Perspectives

Real Estate Ownership in the Philippines: Tips for Foreign Nationals

Residential area in MakatiThe Philippines is a paradise for many foreign nationals, especially for retirees. The country’s tropical climate and its people’s warm hospitality may be the top reasons many foreign nationals choose to live here for good.

In 2017, HSBC commissioned the Expat Explorer Survey, which polled 26,871 expats from over 100 countries. The survey said that 56 percent of expats residing in the Philippines felt that Filipinos are welcoming regardless of race, faith, and sexual orientation. Further, 63 percent made friends with Filipinos easily.

Foreign nationals who are interested in the Filipino way of living and the tourist attractions across the archipelago have the option to reside in the Philippines permanently or semi-permanently. But staying at a hotel for a long time is not practical. For this reason, they can consider purchasing residential properties.

Know the Property Ownership Laws in the Philippines

Land ownership in the Philippines is heavily-regulated under the Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. Foreign nationals are not legally allowed to acquire a piece of land. They can, however, purchase condominium units, buildings, houses, apartments, and enter into a long-term land lease. Philippine lands that are not state-owned are reserved for Filipino citizens, natural-born or naturalized.

The law, however, is less strict when it comes to former Filipinos, according to PropertyAccess Philippines. For instance, single ex-Filipinos can purchase an urban residential property not exceeding one thousand square meters or a rural residential property of up to one hectare.

If an expat is investing in a corporation, the corporation should be at least 60 percent Filipino-owned so that it can legally acquire land in the Philippines. The property will be forfeited if the law is breached.

There are restrictions and limitations to this law, however. For instance, a foreign national can own a piece of land in the country if the property was acquired before the implementation of the 1935 Constitution. Additionally, a foreigner can inherit a property if they are the legal or natural heir of the Filipino owner.

Apply for an SRRV if You are a Retiree

The Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) is a non-immigrant visa for foreign nationals who, according to the Philippine Retirement Authority, “would like to make the Philippines their second home or investment destination.”

The Bureau of Immigration issues this visa. There are various benefits that come with applying for an SRRV. A foreign national holding this visa can stay in the country indefinitely and have multiple entry/exit privileges. They also have a one-time customs duties exemption when they import household goods and personal belongings. Additionally, they are entitled to PHILHEALTH privileges.

There are different options when applying for an SRRV. These are:

  • SRRV Smile
  • SRRV Classic
  • SRRV Human Touch
  • SRRV Courtesy
  • SRRV Expanded Courtesy

Consider Expat-Friendly Areas

Across the Philippines, there are heavily expat-populated areas. Some of these are Makati City, Taguig, Clark Freeport Zone and Angeles City in Pampanga, and Subic Freeport Zone. These expat-friendly areas have safe and secure communities and villages, family-friendly establishments like hotels and fine-dining restaurants, and are in proximity to transportation options.

Philippine law does not allow foreign nationals to acquire land in the country. Despite this, there are many ways and reasons that foreigners choose to stay in the country and consider it their home away from home.