the nightlife and western conveniences. However, the dense urban living in Manila leads to high pollution, long traffic times, and higher costs. Expats living on the islands or in a 2nd tier city enjoy a dramatically higher Quality of Life.

Do they speak English in the Philippines?

English Score

English is one of the two official languages of the Philippines. 64% of the country's population speaks English. As most Filipinos under 35 speak fluent English with a neutral accent, the country has become the world's leading location for English-speaking outsourced call centers.

 INSIDER TIP : Making Friends- "Warm, friendly locals" is a cliched catchphrase from nearly all Southeast Asian countries. Thailand is even dubbed the Land of Smiles. However, if it's the Philippines vs. Thailand, when it comes to friendly locals, The-Philippines-Wins-Hands-Down.

Genuine friendships are easier when you can communicate with people, and English is the official language of the Philippines. My social circle is deeper in the Philippines than in any other country I have lived in.

How hard is it to learn Filipino (Tagalog)?

US State Department rates Tagalog as a "Hard" Language (Category III). Due to significant differences between its structure and language, Tagalog requires roughly 44 weeks and 1100 class hours to reach 3/3+ (Professional Working Proficiency) or C1 on the CEFR scale.

Learn Some Tagalog Basics

Most Filipinos in any major city speak English well, many with native fluency. However, expats staying long-term in the Philippines will find it worth learning Tagalog (the most widely used official dialect) for an added layer of local experience.

Here is the "Secret" method that the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military uses to learn new languages quickly and effectively- The Pimsleur Method

Avoid hours doing mindless repetitive vocabulary. Pimsleur focuses on quick, easy-to-digest organic learning to get you conversational as fast as possible.

Is It safe for expats to live in the Philippines?

People usually wonder about safety when they first move to the Philippines. I get it. I understand. With the current President Duterte making weekly headlines for his "War on Drugs," it makes sense to be concerned.

The truth is that the "War on Drugs" is more like a "War on the Poor." Tourists and expats in foreigner hot spots rarely see any issues. Typically (before the pandemic hit), tourism in the Philippines generates 9 BILLION dollars annually from roughly approximately 8.26 million foreign tourists. I haven't met many tourists or expats who have been affected.

You should watch out for petty theft and pickpockets in urban centers, crowded markets, and nightlife areas. However, even venturing into Manila's poorer neighborhoods, I was more concerned with my wallet, but never about my physical safety.

To give you a benchmark, Gallup surveyed 148,000 people in 142 countries about their experiences with attacks and safety when walking alone at night. The Philippines scored 82 out of 100 (100 being the highest). The United States scored 84. As a result, I consider perceived safety concerns an overblown issue. 

Gallup 2020 Law and Order Report: Residents Personal Experience and Feeling of Safety
CountrySafety Score out of 100
Higher is better
Philippines82
Singapore (Woohoo! Highest Score!)97
Norway, Iceland, Finland (Too Cold to Commit Crime)93
Canada (Too polite)90
United Kingdom (Too drunk)86
United States (Too many guns)84
Australia (Not enough guns)82
Thailand80
Bulgaria77
Colombia64
Brazil63

Learn More About Expat Safety In The Philippines

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EXPAT INSIGHTS

Firsthand experience from foreigners living in the Philippines

Where is the nicest place to live in the Philippines?

I am a 67-year-old American expat in Davao City and find it a fine place to live. Because it's a major city, shopping and access to medical care are excellent.

I lived in Indianapolis in the USA and find Davao to be safer. I carried a .45 caliber pistol in Indiana. As a foreigner, I cannot own a gun in the Philippines. I don't miss it.

Please do not expect to come here and find a job. If you are a writer or a freelancer, you can make some money. I live on my retirement income.

People are friendly, taxi drivers are honest, internet connections are not as good as the USA.

DanielAmerican Living In The Philippines Since 2015

What's It Like Living In The Philippines?

"VERY polite people...People are MORE than willing to show me around if I have any questions or am lost. Its totally different than the US. I am originally from NJ, so people are kind of pricks there.

It is a totally different feel... with the people here, I have yet to bump into anyone who has been mean or rude to me. People on the street are very nice and are happy to talk to you in English even though their native language is Tagalog (which I only know a few words of). 

People chat with me at the bars or restaurants, and are overall very nice. Also, everyone is very trusting here it appears. I was worried before I came here since I hear people may try and rob you, but it doesn't seem that way at all."  

