visas – How to legally drive to the Philippines as a foreigner?

This question assumes a – "regular tourist" – foreigner with a valid foreign driver's license.

As a foreigner, you can drive to the Philippines up to 90 days after your arrival, along with your foreign driver's license and passport. Attention, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is only a valid permit if the permit is also valid, and therefore will not contribute to extend this duration, as has been very well explained here. So after these first 90 days you need to get a Philippine driving license based on your foreign driver's license. This requires a valid visa for one (1) year. However, one – year visas are not granted to foreigners, they are only extended for one or two months.

How to get a Filipino driver's license, with this seemingly impossible requirement?

First 90 days since arrival

According to my understanding of this FAQ on the LTO (Philippine Surface Transportation Office):

  1. I have a valid foreign driver's license. Can I use it in the Philippines?

Yes, 90 days from the date of arrival.

  1. Can I convert my foreign driver's license to a Filipino driver's license?

Yes. If valid, no exams. (…)

The first 90 days from the date of arrival, I will be able to drive with my (foreign) driver's license (and my passport), as long as they are not expired.

About this international driver's license

Note that an International Driving Permit (IDP) is not required and that it will not extend the time required to drive a foreign driver's license in the Philippines, as explained here:

As the IDP makes clear, he is ONLY valid when the license of your country of origin is valid. Ninety days after your last arrival in the Philippines, your residence permit in your home country is no longer valid for driving to the Philippines. Displaced persons are no longer allowed to drive in the Philippines. It's basically a useless piece of paper.

After 90 days of arrival

In order to continue driving in the Philippines, it seems like you have to get a Philippine driver's license, for which you can take the exam because you already have a foreign driver's license (poorly qualified "conversion" because it's a 39 is rather "duplication"). .

So, let's move on to the other things, qualifying for a Filipino driver's license:

  1. At least eighteen (18) years old
  2. Be physically and mentally fit to drive a motor vehicle;
  3. Must be able to read and write Filipino, English or the applicable local dialect;
  4. Must hold a valid SP issued at least thirty (30) days prior to the application; and
  5. In addition, for foreigners, the applicant must be in the Philippines for at least one (1) month with proof that he will remain in the country for at least one (1) year from the date of the application.

First, the fourth element speaks of a PS (I suppose a student permit). However, foreigners can not get a PS without spending at least a year in the Philippines. I think it's probably a mistake in qualifying. And as such I will ignore it, correct me if I'm wrong.

Then we have to look at the fifth point. If you plan to stay six months, it would be impossible to drive to the Philippines in the last few months. Let's start with the fifth item, listed under REQUIREMENTS:

1. New application / conversion

(…)

re. In addition, for foreigners, the original and a photocopy of the passport with an entry of at least one (1) month and a visa duration of at least one (1) year from the date of the application or, if you were born in the Philippines, the original and a photocopy of birth certificate duly authenticated by the ONS.

If the applicant holds a valid foreign driver's license, he may submit the original and photocopy of the foreign driver's license, if they are not in English, the original and the the photocopy of the official English translation provided by the embassy of the issuing country instead of an SP.

Therefore, the evidence mentioned in the conditions must refer to "the duration of the visa for at least one (1) year from the date of the application."

And that's the problem. Even if you intend to stay in the Philippines for more than a year, no visas are issued to "regular" aliens with such length of stay. At the moment, the maximum duration of extension of a visa is 2 months (against 6 months in 2018).