The Philippines are likely to attract the more adventurous expat job seeker and finding work here can be a challenge, although it is not impossible. In order to encourage employers to hire local workers, to combat the country’s 5.2% unemployment rate and ensure that overseas personnel pay taxes, the government has recently overhauled the work permit system, changing some of the regulations. This has become necessary because the number of overseas workers employed in the Philippines has risen sharply since the introduction of the old work permit system.
Because of abuse in the SWP (Special Work Permit) system, the government has tightened its visa regulations. Prior to this, foreigners in the Philippines on a tourist visa were able to apply for a SWP and work for 6 months: in practice, what this resulted in were workers taking up employment for the 6 months, leaving the country, re-entering and re-applying. Hence, the government has now restricted SWPs to 15 designated categories, including journalism, temporary service work, entertainment, sports, academia and consultancy.
The Philippines currently has a booming online gaming industry, for instance, which mainly employs foreign personnel: of the 138,000 foreigners working for offshore gaming operators (Pogo) 83,760 were issued SWPs. Under the new regulations, you will need to apply for a more stringent, longer-term permit called the Provisional Work Permit.
First, you must apply for an Alien Employment Permit (AEP). This will allow you to work while your long term permit is being processed, which can take several weeks. You will then need to apply for a PWP, issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for an initial 3 months. You can renew this after it is up for another 3 months, but will not be able to renew after a 6 month period. In order to apply you will need to submit the following documents to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE):
• notarized application form
• letter of request
• Secretary’s Certificate electing you to your new position (if you are a non-resident foreign nationals with elective positions)
• passport (authenticated) with current visa
• photocopy of Mayor’s Permit
• photocopy of Business Permit
DOLE will then issue you with an AEP card and you can apply for your PWP. Again, you will need to submit documentation:
• a letter addressed to the Commissioner from your prospective employer with an undertaking to withhold and remit to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) taxes due on your income
• a CGAF (BI Form 2014-00-003 rev 0)
• a photocopy of your passport bio-page and latest admission with valid authorized stay
• proof of your valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) if you have one
photocopy of your Alien Employment Permit (AEP) or an official receipt of your application for an AEP
Your employer may also need to submit some documentation, such as the company’s articles of incorporation, but their legal department will be able to sort this out from their end.
You will need to pay a fee, currently around 4040PHP (US$79).
You can also register for self employment: if you have a company, you will need to consult the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has recently revised its incorporation guidelines, or the Department of Trade and Industry if you are a sole proprietor. This, too, has recently revised its approach to start-ups, in particular.
The online gaming industry is currently booming in the Philippines so if you have a background in IT or tech, particularly in gaming, this may be to your advantage.
The Philippines has a skills shortage in a number of areas, including a major shortfall in construction. This is due to the exodus of skilled workers overseas and the government is currently aiming to entice Filipino workers back to the country in order to plug the gap.
However, if you have specialist skills in this industry and want to work in the Philippines, this sector might be worth considering, although note that salaries are likely to be comparatively low unless you work for an international company (the cost of living, however, is also low).
The Philippines typically works a 40 hour week. Although there are some exclusions, anyone obliged to work above this (such as medical personnel, for example) will be entitled to overtime. You will have an hour for lunch. Opening hours vary (8 a.m – 5 p.m for public authorities; 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. for retail).
There are 10 public holidays. You are legally entitled to 5 days of paid leave but in practice good employers usually offer 15 days of paid leave and 15 days sick leave if required.
You will be eligible for 105 days of maternity leave with full pay.
Your spouse can be included in your long-term work visa application but will be considered as your dependent and will not be allowed to work in the Philippines, either full or part-time.
Online jobs boards are a helpful means of finding work, and you may also consider recruitment agencies, particularly if you are working in a specific sector such as medicine or construction. The local press may also be an option and some expats recommend Craiglist. Personal networking may also prove fruitful.
The government is intending to run jobs fairs abroad: this, as above, is more with the aim of attracting Filipino workers back to the country but expats may also find these of use.
You can also make speculative applications to companies.
A standard CV/resume is recommended, with your academic background first and then other details. Since English, along with Filipino, is one of the official languages of the country, you will not need to have your CV/resume translated. You may also need to submit a copy of your passport to a prospective employer.