-Foreigner Living In The Philippines

More Details On Expats Moving To the Philippines

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Living In The Philippines- Visas and Residency Permits

family of expats living in the Philippines

Can foreigners live in the Philippines? Yes. Most countries can enter on a tourist visa for 30-days and extend the visa for up to 3-years.

Visa Policies For Immigrating To The Philippines Image Source

Do I Need A Tourist Visa?

For short-term stays, 157 countries do not require a visa before entering the Philippines. The duration of stay is dependent on the country. For example, Americans in the Philippines can stay up to 30 days without a visa. Most foreign nationals can apply for a 6-month extension using a Long-Stay Visitor Visa Extension form (LSVVE). The LSVVE can be extended multiple times for a maximum stay of 36 months.

There are three different Philippine visa categories:

  • Temporary Visas- Section 9 non-immigrant visas for temporary stays (used for tourism, business, students, etc.)
  • Permanent Visas-  Section 13 immigrant visas are most commonly used by expats with a Filipino spouse who want to live in the Philippines permanently
  • Special Visas- including the Philippine Retirement Visa or Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV). This visa is for a foreign national retiring to the Philippines.

Permanent Residency Visa for Expat Retirees

Does The Philippines Have A Retirement Visa?

Yes. The Special Resident Retiree Visa or SRRV is a permanent residency visa for expat retirees. Not only does the Philippines have an easy to acquire retirement visa, it is significantly easier to retire to the Philippines than Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, or any country in Southeast Asia. 

There is even a Philippine government agency, the PRA, specializing in helping retirees move to the Philippines. The PRA assists expats with the application and offers financial incentives to encourage retirees to immigrate to the Philippines.

GET THE LATEST UPDATES ON THE SRRV PROGRAM

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Can you help me apply for a Philippines visa?

Yes. I've partnered with a Philippines relocation specialist, who has been relocating and moving embassy personnel and corporate expats since 2011. If you don't want to deal with the hassle and complexity of the visa process, they can help. 

My partners are visa specialists certified by the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Tourism, and the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) to handle your visa application, document submission, local appointments, and much more. They will simply your immigration process and make getting your visa easier.  

Does The Philippines Have A Digital Nomad Visa?

The Philippines does not have a dedicated Digital Nomad visa. However, the government allows foreigners to work in the Philippines. There are several additional steps if you want to work in the country legally.

The good news for SRRV holders is the Philippine Retirement Association will help expat retirees with the AEP and TIN application process.

Living In The Philippines- Living Costs

Monthly budgets vary depending significantly based on location. Manila is the most expensive city for expats to live in the Philippines.

The average cost of living in The Philippines in US dollars is between $1,000 -$1,500 per month.

Prices in the cities, especially in Manila, are much higher than in the islands, smaller towns, or rural areas. Manila, while cheap compared to the US (ranked 78th out of 209 cities globally), is incredibly expensive compared anywhere else in the country. Rental prices for a one-bedroom in a charming university town like Dumaguete can be 50% less than a comparable apartment in Manila.

My cost of living in Dumaguete, a charming university town a 90-minute flight from Manila, was ~$900 per month, equivalent to 795 Euros or 675 Pounds. 

How expensive is The Philippines in comparison to other countries?

Living Expenses

 1-Person

Total Monthly Budget

$1,160

$1,500

$1,380

$1,420

$3,670

Regardless of where you choose to live in the Philippines, compared to Western Europe, Canada, the UK, or the United States, everything is cheaper except for imported goods. The lower prices are especially true of anything made with domestic labor, such as hand-tailored clothing or custom-made furniture.

Due to the low minimum wage in the Philippines, even on a modest monthly budget of under $2000 per month, most expats splurge or affordable luxuries such as personal chef, live-in maid, private driver, etc.

Average salary for a live-in housekeeper in ranges $82 per month in the Manila metro to $50 in the rural countryside.

Cost of Living in The Philippines vs. United States

Moving to the Philippines could reduce your living expenses by 70% when compared to a medium-cost city (Portland, OR) in the United States. Many US retirees can afford a high standard of living spending only their social security income.  

Can a single person live on $2000 USD a month in the Philippines?

Even in the expensive neighborhoods in Manila, expats can enjoy an upper-middle-class lifestyle for much less than $2,000 per month. If you have a lower monthly budget, living outside of the National Capital Region (NCR) can drop your monthly expenses significantly.

