IF you are wondering why the Bureau of Immigration in Manila seems to be off the critics’ radar nowadays and, in fact, has been receiving kudos from some people including foreign chamber representatives, here’s one reason why:
A new hi-tech system called Visa Issuance Made Simpler or VIMS has made visa processing there faster, easier, less expensive, and more transparent. It is as if the office has been given a thorough makeover.
And what is more interesting is that BI Commissioner Marcelino C. Libanan has started spreading the system in other strategic areas in the country, with Cebu as the pilot beneficiary.
I had a tetê-a-tetê with BI Region 7 Regional Director Romeo “Butch” Junia last Friday, and he happily reported that the pilot run of the VIMS last January already revved up revenues in Mandaue, from P21.3 million for the comparable period in 2008, to P29.03 million this year, or a 36.1 percent increase.
The sharpest rise was in the collection of Express Lane Fees, which doubled from P3.6 million to P7.7 million, or a 100 percent increase, for the same period.
He said that visa processing time in the region is now down by an average of 82 percent. It has cut documentary requirements by 31 percent for visa extensions, and by as much as 43 percent for special study and work permits.
He said that they wanted to duplicate the achievement of BI in Manila where visa extensions are processed in just one day, unlike in the past when it took several days to the detriment and inconvenience of the transacting public.
Because of the much faster and more efficient system, the BI has been dropped in December last year from the list of 10 agencies plagued by problems of red tape and delays in processing. The listing is being done every year by the National Competitiveness Council, a public-private task force that aims to improve the country’s business competitiveness.
VIMS is based on Memorandum Circular No. MCL-07-005, series of 2007, issued by Libanan to set the rules in the processing of applications and the issuance of visa.
Covered by VIMS are application for change of status, visa extension and cancellation of Alien Registry, among others.
Under VIMS, the information or duty officer checks and clears compliance with the requirements, endorsing the same to the receiving clerk, if complete.
The system checks for any derogatory record, and if there is none, an Order of Payment Slip or OPS is issued. The applicant pays the cashier based on the OPS.
VIMS, according to Junia, is less susceptible to manipulations and compromises on fess and charges. “It is a one revolutionary change in the bureau,” he said.
Junia also strictly enforced the wearing of uniforms “so it would be easier to spot unwelcomed characters in the crowd such as fixers.”
The BI is our show window where foreign guests and investors get their first impression of what our country can offer them, in terms of competitiveness and reliability. The Arroyo Administration fully realizes this, which explains the unprecedented support the bureau has been getting from the government.
Perking up foreign investments and tourisms is one of the strategies of the Administration to cushion the impact of the global crisis on our people, and a smoothly working bureaucracy is vital to realize this.
With a well-spruced up BI, it is no wonder Commissioner Libanan has found more time to indulge in some of his favorite past times – singing and playing the guitar. And here, he does them quite well too.