7

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

Short version

As a foreigner, you can drive in the Philippines up to 90 days since arrival, with your foreign driver's license and passport. Mind you, an international driver's permit (IDP) is a permit only valid if the license is valid too, and thus will not help extend this duration as very well explained here. So, after those initial 90 days, you need to get a Philippine driver's license based on your foreign driver's license. This requires a visa valid for one (1) year. However, one year visa's are not given to foreigners, only extensions for one or two months.

How can one get a Philippine driver's license, with this seemingly impossible requirement?

Long version

First 90 days since arrival

According to my understanding of this FAQ on the LTO (Land Transportation Office of the Philipppines):

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

Yes, 90 days from date of arrival.

  1. Can I convert my foreign driver’s license into Philippine driver’s license?

Yes. If valid, no exams. (...)

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

About that International Driver's Permit

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

As clearly stated on the IDP itself, it is ONLY valid when your home country license is valid. Ninety days after you last arrival in the Philippines your home country license is no longer valid for driving in the Philippines … thus your IDP is also no longer valid for driving in the Philippines. It’s basically a useless piece of paper.

After 90 days of arrival

In order to keep driving in the Philippines, it seems one has to get a Philippine driver's license, for which one may skip the exams as one already has a foreign driver's license (badly termed as "converting" as it is rather "duplicating").

So, let's get to it, the qualifications to get a Philippine driver's license:

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

First off, the 4th item talks about an SP (I presume a Student Permit). However, foreigners cannot get an SP without having been for at least one year in the Philippines. I think this is probably an error in the qualifications. And as such I will ignore it, correct me if I'm wrong.

Next, we need to consider the 5th item. If one plans to stay for half a year, it would be impossible to drive in the last few months in the Philippines. Let's first elaborate on the 5th item, which is listed under REQUIREMENTS:

1. New application/conversion

(...)

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

In the event that the applicant is a holder of a valid Foreign Driver's License, the applicant may present the original and photocopy of Foreign Driver's License, if not in English language, original and photocopy of official English translation from Embassy of the issuing country instead of an SP.

Hence, the proof as mentioned in the qualifications must refer to the "visa duration of at least one (1) year from date of application)."

And this is the problem. Even if you intend on staying in the Philippines for over a year, no visa is issued to "regular" foreigners that has such a duration. Currently, the maximum duration by which a visa can be extended is 6 months.

  • 1
    Actually, Philippines is supposed to let you drive on your IDP for one year, as long as you don't become a Philippine resident. Otherwise they're in violation of the 1949 and 1968 conventions on Road Traffic. See a similar question about Canada. – JonathanReez Apr 30 at 5:46
  • This is some fun research but have you actually tried this? I have obtained a Philippine driving licence and renewed it successfully a couple of times and failed once. My experience is that whether you succeed or not has little to do with subtle technicalities but just the luck of who you deal with on the day. One possibly significant factor in my case was that the successful cases were in rural offices but the failed one was in Manila. Another is that I had a better local fixer in the successful cases. I don't expect that a foreigner quoting rules will go down well. Get a local to help. – badjohn May 1 at 8:29
  • Re "This requires a visa valid for one (1) year", your question would benefit from clarifying the sentence "However, one year visa's are not given to foreigners, only extensions for one or two months.". It's unclear to whom the one year visas are given if not to foreigners. – SantiBailors Jul 21 at 7:54
  • @SantiBailors As far as I know, non-immigrant visa for longer than one year might only be provided in special cases such as diplomats, treaty trader/investors, certain officials, students, or through employment. The first line of my question already mentions that foreigner should be read in context of tourism. – Yeti Jul 21 at 9:51
  • It seems the consequences for not having a valid philippine license is that in the event of an accident your vehicle will get impounded and you wont get it back. Perhaps this is the logic afterall. – Dale coughenour Jul 22 at 2:53
2

The duration of a work visa is 1 year or the length of the employment contract, depending on the type of work visa.

So the 1 year visa requirement to obtain a local driver's licence makes more sense for a worker than a tourist.

In other words, a worker has 90 days to obtain a local licence.

If a tourist is staying for more than 90 days, are they really a "tourist"?