For example, you can rent a one-bedroom apartment in the Makati city center for $650 per month. While cheap by foreign standards, a similar apartment in tier 2 cities outside the capital, like Davao or Baguio, can be found for $350 per month.

 INSIDER TIP : Electricity Costs- At close to $0.20 kWH, electricity prices in the Philippines are the highest in Asia. If you decided to run the air condition full blast to beat the tropical heat, you can expect your electricity bill to hit $80-$100 for a one-bedroom apartment. If you are staying in an apartment long-term, look at replacing older window-style air conditioners with an inverter split-type aircon to save 30%-50% on your power bill.

Monthly Budgets For Major Cities In The PHILIPPINES

Detailed cost of living in Manila = $1500

Estimated cost of living in Cebu = $1,200

Estimated cost of living in Davao = $1,100

Estimated cost of living in Dumaguete = $925

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Average Salary and Minimum Salary In The Philippines

Average Salary in Manila= $1054

Median Monthly Salary In Manila

  • FINANCE MANAGER- $1,739
  • IT MANAGER- $1,790
  • SOFTWARE ENGINEER- $1,349
  • MANILA AVERAGE EXPAT COST OF LIVING- $1,500

Salary Data For Manila Image Source

The average salary is an excellent benchmark to understand the "real" cost of living in the Philippines. Wages in Manila, the country's financial hub, are higher than anywhere else in the country. Expatriates who earn more than average local salaries in Manila can reasonably afford a middle-class lifestyle in any smaller or less expensive cities in the Philippines. To compare how much further your money goes outside of Manila, the average income outside the capital is 70% less ($301 per month).

INCOME GROUPMONTHLY INCOMENUMBER OF PEOPLE (,000s)% of Wealth
Rich$4636+360.03%
Upper Class$2790 to $46361,0001%
Upper-Middle Class$1621 to $27903,0003%
Middle-Middle Class$927 to $162111,20010%
Lower-Middle Class$463 to $92731,00029%
Low Incomeless than $46358,40056%
Expats earning over $2,790 are in the Top 1.3% of the country.

What is the minimum salary in the Philippines?

The Philippines has a tiered wage system separated by Farm vs. Non-Farm labor and by region. To keep things simple, I'm using the Non-Farm minimum wage for Manila. The Department of Labor and Employment set the minimum wage to 16,110 PHP per month, equal to ~$318 USD per month.

Living in The Philippines- Cities and Sites

Get the highlights of the best things to see and best cities to live in.

Metro Manila

Metro Manila, also called the National Capital Region (NCR), is the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Philippines. With over 12 million people, it is one of Asia's most densely populated cities. This massive metropolis is split into several modern municipalities. Makati City, the modern business center, along with Bonifacio Global City (BGC), are the two most popular areas for expats living in Manila

Both Makati and BGC are modern, business-oriented areas with tall office buildings, posh residential areas, international schools, and booming nightlife. These areas are home to the best shopping malls and international restaurants in the country. Expats will find plenty of expat groups, meetups, and activities to easily make plenty of friends and build their social circle. 

AVERAGE LIVING EXPENSES For MANILA, PHILIPPINES

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Cebu City

If you are looking for a tropical paradise with a "West Coast" feel, you have found it in the beautiful city of Cebu. The second-largest metro area in the country, Cebu is an ideal combination of urban city life and natural outdoor attractions. It isn't shocking to learn Cebu is one of the country's leading tourist destinations.

Cebu has white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and plenty of sunshine year-round. You can find peace and quiet on remote islands and unspoiled coral reefs, or you can party in the many nightclubs located in the downtown area. There are several large resort areas with casinos, bars, and beach clubs. Plus, Cebu boasts an active nightlife scene, with several dance clubs and live music bars.

With non-stop flights to 40 cities in 11 countries, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, just 90 minutes by air from Manila, offers convenient access to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. 

Davao City, Davao del Sur

The province of Davao del Sur is a beautiful place located on the southern island of Mindanao. This island paradise is home to Davao City, which, driven by the city's low crime rate, affordable housing prices, low traffic, clean air, and per capita income, was ranked by CNN as one of "Asia's Most Livable Cities."

With clean air and a mild tropical climate, the area is the prime growing region of the country. Davao's tropical fruit orchards supply most of the country's exotic fruits.

Davao is the country's up-and-coming expat destination with plenty of sights and activities for active expats. Hikers can explore Mount Apo, the country's highest peak. Those looking for sun and sand can find white sand beaches on nearby Samal Island. If you like watersports, you can dive a sunken WWII shipwreck near the city. And, if you're into cultural festivals, Davao hosts the country's largest Kadayawan festival, which lasts for seven days. 