The Philippine Constitution guarantees the right of everyone to equal protection under law. However, in practice, there is a degree of discrimination in the workplace, particularly with regard to sexual orientation.
It is a good idea to have copies of your qualifications apostilled but you should not need to have anything translated.
The Philippines is a fascinating area to visit, whether as a tourist or as a potential expat looking for work. The country has a wide range of visas available, and which one you need will depend on the purpose of your trip, how long you intend to stay, and your nationality.
The Philippines has visa-waiver agreements with a number of countries for short-stay entry. The length of your permitted stay will depend on your nationality. If you are from the EU, for instance, you will be entitled to remain in the country without a visa for 30 days.
If you are a British citizen, you can also enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days. Alternatively, you could get a tourist visa from the Philippine embassy, which allows an initial 59-day stay. The government is extending stays on this kind of visa for up to six months for some nationalities.
U.S. citizens planning to visit the Philippines for 30 days or less do not need a visa prior to travel, provided their U.S. passport is valid and they have a valid return ticket. However, for stays in excess of 30 days, U.S. citizens must either apply for a visa at their nearest Philippine consular establishment in the US prior to travel, or at the Bureau of Immigration upon arrival in the Philippines.
If you are a British citizen and have a tourist visa, you can apply to extend your stay, at the offices of the Bureau of Immigration. You may need to demonstrate proof of travel.
Depending on your country of citizenship, you may need to apply for a Philippines visa at your local embassy or consulate. You will need to meet the necessary requirements and have your complete supporting documentation up to date. You may also be able to apply online, but this will depend on your nationality.
You can apply for a number of long-stay visas, including:
• Philippine work visa, which is issued to foreigners who will work for a Filipino company (we will look at this in more detail below)
• Philippine student visa, which is issued to foreigners who will pursue their studies in a Filipino educational institution
• Philippine spouse visa, which is issued to the spouses of Filipino citizens and/or their dependent children
• Philippine retirement visa, which is issued to foreigners who want to retire in the Philippines and have the necessary financial requirements to do so
Philippine long-stay visas are issued for six months to three years, depending on the type of visa you apply for and other determining factors, such as the duration of your work contract.
To apply for a long-stay visa, you will either need to contact your local diplomatic mission, or you can apply at the Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines if you are already in the country.
A single-entry visa will cost £25.
A six-month multiple-entry visa will cost £47.
A one-year multiple-entry visa will cost £70.
Visa processing time is dependent on the applicant’s nationality and usually takes two to 10 business days. Processing can be faster if the applicant’s country has an existing visa agreement with the Philippines. For some applicants, evaluation may require a longer period of time.
Because of abuse in the special work permit (SWP) system, the government has tightened its visa regulations. Prior to this, foreigners in the Philippines on a tourist visa were able to apply for an SWP and work for six months. In practice, this led to workers taking up employment for the six months, then leaving the country, re-entering and re-applying. Hence, the government has now restricted SWPs to 15 designated categories, including journalism, temporary service work, entertainment, sports, academia and consultancy.
The Philippines currently has a booming online gaming industry, which mainly employs foreign personnel. Of the 138,000 foreigners working for offshore gaming operators (Pogo), 83,760 were issued SWPs. Under the new regulations, you will need to apply for a more stringent, longer-term permit, called the provisional work permit (PWP).
First, you must apply for an alien employment permit (AEP). This will allow you to work while your long-term permit is being processed, which can take several weeks. In order to apply, you will need to submit the following documents to the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE):
• Notarised application form
• Letter of request
• Secretary’s certificate electing you to your new position (if you are a non-resident foreign national with elective positions)
• Passport (authenticated), with current visa
• Photocopy of mayor’s permit
• Photocopy of business permit
DOLE will then issue you with an AEP card, and you will be able to apply for a PWP, issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for an initial three months. You can renew this for another three months if necessary, but will not be able to renew again after the six-month period has ended. You will need to submit the following documentation:
• A letter addressed to the commissioner from your prospective employer, with an undertaking to withhold and remit to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) taxes due on your income
• A CGAF (BI Form 2014-00-003 rev 0)
• A photocopy of your passport bio-page and latest admission, with valid authorised stay
• Proof of your valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), if you have one
• Photocopy of your Alien Employment Permit (AEP), or an official receipt of your application for an AEP
Your employer may also need to submit some documentation, such as the company’s articles of incorporation, but their legal department will be able to sort this out from their end.