  • "If a tourist is staying for more than 90 days, are they really a 'tourist'?": It's possible to construct hypothetical cases in support of both answers to that question, meaning that it could depend on the specific case. Someone who is spending three nights in each of 31 or more different hotels for the purpose of sightseeing probably is a tourist; someone who spends just over three months at a time in their second home on the beach may not be. – phoog Apr 29 at 19:21
  • I am in fact a tourist, and since I will be able to continue my self-employed work remotely, I can afford to do these extensions for a while. And furthermore it is perfectly legal to remain in the Philippines as a tourist for an extended duration. – Yeti Apr 29 at 19:23
  • This answer points out that the requirement isn't an impossibility. The contradiction, to me, isn't the impossibility for a tourist to obtain a local driver's licence, but that the rules don't consider that a tourist would be working remotely quite legally. The fact that a tourist is required to keep extending the visa for another limited period suggests they don't want people staying indefinitely when they can afford to. And rather than being an oversight with the driver's licence, perhaps that is deliberate. – Weather Vane Apr 29 at 19:36
  • @WeatherVane The question clearly states it assumes a "regular tourist foreigner". However, your answer is very helpful - thank you, as it would be a valid workaround. Similarly, I might be able to enroll in a course, and get a student visa. I should note that the reason I am visiting the Philippines is my girlfriend - which falls under tourism/pleasure, thus another possibility would be getting married early. – Yeti Apr 29 at 19:42
  • @WeatherVane Actually, most visas are valid up to 1 year, and then need to be extended. But that is not enough! Since the requirement is a "visa duration of at least one (1) year from date of application" (emphasis mine), it would be practically impossible to receive the visa stamp of one year on the same day you're applying for a Philippine driver's license. So even with a one year visa, you cannot satisfy the requirement for a Philippine driver's license. Also, the one year visa would have to be granted only after one month of arrival, also due to a requirement. – Yeti Apr 29 at 21:38
2

A visa run would be a relatively cheap alternative as a matter of workaround. If you deliberately miss your flight after having passed immigration, you'd not even have to board the airplane to get a new visa stamp (untested). This is a serious consideration as the fees for extension will be lower as well, together with the absence of Philippine driver's license fees, it might not even be expensive at all.

  • Since it appears that you are not, after all, a "regular tourist" this whole thing is either a rant because you can't get what you want, or trying to find a way to dodge the host country's rules, under the guise of making them seem unreasonable. Perhaps you should indeed marry and get residential status. – Weather Vane Apr 29 at 21:56
  • @WeatherVane Definitely not ranting, and I have been very elaborate in my question so as to help others find a solution as well. Even if I were to marry and get a Temporary Resident Visa, I would still not be able to drive a car after 90 days of arrival. Any non-immigrant foreigner that stays over 90 days has this exact same problem. As far as I can see, work visas also have a maximum duration of one year extendable up to 5 years (on annual basis), which is - as previously stated - not enough. So it also applies to any foreigner who has a work visa. – Yeti Apr 29 at 22:13
  • One of my links says the most common type of work visa is for the length of the contract of employment. – Weather Vane Apr 29 at 22:15
  • @WeatherVane I stand corrected. If you have an employment contract of longer than one year, you might get a 2 or 3 maximum year valid work visa. In that specific case, your answer would be valid. But you should probably update your answer to reflect that a 1 year work visa is not enough. – Yeti Apr 29 at 22:31
  • This is by far the best option - cheap and hassle-free compared to bothering with a local license. – JonathanReez May 2 at 19:04
1

Use the International Driving Permit

Definitive update: I have inquired at the PNP's Highway Patrol Group, which informed me that the IDP is indeed only valid for 90 days after the last arrival. They simply follow the Republic Act 4136 (Land Transportation Code of the Philippines), and to them an international convention does - naturally - not matter.


As JonathanReez accurately commented on the question, an international driving permit (IDP) does indeed grant at least a one year valid license to drive in the Philippines according to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic in which the Philippines is a contracting party [4]. The Commissioner of Land Transportation was given order to implement the convention into the regulations in 1973 [3].

The convention states that contracting parties shall recognize any international permit conforming to the provisions of Annex 7 to the convention as valid for driving in their territories a vehicle coming within the categories covered by the permit, provided that the permit is still valid, and if it was issued by another contracting party [4]. Furthermore, the 2011 amendment of this convention states that the validity of an international driving permit may be limited by the date of expiry of the domestic driving permit [5].

However, the 2011 amendment also says that "Domestic legislation may limit the period of validity of a domestic driving permit" [5]. This introduces a certain kind of ambiguity.