READ MORE ON THE BEST PLACES TO LIVE IN THE PHILIPPINES

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What are the Top 3 Things to See and Do In The Philippines

  • Beach and Island Hopping - With over 7000 islands and the 5th most extensive coastline in the world, every list of things to see and do when living in the Philippines starts with the country's world-class beaches and islands. Palawan, Boracay, and Siargao all made Conde Nast's Best Islands 2021 list. Whether you want to spend a few days island hopping and swimming in the crystal clear waters around El Nido or Coron or relax and lounge on the sugar sands of White Beach in Boracay or Alona Beach in Bohol, everyday living in the Philippines can feel like a holiday.
  • Scuba and Snorkel- If you think the country's stunning beaches and islands are magical, wait until you take a peek under the waves. Scuba diving shows you a different dimension to the country's beauty. Exploring the underwater animal life, rich biodiversity, and colorful coral reefs from under the crystal clear waters is breathtaking. 

    The Philippines is globally renowned for being one of the best places in the world for diving and snorkeling. You can explore Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, massive World War II Japanese shipwrecks near Coron, or visit turtle families off the coast of Apo Island.
  • Surfing- Whether you are a noobie surfer looking for baby waves or a professional looking for the best right-hand barrels in the world (Cloud 9 in Siargao), this island nation has surf spots to fit all levels. Surfing's popularity here is still in its infancy. This means fewer tourists, less crowded beaches, and more fun. And like most things here, surfing is cheap.

    I could rent a surfboard in La Union (the best surf spot closest to Manila) for $5 and work on my skills with a private instructor for $10


 INSIDER TIP : Avoid The Crowds- Expats living in Manila usually head to La Union or Baler for their surfing getaways. However, locals know that spot to enjoy the waves without the crowds is Real in Quezon Province. You won't find trendy cafes or posh resorts, and the Real's darker sands don't scream Instagram opportunity, but for nice waves and fewer people, Real is only a 3-hour drive away from Manila.

Living In The Philippines- Healthcare

picture of a woman living in the Philippines as a foreigner


Health Care

The World Health Organization ranked the Philippines healthcare system 60th out of 191 countries (US ranking 37th). However, the country's two-class system skews the ranking for the Philippines. Public health care is available to everyone for free but at lower levels of care.

Most expats pay for private medical insurance for access a private hospital, wherein bustling cities like Manila or Cebu provide US-trained English-speaking doctors with modern equipment, international accreditation, and Western standards of medical care. The country has even become a popular medical tourism destination due to its affordable (compared with the US), high-quality medical procedures.

How much is healthcare coverage in the Philippines?

Expats with an SRRV Visa or an ACR-I-Card are eligible for coverage by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). The insurance premiums for full coverage costs:

  • Foreign Retirees with a SRRV Visa- $300 / 15,000 PHP per year
  • Foreign Nationals with an ACR-I-Card- $335 / 17,000 PHP per year

However, PhilHealth will only provide access to public hospitals, where expats from the US or similar Western countries would be uncomfortable receiving complex medical care. Most expats and many wealthier Filipinos purchase additional private health insurance for access to better primary care doctors and hospitals. 

The extra costs for higher quality private medical insurance mimic the US system, where premiums are dependent on age, pre-existing conditions, deductibles, coverage limits, etc.

Example of the HMO insurance premiums for a 25-year-old male or female in PESOS

Did you know that most US-based health insurance does not protect you outside of the US. Your insurance may not provide adequate medical coverage in a foreign country.


My International Health Insurance covers me everywhere I travel for roughly $60 per month.  

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

No. Most health insurance will not cover you for any medical issues outside your home country. You will either need to get PhilHealth, private medical insurance, or Expat Medical Insurance.

If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the "normal" insurance you are familiar with to from home. Coverage is built for expats outside the US, and insurance premiums are much cheaper than in the US. 

Living In The Philippines- Money and Taxes


The local currency is the Philippine Peso (PHP). At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar = 50.38 PHP. For reference, 1 Euro = 56.63 PHP.

  • €1000 Euros = 57,137 Pesos 
  • £1000 Pounds =  67,360 Pesos

Moving Money

Foreign exchange and international wire transfers play a crucial role in expats' daily lives. It’s important to understand how foreign exchange works and the effects international transfer fees can have on your cost of living.

