Foreigners who plan to work in the Philippines are required to obtain a work permit. There are three main work permits and are obtained from two agencies – the Department of Labor and Employment and the Bureau of Immigration.

It is crucial to know where to obtain the work permit for your business or company if you hire a foreigner.

There are three work permit options issued by the government. The alien employment permit (AEP) is issued by the DOLE while the special work permit (SWP) and provisional work permit (PWP) is issued by the Bureau of Imagration.

Before a foreigner can legally work in the country, we have to determine which work permit option is the right choice.

An AEP is the most common work permit required for foreign nationals who intend to engage in gainful employment in the Philippines. Gainful employment is defined as an employer-employee relationship between a Philippine-based employer and a foreign employee. This means you need to have an employer in the Philippines to apply for an AEP. You can get your work permit after you’ve confirmed a position in a company that’s willing to sponsor you.

This also means your AEP is tied to your position and your employer. If you change jobs or get a different position in your current company, you’ll have to arrange for a new AEP.

A SWP is a permit option for foreigners who are planning short-term assignments or employment for up to six months.Usually, this category includes, but not limited to professional athletes visiting and competing only for a limited period; foreigners performing emergency or special-case temporary services; and artists, musicians, and other performers including supporting staff.

However, keep in mind that you will need a sponsorship from a company registered in the Philippines and are willing to serve as a petitioner. In most cases, this should be the company planning to employ you. In cases of athletes and artists, it would be the organizers or promoters of the event you are attending.

This means you cannot get an SWP as a “temporary” permit while you are freelancing or looking for a job in the Philippines.

Upon issuance of the SWP order of approval from the BI, it will also serve as the permit to work.

The main difference between the AEP and the SWP is duration. If you plan to work full-time in a long-term position in the Philippines, the most common option would be an AEP. This permit lasts for a year or more, depending on your contract. It is also a requirement to get a 9G pre-arranged employee visa, which allows you to legally work in the Philippines.

If you plan on working in the Philippines for less than six months, the more common option is a SWP. You’ll still need an employer in the country, so this is an option if you have short-term contract work, or if you work in an international company and have projects or meetings with the local branch of your company.

A PWP is issued by the BI to foreigners who currently hold temporary visitor visas but wish to commence work in the Philippines while the approval of their employment visa application, either the 9g or 9d, is in progress.

Last Aug. 31, DOLE Sec. Silvestre H. Bello III issued Labor Advisory 16-21, which is the issuance of AEP or certificate of exemption/ exclusion to foreigners intending to ome to the Philippines for long-term employment.

This is in pursuant to Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 1, s. 2019 issued by the DOLE, departments of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Environment and Natural Resources; Bureau of Internal Revenue; BI; Professional Regulation Commission; and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

JMC 1 s. 2019 contain the rules and procedures governing foreigners intending to work in the Philippines and the Inter-agency Task Force for the management of Immerging Diseases Resolution 131-A dated Aug. 5.

Labor Advisory 16-21 is issued to govern the issuance AEP or Certificate of Exemption/Exclusion (COE), for applications filed by the Philippine based employer for foreign nationals intending to come to the Philippines for long term employment (more than six months).

The application for the AEP will be filed at the DOLE regional office by the Philippine based employer in accordance with the JMC 1, s. 2019 and Section 3 of the Department Order 221, s. 2021, except for the copy of the valid visa of the foreign national which shall be submitted within 30 working days after completion of the 14-day quarantine protocol.

For the application and issuance of the COE, as the case maybe will be filed to the concerned DOLE regional office by the Philippine-based employer of all documentary requirements in accordance with the JMC 1, s. 2019 and Section 3 of the Department Order 221, s. 2021, except for the copy of the valid visa of the foreigner, which shall be submitted within 30 working days after completion of the 14-day quarantine protocol.

The COE maybe released to the Philippine-based employer to facilitate the application of appropriate work visa with the BI or othervisa-issuing agency.

For more information on the issuance of AEP and COE, visit

END/Patrick T Rillorta