You will need to pay a fee, currently around 4040PHP (US$79).
You can also register for self-employment. If you have a company, you will need to consult the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has recently revised its incorporation guidelines, or the Department of Trade and Industry, if you are a sole proprietor. This, too, has recently revised its approach to start-ups in particular.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rental prices in the Philippines are typically based on the size of the property, which is measured in square metres. It is not uncommon for deposits to cost the equivalent of three months’ rent, and on top of this you may need to pay some rent in advance. Rent is usually paid on either a monthly or quarterly basis. If you choose to use an agent or broker to find a rental, then you will have to pay them a commission, which is usually the equivalent of one month’s rent (subject to negotiation).
The definitions for furnished and unfurnished vary slightly, depending on who you are talking to, so it’s best to check with your landlord, before you sign anything, exactly what the apartment includes, in terms of both furniture and fixtures.
It’s surprisingly easy to find somewhere local to rent through word of mouth, but if you are looking for something more upscale, such as a serviced condo, it’s best to go through an agent. There are also various websites that you can use to look for rentals, such as:
According to data statistic site Numbeo, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom city centre apartment in the Philippines is approximately ₱15,821.63 (Philippine peso); this is equivalent to roughly £252.03 (GBP) or $311.63 (USD). An apartment of the same size in a more suburban area costs around ₱8,839.27 (£140.80 or $174.10) per month. For a larger, three-bedroom apartment in the city centre, the monthly rent is approximately ₱34,827.77 (£554.78 or $685.99), while its suburban counterpart costs, on average, around ₱18,120.40 (£288.64 or $356.91) per month.
There is nothing specific that foreigners tend to struggle with. However, you should be aware of potential scams, particularly in large cities, such as Manilla. You shouldn’t hand over money in cash, and you should always have a signed tenancy contract.
Foreigners can purchase real estate property in the Philippines, but they are not allowed to buy or own land. Foreign ownership of property in the country is therefore never absolute. By law, land can be leased to a foreigner or a foreign-owned corporation on a long-term contract for an initial 50-year period, which can be renewed on a 25-year basis once that initial period has passed. It is possible for a foreigner to lease a lot and at the same time legally own the house and all improvements on the leased plot of land. You can also purchase a property through a corporation, as long as 60% or more of the property is owned by a Filipino citizen.
Foreigners cannot own land, but can own property on a plot of land, condominium units, and apartments in high-rise buildings, as long as the legal foreign ownership ratio is not exceeded.
When purchasing a property in the Philippines, it is important to look for properties backed by established developers and licensed real estate agents or brokers, especially in cases of off-plan or pre-selling (which is where the property is still in the planning stage and not yet built at the time of the sale).
After deciding on the property and inspecting the premises and appropriate documents, the buyer usually signs a binding, legally notarised Deed of Sale. A down payment (aka a deposit) of between 10% and 30% is required in most cases. For ownership of condominium apartments, you will need to make sure that you obtain a Condominium Certificate of Title (CCT). For single houses, a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) should be issued. In addition, the Land Registration Act requires the owners of the property to register titles with the Registry of Deeds. The titles must be registered in the same province as the property.
On top of the transaction cost, you can expect additional fees, such as:
• Notary fees of 1% to 2% of the property value (notary fees are negotiable)
• Local transfer tax of approximately 0.5% for properties located in provinces and 0.75% for properties located in cities and municipalities within Manila
• Registration fees, which are typically 0.25% of the property price
• Agent and lawyer fees, which vary depending on who you use
There are various services in the Philippines, such as Cebu Expat Services, which aim to provide information and assistance for expats living in the Philippines. There are also some well known corporations, such as HSBC, who have compiled guides to help expats.
It is worth noting that it can sometimes be possible to secure a mortgage for a foreign property with a bank in your home country. Fixed and variable rate mortgages are available from local banks, such as BDO Bank. The exact terms of a mortgage will vary from bank to bank. Some mortgages will only be offered for the purchase of commercial properties, whilst others might be designed for buy-to-let homes or for full-time residential purposes. The only way to find out is to look at each bank’s website and set up some consultations.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Philippines health insurance
PhilHealth, The Philippines’ public health system, is funded by the government (it is a corporation attached to the Department of Health), and by employer/employee national health contributions. Although everyone is technically entitled to healthcare that is free at the point of delivery, not all medical procedures are covered in reality, and some out-of-pocket expenses must be made, limiting access to treatment for some low-income Filipino citizens.