Getting paid in USD, but paying bills in a foreign currency can kill your local buying power, especially if your bank gives you crappy exchange rates and charges you foreign transaction fees or international wire transfer fees. 

Wise.com is the easiest banking solution I've found for living abroad

Receive money as if you were still at home.

You don't need to hassle with multiple bank accounts. Receive your rental income, salary, pension, etc., using your Wise banking details.

Move your money between countries.

You can send money to more than 70 countries, always with a low and transparent fee. With Direct Debits in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada, paying your bills and subscriptions across currencies is easier.

Spend in local currency with a debit card.

Don't worry about currency rates when changing money. You can use a Wise debit card to always get the best exchange rate and avoid sneaky bank foreign transaction fees.

 

Do I Pay Taxes If I Live In The Philippines?

The SRRV is a Non-Immigrant Visa. Expat retirees with an SRR Visa are considered non-resident aliens. Non-resident foreign nationals do NOT pay taxes on their foreign earned income (overseas investments or rental property abroad, as an example).

However, expats with income earned in the country (freelance work, owning a local business, local rental property, etc.) will need to pay taxes on the local-sourced income. However, the first 250,000 PHP / ~$5,000 is exempt from income tax.

You can find a complete list of countries with double taxation treaties with the Philippines.

The Philippines and the United States have a double taxation treaty. You might be able to deduct the income tax paid to the US if you owe taxes on your local income. Consult a tax advisor for more information.

Living In The Philippines- Pros And Cons 

man enjoying expat life in the Philippines


With the country's natural beauty, welcoming environment, and low living costs, the popularity of immigrating to the Philippines isn't a mystery. But like any place, there are pros and cons of living in the Philippines.

PROS- BENEFITS OF LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • The Famous Beaches and Islands - Over 7000 islands and the world's 5th longest coastline make the Philippinesstunning beaches and islands the top of any "Pros" list. Three of Conde Nast's Best Islands for 2021 are located in Palawan, Boracay, and Siargao.
  • Low Cost of Living- Even with the rise in prices in recent years, costs are still extremely low compared to a Western country. Expats can enjoy a higher standard of living for less cost than in their home country. Retirees can live comfortably solely on their social security or pension income.

CONS- DISADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN THE PHILIPPINES

  • Rural Area Infrastructure- Idyllic island life is not always sunshine and sandy beaches. Life outside the big cities also means a lack of choices. Foreigners from more developed countries will find limited options for international restaurants, quality hospitals, or private schools.
  • Traffic and Pollution- Expats living in the Manila, Baguio, and Cebu complain about the air pollution and the frustrating traffic. The good news is, outside a major city, traffic and pollution are non-issues. Drive an hour outside of town and enjoy fresh air, green jungles, and stunning beaches.

Expat Resources

This section is a one-stop resource of essential links to immigration and expats services, FAQs, foreign consulates, and embassies.

FAQs: Expat Guide To Living In The Philippines

Can a US citizen live in the Philippines permanently?

Yes. Roughly 30,000 Americans live in the Philippines. If an American has a spouse that is a Filipino citizen, they can apply for a 13(a) Non-Quota Visa type. Otherwise, a foreign national over 50 years old can become a permanent resident with an SRR Visa.

Is the Philippines a safe country to live as an expat?

Over 177,000 expats live in the Philippines. Yet, a 2020 Law and Order Gallup study, the Philippines ranked better than the United States in terms of safety. Regardless of what you might read in the Western media about the country's "War on Drugs," you will rarely hear any complaints in the shopping malls and gated communities where you find expats.

Can Americans own land in the Philippines?

No. The Philippine government restricts land ownership to Philippine citizens, former Filipinos, and Filipinos with dual citizenship. However, Americans and other foreigners can own condominiums or enter into long-term land leases.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in the Philippines?

For less than $2,000 per month, expats can live an upper-middle-class lifestyle in the most expensive areas of the country. And if you look outside the expensive capital city, you can still live comfortably on a $1,000 per month budget. A salary of ~$1,600 per month puts you in the top 5% of the country's wage earners.

Can foreigners work in the Philippines?

Yes, but to work in the Philippines longer than 6-months, foreigners must have a legal visa and a valid Alien Employment Permit (AEP)as well. Working without an AEP could subject you to heavy fines. An AEP is granted only if the job has unique skills not available in the local job market.

Can an expat open a business in the Philippines?

