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I'm a U.S. Citizen and I have been overstaying in the Philippines for 5 years. I want to go back to U.S what's the penalty?

I don't have enough money to pay a big fine, is there a way to avoid that?

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    You're question didn't really make sense (to me at least), you already seemed to know what the (maximum?) penalty is… I have tried to reformulate it, hope that's OK. – Relaxed Sep 18 '16 at 9:53
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    Approximates for the penalty see here. This site says if you can't pay your fees you go to jail until you can pay. No need to say your smartest move would be to contact your embassy. – mts Sep 18 '16 at 10:29
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    Also, if you ask around, there will be people offering to "fix" your situation for a fee. The vast majority, if not all of them, will simply rip you off. – George Y. Sep 18 '16 at 15:33
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    You made your bed. Lie in it. Pay your fine or go to jail. – Martin Bean Sep 19 '16 at 9:17
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    Wondering why this has only occurred you now that you want to go back, when you know you've been an illegal for five years? – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 19 '16 at 11:13
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As noted in one of the comments, your fine could be as much as 300,000 Philippine pesos, which is about $6300 at the moment. Being unable to pay, particularly given your very lengthy overstay, will probably result in a significant prison term, and/or stay in an immigration detention center, neither of which are a place you want to be.

Bottom line, you need to get together enough money to pay the fine, or you'll you'll get a taste of hell on earth. If you don't have people you can beg or borrow enough from, you should consult with the US embassy about the repatriation loan program* and other assistance they can offer, which can include a waiver or reduction in immigration overstay fees.

*The link is to a different embassy's site, but it's a State Department program, not an embassy specific thing.

As authorized by section 4 of the State Department Basic Authorities Act, the Department of State‘s Repatriation Loans program provides emergency loans to assist destitute Americans abroad who have no other source of funds to return to the United States. They include Americans temporarily abroad who are without funds because of unforeseen events such as theft, illness, or accident; individuals suffering from serious physical or mental illness who need to return to the United States for medical care; Americans residing abroad with an alien spouse needing assistance to escape an abusive situation; and individuals caught in a disaster or emergency abroad who need to be removed from harm‘s way. Approval of a repatriation loan is not based on an applicant‘s credit worthiness but rather destitution. State repatriation loans are provided for temporary subsistence and transportation to a U.S. port of entry.

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    though whether the loan would ever be repaid by someone who knowingly breaks the law for years and then wants to break the law again by wanting to leave a country illegally in order to not have to face the consequences of the first crime... – jwenting Sep 19 '16 at 10:55
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    @jwenting: then it's a stroke of luck for the questioner that approval is not based on creditworthiness. – Steve Jessop Sep 19 '16 at 11:29
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    In particular, the US government can limit a US passport to a single trip to the US, and then refuse to issue a replacement until the loan is repaid. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 19 '16 at 13:17
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    @PatriciaShanahan And that is one of the warnings about the program - your passport will be "restricted" and will be unable to get a renewal or new one until you've paid the loan off. – HopelessN00b Sep 19 '16 at 13:18
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    @WGroleau Some of the Department of State's internal documentation on the program does include examples where a repatriation loan is used to pay for immigration fines - section 7 FAM 376.2 in the linked doc. – HopelessN00b Sep 19 '16 at 23:17
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There's an online site liveinthephilippines that covers this:

If you have overstayed, and go to the airport to leave, they will catch you, there is no way around it. What happens if you don’t have the money to pay the fines that are due? Well, if you can’t pay they still won’t let you leave, but they also will not release you. No, they have a place for you to stay! In jail. Most people who are jailed for immigration matters are sent to the Bicutan Prison in Taguig. You will stay there until you pay the fines.

It does depend a lot on your type of visa, and whether you go and pay the fees / fines in advance, instead of upon being caught, from the sounds of it. You will also likely be blacklisted if it's been longer than 12 months.

I'd have a read of that article - but the short version is - you're paying the fees, or potentially serving some jail time until you do. Maybe consult a lawyer for more advice too, and the US Embassy. Good luck!

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    So when a person has no funds available from outside the prison to pay the fine they will essentially be sentenced to life? There is hardly a way to make money while in prison. – Philipp Sep 18 '16 at 17:16
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    @RamchandraApte You say that, but it looks like a pretty bad place to end up to me scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1846705/… Also you can't really make money, but you can be held until some friends or family or whatever get some money to you. I think it's supposed to be a kind of pretty brutal deterrent. That and you're basically held hostage if the scmp link is to be taken at face value, they'll hang on to you until someone pays to get you out. opportunity for bribes, too, of course. i'd get that fine paid. now – Au101 Sep 18 '16 at 18:08
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    This was popular a long time ago in europe, it was called "debter's prison" were you stayed forever until your debt was paid by you or someone else. – anthonybell Sep 18 '16 at 19:43
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    What about leaving by ferry to a neighbouring country? – hippietrail Sep 19 '16 at 1:51
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    Is this from experience with international ferries in the Philippines, or just an assumption? I've taken plenty of international ferries in other parts of the world and at least on the boarding side they're close to always slacker than airports. Things are much more official on the arrival side but still can be slacker than airports, at least at checking my status in the country in which I boarded. The neighbouring country might not throw people into debtors prison either. By the way, the ferry I know of is in the muslim south where it's dangerous for foreigners, but there may be others. – hippietrail Sep 19 '16 at 5:36
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Actually, you can ask the US Embassy for help. The consul will write a letter to the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration. They will let you out, the consequence would then be going back. Because they will put you in the Blacklist and you won't be allowed to enter the Philippines unless you pay the fine. This happened to me so I know. If there is no need for you to be back in PH then you can just directly do that. I actually went back to the Philippines a few months ago. I paid the fine of almost half a million pesos - $7,700 dollars.

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