Your employer should sign you up with PhilHealth, but check that this has been done and that they are paying their share of contributions. You will usually need to pay around nine months’ worth of contributions before you become eligible for coverage under PhilHealth. However, check with PhilHealth to make sure this applies to you, as the number of contributions that you need to pay may vary depending on your job and where you live.
You will need to submit the following documentation to the local health insurance office:
• a valid Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card) issued by the Bureau of Immigration
• a PhilHealth Member Registration Form (PMRF) for Foreign Nationals
Once you are registered you will then be sent a PhilHealth ID card and number, which you must take with you to medical appointments. You can also use this for other purposes, such as opening a bank account.
You can also register to make voluntary contributions into the system via your PhilHealth ID number.
You will have to co-pay some treatment costs: usually the difference between what your healthcare provider charges and the amount covered by PhilHealth. You may also want to sign up with an HMO (Health Maintenance Organisations: medical insurance groups providing health services for a fixed annual fee), as a top up for your PhilHealth cover. Check with your employer to see if this is already part of your insurance package.
As an expat, it is important to familiarize yourself with the Filipino currency and the various options for transacting money while in the Philippines. Most financial services available to expats are located within big cities like Cebu and Manila. On the other hand, you may have to carry a reliable cash reserve with you while travelling to the rural areas.
The peso is the official currency of the Philippines. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavo coins and is convertible with foreign currencies. Filipino currency is issued in note denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, as well as 1000-peso notes. The centavo coins are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 25. You should be able to see five and 10 peso notes once a while even though the Philippines Central Bank stopped printing them.
Major international banks are located in large metropolitan cities like Manila. Most of the banks accept wire transfers from foreign bank accounts. It is advisable to get paid in your foreign currency, then do the conversion while in the Philippines. Remember, exchange rates vary significantly in the different money exchange channels available to expats.
Another good idea would be to open a personal account with a local bank to streamline both foreign and local money transfers. International banks available to expats in the Philippines include Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, Bank of America, Citibank, Rizal Commercial Bank Corporation, Metro Bank, and the Bank of the Philippine Islands. These banks will have branches and ATM bureaus in different places within the cities. You should be able to open a savings or checking account with any of these banks while staying in the Philippines.
When you open a new account or link your foreign account to a local one, it is a good idea to ask for a debit card from the bank. It should help you access money on the go or pay for bills and other services. In addition, ask the local bank if they have any other special services for expats, including special ATM cards issued only to foreigners.
How long you have stayed in the Philippines can determine the privileges granted to you while accessing local banking options. Expats who have been in the country for more than 180 days are allowed the same banking privileges as Filipino citizens. On the other hand, foreigners who just arrived in the Philippines can only open and transact from a deposit account.
You will need your passport details to open local bank accounts with Filipino financial institutions. You are also required to have an Alien Certificate of Registration or ACR I-Card to open an account in the Philippines. The official business hours for most Filipino banks are from 9am to 3pm on weekdays. Some banks will extend their business hours to 4:30pm and even 6pm once a week.
Money transfer options
Banks, hotels, and shopping malls are common places to exchange money while in the Philippines. Foreign currencies accepted in the Philippines include the US Dollar, the Euro, and the British Pound.
There are local money exchange establishments within the big cities that will transact foreign currency for you. In fact, most expats prefer private moneychangers because they provide better exchange rates than banks. Avoid exchanging money on the streets or paying attention to individuals approaching you with attractive exchange rates. Such individuals are usually con artists targeting unsuspecting tourists for their money. Always confirm that the moneychanger establishment you are transacting with is licensed and mandated by the Central Bank of the Philippines.
Lastly, always find out the current exchange rates for the day before approaching any private money changer. You are less likely to be duped this way and you will also be aware of the exact amount of money to be received in Filipino pesos.
Making payments in the Philippines
The best way to pay for bills or make payments as an expat is through online banking. Almost all established banking institutions within the major cities provide online banking to their clients. If you cannot access the online payment services, there are other ways to conveniently make payments to your service providers.