The Philippine law says tourists may use their domestic driving license (implicit) to drive for the first 90 days, but not after. This is not mutually exclusive with the 1968 convention. But what about the 2011 amendment?

One possible interpretation is that the domestic legislation may limit the period of validity of a domestic driving permit - referring to the "domestic driving permit" from Annex 6. The validity of the domestic driving permit that can determine the validity of the duration of the international driving permit, is determined by the expiration date of the domestic driving permit.

Following this interpretation, we could rewrite the paragraph to make a proper distinction between which contracting party "domestic" refers to: Philippine legislation may limit the period of validity of an Annex 6 driving permit. The period of validity of an Annex 7 permit shall be either no more than three years after the date of issue or until the date of expiry of the national driver's license, whichever is earlier.

The other interpretation is that the domestic legislation of the Philippines may limit the period of the validity of a domestic driving permit, and therefore may potentially also limit the date of expiry of the international permit. This interpretation is followed by the FIA Foundation (an independent UK registered charity):

If you ask for a 1949 convention IDP, it is valid for a maximum of one year from the date of issue. 1968 model IDPs are valid for up to 3 years. However, validity of IDPs cannot exceed the validity of your domestic drive license. Plus, some countries recognize IDPs from foreign visitors only for a few weeks – usually, only for as long as their tourist visas are valid.

This last quote seems to admit that the validity of the IDP may be limited by the original driver's license, but that some countries simply do not recognize the IDP as per convention. Which would mean that the country is in violation of the convention.

The way I understand it, the convention is not law. It is up to each contracting party to implement the law with the convention in mind. If the law is in conflict with the convention, that is a matter to be resolved between countries, rather than one an individual level. Police officers simply follow the local laws, and as such, do not care if some convention is violated. And whether the law in the Philippines is violating the convention, is questionable due to the unfortunate ambiguity in the convention.

Therefore, it is not possible for foreigners to legally drive in the Philippines after 90 days without utilizing a certain workaround/loophole such as a visa run, or flexible interpretation of the rules by local branches. Granted that they cannot acquire a visa of longer than one year.

The LTO did not respond to my inquiry. The Dutch ANWB which is the official supplier of the IDP in the Netherlands does not know the answer. And the Dutch government service for online help in foreign countries refers to this government website, which recognizes the fact that:

In the case that you have stayed in the Philippines for more than 1 month and you are in the possession of a visa for at least 1 year, then you should apply for a Filipino driving license.

Which implicitly admits that the IDP cannot be used in the Philippines. They consequently advised to consult the Philippine authorities or alternatively a local lawyer.

References

All emphasis mine. These are quotes only relevant to the question, all other information has been left out.

Ref 1

Republic Act No. 4136 of the Philippines

SECTION 21. Operation of Motor Vehicles by Tourists - Bona fide tourist and similar transients who are duly licensed to operate motor vehicles in their respective countries may be allowed to operate motor vehicles during but not after ninety days of their sojourn in the Philippines.
(...)
After ninety days, any tourist or transient desiring to operate motor vehicles shall pay fees and obtain and carry a license as hereinafter provided.


Ref 2

the FAQ on the LTO

  1. I have a valid foreign driver’s license. Can I use it in the Philippines? Yes, 90 days from date of arrival.

Ref 3

Presidential Decree No. 207, s. 1973:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and pursuant to Proclamation No. 1081, dated September 21, 1972, and General Order No. 1 dated September 22, 1972, as amended, do hereby adopt and make as part of the law of the land the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic and Road Signs and Signals, respectively.

The Commissioner of Land Transportation shall draw, enact and promulgate the necessary regulatory measures to implement this Decree.


Ref 4

Summary of United Nations Depositary Chapter XI B 19. Convention on Road Traffic (Vienna, 8 November 1968) (read in this certified true copy PDF).

Chapter I: GENERAL PROVISIONS (pp. 67)

  • Article 2: Annexes to the Convention (pp. 72)

    The Annexes to this Convention, namely,
    (...)
    Annex 7: "International driving permit";
    are integral parts of this Convention.

  • Article 3: Obligations of the Contracting Parties (pp. 72)

    (...)

    1. (...), Contracting Parties shall be bound to admit to their territories in international traffic (...) and whose drivers fulfil the conditions laid down in Chapter IV; (...)
    2. Measures which the Contracting Parties have taken or may take either unilaterally or under bilateral or multilateral agreements to admit to their territories in international traffic (...) and to recognize, in cases other than those specified in Chapter IV, the validity in their territories of driving permits issued in the territory of another Contracting Party shall be deemed to be in conformity with the object of this Convention.