Yes. It is a common misconception that foreigners can't own a business without Filipino partners. However, there are several rules and restrictions. As an example, a "Domestic Market" business limits foreign ownership to 40%, unless more than $200,000 is invested. However, an "Export Market" business allows 100% foreign ownership.

Useful Official Philippines Government Websites


About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last five years to over 40 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, Huffington Post, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Best Life, CW Network, Dr. Wealth, and others. [view press...]

  • Hello Marco, Great information. I was wondering what is the best visa or process for a US retired veteran married to a filipina with two kids and wanting to move and live in the PI permanently? We are under 50 years of age, but have a pension that exceeds the minimums for most SRRV requirements.

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi Stuart,

      The SRRV Expanded Courtesy for Former Military is your best option. The SRRV Expanded Courtesy has the lowest annual fees and the smallest deposit requirements. However, the Philippines indefinitely increased the minimum age to 50 in 2020. At this point, we don’t know when the Philippine government will reinstitute the 35 years old and up SRRV option.

      https://nomadicfire.com/philippines-srrv-visa

      If your wife is a Philippine national, your next best option is the 13a Marriage Visa.

      https://nomadicfire.com/philippines-13a-visa-marriage

      If you need help with your visa application process or would like personalized answers to your specific questions, you can schedule a Visa Consultation with an accredited Philippine Immigration specialist below.

      https://nomadicfire.com/philippines-visa-consultation

      Cheers,

      Marco

  • Phillip Applewhite says:

    Hello, I need help to get a EED.

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi Phillip,

      Thanks for reaching out. I saw your email, so I’ll answer a bit here.
      Are you fully vaccinated? How long were you looking to stay in the Philippines?

      Cheers,

      Marco

  • Hi Marco, I had a question about investing or at least drawing down from a retirement income portfolio from abroad. A significant portion of my retirement nest egg is in IRAs at a large US brokerage. How do I keep my money invested and growing/ paying me dividends while living abroad? Do I need to move my money? Is there a brokerage you recommend as an expat? thanks so much for any advice.

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hi TC,

      I actually wrote about my brokerage strategy in this post: MOVING ABROAD CHECKLIST & OVERSEAS RELOCATION GUIDE

      Here is the specific section:

      Use a US Mailing Address for Your Brokerage Accounts- I’ve heard recent complaints that US brokers are closing expat accounts after discovering expats moved abroad. Brokerages are enforcing a decades-old law that prohibits cross-border sales of mutual funds. The law depends on where you are living and the brokerage’s legal structure.

      Rather than gamble if my accounts are affected, I adopt a “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” policy. My understanding is the law does not require I tell the broker what country I am living in but mandates I provide a mailing address. My mailing address is in the US. So far, so good.

      This is a Virtual Mailbox Service you can use to keep a US mailing address Anytime Mailbox

      Otherwise, there are two international brokerages that I’ve researched as backup plans that allow for expat accounts: Schwab International Expat Essentials and Interactive Brokers.

      Cheers, TC. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Marco

      • thanks so much. I’ll make sure to read that part of the guide… keeping a US mail addrees was a part of what I was thinking, but in terms of managing and checking out your brokerage account online while abroad are you also using a VPN to mask where you are? or is that going too far?

        • Marco Sison says:

          Since many times I am staying in an apartment or AirBnb where I don’t have control over the router, I use a VPN whenever I deal with financial transactions. It’s more for general safety than location masking.

  • Eric and Marta says:

    Hello Marco! We’re a young couple from Barcelona considering spending 5-6 months in the Philippines. As far as we now, we need an Entry Exemption Document so that we can apply for a 9a visa, is that alright? Also, do you know how to get the EED in the first place? Thank you for your help!

    • Marco Sison says:

      Hola Eric and Marta,

      There is good news and bad news on this topic. The Philippines, like most of SE Asia, remains locked down to tourists. Unlike Bali, where there is a visa workaround, the only way to enter the Philippines is with the EED or Entry Exemption Document you refer to. To qualify for the EED, you need to have an eligible reason (family reunification, work, immigration, etc.). Regrettably, wanting to enjoy the sunshine and gorgeous white-sand beaches of the Philippines isn’t enough.

      There is a way to acquire an EED through the SRRV program. However, since your comment mentions “young couple,” I assume you don’t meet the 50-year-old minimum page cut-off.

      You can read more about the EED Process on this infographic that breaks down the “6 Steps To Acquire An EED For The Philippines.

      Any other questions or concerns, please drop me a line. Good luck.

      Marco

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