You can use your locally issued ATM card to make payments as well. Cellphone banking is also common in the Philippines, facilitating various payment methods. However, these two payment services are only available to expats holding local accounts.
Credit and debit cards are also accepted for making payments. Many shops, malls, and commercial establishments accept payments via debit or credit cards. Common credit cards accepted within the Philippines include MasterCard and Visa. However, whether you are buying something from a shop or making hotel payments, always ask whether your particular credit card is accepted for payment. Sometimes the “Visa Accepted” sign you see may be referring to credit cards issued only by local Filipino banks.
Making payments in the rural areas will be a lot different from the cities because rural areas may lack the banking institutions and Forex bureaux available in the cities. Therefore, expats are advised to carry cash with them when visiting the rural areas in the Philippines.
Ensure you exchange foreign currencies in the cities before travelling to the rural areas. If you must carry foreign money, it has to be US Dollars, the British Pound, or the Euro; these are the accepted currencies in most rural parts of the Philippines. You may be fortunate enough to find commercial establishments that accept Visa or MasterCard, but there are not many of these in the rural areas.
Above all, make sure your money is safely stored when travelling in the rural areas. Do not leave large sums of money in your hotel room or carry your money openly while out in the streets.
In general, transacting and making bank deposits and transfers between foreign owned banks and local banks in the Philippines is quite convenient.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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If you are intending to live and work in the Philippines, you may be asking how easy it will to communicate with your colleagues and local people. Will you need to master one or more of the main languages that are spoken here, and what are they, or can you get by in English during your stay in the country? We will answer some of your questions below.
The Philippines has in the region of 120 – 180 languages depending on how you classify them. Filipino (a form of the native tongue Tagalog, which is mainly spoken in Manila) is one of the official languages, along with sign language, but there are many other indigenous languages, too. Most of these, such as Cebuano, Hiligayno, Ilokano, Kapampangan, and Waray Waray are Malayo-Polynesian languages and can be written in indigenous scripts, including Kulitan, Tagbanwa and others, but in practice these are little used and generally the Latin alphabet is employed instead.
Although Filipino/Tagalog is spoken by around 50 million people, only around a quarter of the Filipino population speak it as their first language. Due to the Spanish influence on the islands, Filipino has a number of Spanish loan words and quite a lot of English ones, too.
Spanish was widely spoken in the Philippines for centuries, a legacy of Spanish rule, and it is still spoken here, along with Arabic. Some Filipinos speak Spanish as their first language.
However, English, which began to gain precedence during the US occupation, is now one of the main languages of these islands, whether spoken by local people as a second language, or expats and alongside Filipino, it has official status. Thus you will have little difficulty in making yourself understood during your time in the country. English is the language of commerce and there are a large number of US call centres here, due to high levels of English.
You may wish to learn Filipino/Tagalog itself, perhaps for reasons of linguistic interest or personal development. The language is not easy for native Engish speakers to learn, due to linguistic idiosyncracies such as verb conjugation, and linguists say that it also differs from other Asian languages.
There are a number of online resources for learning the language if you want to study it before you come to the country. However, you will find plenty of provision for language training once you are on the ground.
Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) for example offers a “Filipino for Non-Filipino Speakers Program” (NFPS), a track offered by the Kagawaran ng Filipino of the School of Humanities. This is a three-course program designed to teach Filipino as a second language to students who have no conversational or academic background in the use of the language.
Enderun Colleges – The Study offers foreign language tutorials in Mandaluyong City, where students learn through interactive software.
The Bridge Language Center in Makati City offers Filipino classes year-round on a group basis, in addition to private and semi-private instruction. Also in that city, International Language Makati offers Filipino as a language program specifically designed for those who intend to stay in the Philippines.
Private tuition is also available and some expats suggest that this is more cost effective than a language school program. You might also be able to find a ‘language buddy’ (even though the level of English proficiency is so high in the Philippines, you might, for example, swap language practice with a Filipino student in exchange for proofreading their university essays in English).
There is also the option to learn Spanish at some language schools in the Philippines.