    (...)

Chapter IV: DRIVERS OF MOTOR VEHICLES (pp. 109)

  • Article 41: Validity of driving permits (pp. 109)
  1. Contracting Parties shall recognize:
    (a) any domestic permit drawn up in their national language or in one of their national languages or, if not drawn up in such a language, accompanied by a certified translation;
    (b) any domestic permit conforming to the provisions of Annex 6 to this Convention; and
    (c) any international permit conforming to the provisions of Annex 7 to this Convention
    as valid for driving in their territories a vehicle coming within the categories covered by the permit, provided that the permit is still valid and that it was issued by another Contracting Party or sub-division thereof or by an association duly empowered thereto by such other Contracting Party.
    The provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to learner-driver permits.
  2. Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph;
    (a) where the validity of the driving permit is made subject by special endorsement to the condition that the holder shall wear certain devices or that the vehicle shall be equipped in a certain way to take account of the driver's disability, he permit shall not be recognized as valid unless those conditions are observed;
    (b) Contracting Parties may refuse to recognize the validity in their territories of driving permits held by persons under eighteen years of age;
    (c) Contracting Parties may refuse to recognize the validity in their territories, for the driving of motor vehicles or combinations of vehicles in categories C, D and E referred to in Annexes 6 and 7 to this Convention, of driving permits held by persons under twenty-one years of age.
  3. Contracting Parties undertake to adopt such measures as may be necessary to ensure that the domestic and international driving permits referred to in sub-paragraphs 1 (a), (b) and (c) of this Article are not issued in their territories without a reasonable guarantee of the driver's aptitude and physical fitness.
  4. For the purpose of the application of paragraph 1 and sub-paragraph 2 (c) of this Article;
    (a) a motor vehicle of the category B referred to in Annexes 6 and 7 to this Convention may be coupled to a light trailer; it may also be coupled to a trailer whose permissible maximum weight exceeds 750 kg (1,650 lb) but does not exceed the unladen weight of the motor vehicle if the combined permissible maximum weights of the vehicles so coupled does not exceed 3,500 kg (7,700 lb);
    (b) a motor vehicle of the category C or of the category D referred to in Annexes 6 and 7 to this Convention may be coupled to a light trailer without the resultant combination ceasing to belong to category C or category D.
  5. An international permit shall be issued only to the holder of a domestic permit for the issue of which the minimum conditions laid down in this Convention have been fulfilled. It shall not be valid after the expiry of the corresponding domestic permit, the number of which shall be entered in the international permit.
  6. The provisions of this Article shall not require Contracting Parties:
    (a) to recognize the validity of domestic or international permits issued in the territory of another Contracting Party to persons who had their normal residence in their territories at the time of such issue or whose normal residence has been transferred to their territories since such issue; or
    (b) to recognize the validity of permits as aforesaid issued to drivers whose normal residence at the time of such issue was not in the territory in which the permit was issued or who since such issue have transferred their residence to another territory.
  • Article 42: Suspension of the validity of driving permits (pp. 111)
  1. Contracting Parties or sub-divisions thereof may withdraw from a driver the right to use his domestic or international driving permit in their territories if he commits in their territories a breach of their regulations rendering him liable under their legislations to the forfeiture of his permit. In such a case the competent authority of the Contracting Party or sub-division thereof withdrawing the right to use the permit may:
    (a) withdraw and retain the permit until the period of the withdrawal of use expires or until the holder leaves its territory, whichever is the earlier;
    (b) notify the withdrawal of the right to use the permit to the authority by or on behalf of which the permit was issued;
    (c) in the case of an international permit, enter in the space provided for the purpose an endorsement to the effect that the permit is no longer valid in its territory;
    (d) where it has not applied the procedure for which provision is made in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, supplement the communication referred to in sub-paragraph (b) by requesting the authority which issued the permit or on behalf of which the permit was issued to notify the person concerned of the decision taken with regard to him.
  2. Contracting Parties shall endeavour to notify the persons concerned of the decisions communicated to them in accordance with the procedure laid down in paragraph 1 (d) of this Article.
  3. Nothing in this Convention shall be construed as prohibiting Contracting Parties or sub-divisions thereof from preventing a driver holding a domestic or international driving permit from driving if it is evident or proved that his condition is such that he is unable to drive safely or if the right to drive has been withdrawn from him in the State in which he has his normal residence.
  • Article 43: Transitional provisions (pp. 112)

International driving permits conforming to the provisions of the Convention on Road Traffic done at Geneva on 19 September 1949 and issued within a period of five years from the date of entry into force of this Convention in accordance with Article 47, paragraph 1 thereof shall be accorded, for the purposes of Articles 41 and 42 of this Convention, the same treatment as the international driving permits provided for in this Convention.

