THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) said its new guidelines on granting temporary work permits to foreign nationals prioritizes 14 categories for the issue of Special Working Permits (SWPs), including athletes, performers, and persons with special abilities.

In an interview with BusinessWorld on Monday, BI Spokesperson Dana Krizia M. Sandoval said that BI’s Operations Order No. JHM-2019-008 will specify which occupations are allowed to be issued SWPs, where previously there was no guidance.

“One of the main differences is in the past, it is not clearly stated that foreign nationals cannot do blue collar jobs. In this one, it is clear that it’s only in these 14 categories that the BI can issue Special Work Permits to because in the past there was no restriction on the issuance of Special Work Permits,” she said.

Operations Order No. JHM-2019-008 listed only the following occupations eligible for SWPs: professional athletes, coaches, trainers and assistants; international performers with exceptional abilities; artists, performers and their staff who perform before an audience for a fee; service suppliers coming primarily to perform temporary jobs and who do not receive salary or other remuneration from a Philippine source other than expenses connected to their temporary stay; treasure hunters authorized by government agencies to search for hidden treasure; movie and television crews authorized by government agencies to film in the country; foreign journalists practicing their profession or covering a specific event in the country; trainees assigned to government institutions, government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCC), and private entities; lecturers, researchers, trainers and others pursuing academic work who are assigned to schools, universities, educational and research institutions, government agencies and other entities (with or without compensation); religious missionaries and preachers; commercial models and talents; culinary specialists and chefs; professionals; and consultants or specialists.

Some work categories on the list are subject to special documentary requirements prior to application for an SWP. An SWP will be valid for a maximum period of six months.

The BI does not issue SWPs and Provisional Working Permits (PWPs) to foreign nationals seeking to work in blue-collar jobs such as construction work, janitorial services, and other jobs that do not entail special work skills. Professions regulated by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) also are not eligible for SWPs/PWPs unless they are approved by the PRC.

The order forms part of is the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Joint Guidelines No. 01 signed by the BI, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Department of Justice (DoJ), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on May 1. The Joint Guidelines cover the issuance of all work permits given to aliens, which includes SWPs, PWPs), and Alien Employment Permits (AEPs).

Ms. Sandoval said that in order for foreign nationals to obtain an SWP, they must have a Tax Identification Number (TIN) to ”ensure that the foreign national will be paying the appropriate taxes.”

Operations Order No. JHM-2019-008 also further defined the agency’s mandate in issuing the SWPs. Since foreign nationals under SWPs render short-term services, there is no “employer-employee” relationship between the foreign worker and a company engaging them to work in the Philippines.

The order also lays down guidelines on the issuance of PWPs, which are permits foreign nationals are issued by the BI while their applications for work visas and AEP are pending. PWPs will also be subject to the TIN requirement.

According to the order, any violation of these terms will invalidate all permits applied for and render the alien subject to deportation. — Gillian M. Cortez