You may be intending to come to the islands in order to teach English. Although levels of English are high here, as outlined above, other Asian students come here to learn English because it is a cheaper alternative to learning English in a native speaking nation such as Australia. The Philippines provides an immersive English-speaking environment. Thus there is a demand, but from elsewhere in Asia rather than from Filipino locals.
It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or business and finance.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Salaries are in the region per month of US$350 – 1400, but the cost of living in the country is comparatively low. You are most likely to find work in either a private language school or an international school.
English, which began to gain precedence during the US occupation, is now one of the main languages of the Philippines. Whether spoken by local people as a second language, or by expats, it has official status. Although early years are taught in Tagalog and English, primary instruction tends to be mostly in English, particularly in urban areas and at university level.
The educational system has been substantially influenced by the American model. If you are a British or US expat, therefore, you should experience some familiarity already with the Filipino school system when it comes to the language of instruction and the educational model.
Education in the public sector is typically of 14 years’ duration consisting of:
• six years of primary school education (divided into two cycles: ages 6-11 and 11 – 13)
• four years of secondary school education (ages 12/13 – 16/17)
• four years of higher education
Education is compulsory from the ages of 7 – 12. Students are evaluated according to a cumulative points system. Primary students learn a core standard curriculum but are also introduced to Makabayan: a form of holistic learning in which students are encouraged to develop a healthy personal and national self-identity via the integration of particular skills and values (cultural, vocational, aesthetic, economic, political and ethical).
Secondary education is divided into general and vocational education and there are a number of secondary schools dedicated to the sciences, for students who show an aptitude in this area. The curriculum in general high schools is wide, encompassing the standard range of subjects, but also includes training for the citizens’ army. In vocational schools standard subjects are studied but students also enrol in one of five main areas: agriculture, fishery, trade/technical, home industry, and non-traditional courses with a number of specializations. They will then increasingly specialise over the last two years of their schooling.
The school year runs from June – March.
The public educational sector currently faces a number of challenges. Public expenditure in education is comparatively low and the student retention rate is also low: many students drop out. Infrastructure can often be poor. It is generally considered that public standards of education have been declining, but the government has been making efforts to address this and improve the educational system. However, the public school system is not yet a popular choice among expats.
Around 45% of high schools in the Philippines are private, many of them having their origins as religious or mission schools, and most expats resident in the country enrol their children into private or – mainly – into international schools, mostly located in Manila, Cebu and Davao. Private schools follow the Filipino curriculum; international schools will vary in their choice of provision depending on the orientation of the school. Some will offer American or British qualifications and some may focus on the International Baccalaureate, for instance, but others follow German, Singaporean and Australian educational models. Some may also combine curricula: for example, the German European School Manila offers the IB Diploma alongside the German Abitur.
You will find plenty of provision: there are around 34 international schools in Manila.
For example, the Beacon School in Manila is an independent, non-profit, secular, and co-educational school for students from Pre-K to Grade 8. It is authorized by the International Baccalaureate to deliver the Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme. Fees range from US$5900 – 15K annually.
The British School Manila offers a British National Curriculum and can lead to and International Baccalaureate. Instruction is in English but the school also offers Mandarin, French and Spanish. Class sizes are small. Fees range from US$10,500 – 23,500 per annum.
The MIT International School is American in orientation and offers an integrated curriculum for 200 students with strong emphasis given to proficiency in mathematics, science, and oral and written English. Fees range from US$3500 – 5800 per annum.
Nord Anglia in Parañaque, part of a global family of schools, offer the British National Curriculum leading to IGCSEs and A Levels. Fees range from just under US$11K – 30K per annum.
Fountain International School also has a British curriculum and provides Cambridge-accredited academic direction (you will need to contact the school directly for its list of fees).
You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees for school infrastructure or enrolment fees. Enrolment policies will vary but you may be asked for previous school reports and other documentation and the school may also wish to evaluate your child, for example for proficiency in English. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.
Most schools suggest that you make enquiries as early as possible once you know your arrival date, since spaces can be limited, and most schools will wish to interview the child personally.
Homeschooling is legal in the Philippines and this is an option if you wish to avoid both the deficiencies of public sector education on the one hand and the expense of private schooling on the other. You can either undertake this yourself, although you will need to contact the Department of Education, or you may choose a homeschool provider. You should do due diligence to make sure the provider that you choose has a valid permit from DepEd to operate as a homeschool provider.