ANNEX 7: INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT (pp. 153) Annex 7 describes a model and the formatting of the International Driving Permit:

  1. The permit shall be a booklet in a format A 6 (148 x 105 mm, 5.82 x 4.13 inches). The cover shall be grey and the inside pages white.

(...)


Ref 5

In the 2011 amendment of the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic, there have been a few changes to the relevant articles. But the most relevant is the following addition:

Domestic legislation may limit the period of validity of a domestic driving permit. The period of validity of an international permit shall be either no more than three years after the date of issue or until the date of expiry of the domestic driving permit, whichever is earlier.

0

Legally convert foreign driver's license into a Philippine one

According to the BOI website on who can apply for the Long-Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSVVE):

All temporary visitors, regardless of nationality and not otherwise disqualified, who wish to extend his/her tourist visa during the last thirty (30) days of the previously issued LSVVE, or upon the expiry of a regular visa extension. The total duration of extension shall be not more than six (6) months from the time of expiration of authorized stay.

It appears you can actually extend your tourist visa of 59 days with 6 months, and then the next day extend for another 6 months. This should be at least possible in Cebu as a next day extension. It means you effectively have a one year visa in your passport, which you can then use to apply for a Philippine driver's license that same day.

After you have your Philippine driver's license, extending it will not have the same requirement. The visa is generally not checked, upon extension:

  1. RENEWAL

a. Duly Accomplished Application for Driver's License (ADL);

b. Medical Certififcate issued by any licensed practicing physician stating that the applicant is physically and mentally fit to operate a motor vehicle or otherwise stating his/her impairment.

Additionally, these requirements and procedure, also stated on the LTO website, seem a bit contradicting to the stated requirements, but may be helpful:

Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 495-2004 date 24 February 2004 entitled “Amendments to EMA-MC-01366 dated 09 October 2001 Re: “Revised Guidelines on Conversion of Foreign Driver’s Into Philippine Driver’s License” provides the following requirements and procedure, to wit:

(...)

4.2. Original and machine copy of a valid passport showing the latest date of arrival in the Philippines of the foreign applicant;

4.3. Original and machine copy of valid visa or Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) if the foreign applicant temporarily resides in the Philippines;

If they insist on a one-year visa on your passport, next to the fact that this violates the 1968 Convention on Road Traffic (see the other answer) of which the Philippines is a contracting party, you can also quote from the LTO FAQ:

Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit the licensee for an option to convert valid foreign driver’s license to Philippine driver’s license within the period of inety (90) days from the date of his last arrival in the Philippines. However, if the foreign driver’s license is not written in English, such driver’s license should always be accompanied by an Official English translation issued by the Local Embassy of the issuing country.

Which is stated in the Memorandum Circular No. 495-2004, Amendments to EMA-MC-01366 dated 09 October 2001 re: Revised guidelines on the conversion of a foreign driver's license into a Philippine Driver's License (national library ISBD). Unfortunately the document is not publicly accessible. But the intention may be derived that a foreigner can turn his driver's license into a Philippine driver's license, but obviously they want to prevent making it too easy when you are not planning to stay, and still buy (and leave behind) a car.

Take into account that not every Bureau of Immigration branch or Land Transportation Office branch has the same strict requirements and possibilities. Therefore it might be worth informing yourself at multiple branches.

  • 1
    How do you figure you can extend for another 6 months the next day, when the text says "during the last 30 days of the previously issued LSVVE"? It seems to me you'd have to wait at least 5 months, and at no time would you have a full year of time left. – Nate Eldredge Apr 30 at 1:19
  • @NateEldredge Yes, it will probably not be possible in most offices. I've read at two separate occasions (here is one) that the immigration office in Cebu may allow this. They may have interpreted the rules as having maximally two 6-month extensions a year. But this is only hearsay. Then again, there are definitely enough posts to back up the fact that rules are being interpreted differently in various branches. – Yeti Apr 30 at 2:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.