2021 Guide on Alien Employment Permit vs Special Work Permit in the Philippines

The Philippines is a country that is flooded with business opportunities, especially in 2021, that you do not want to miss out on!

As Ricardo (Ricky) Chan, co-founder of EnterPH and one of Greenhouse’s partners mentioned in one of our webinars, the spirit of Filipinos in this trying time can be encapsulated in this one word: Bayanihan. Bayanihan refers to the coming together of everyone to achieve a common goal. Even in the midst of uncertainty, this spirit of tenacity and teamwork is what makes the Philippines such an attractive place to expand your business into.

Therefore, it is important to understand the relevant processes to successfully incorporate your business into the Philippines. One of which is your work permits!

Foreign nationals who plan to work in the Philippines are required to obtain a work permit. There are three main work permits and are obtained at two different locations: the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). It is crucial to know where to obtain the work permit needed for your business.

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Learn about the different options for work permits in the Philippines.

The Philippines offers a variety of different work permit options:

  1. Special Work Permit (SWP)
  2. Alien Employment Permit (AEP)
  3. Provisional Work Permit (PWP)

We understand it can be challenging to understand which work permit option is the right choice for your case.

In this article, we will be looking at how you can get a work permit for the Philippines, specifically the Special Work Permit (SWP) and Alien Employment Permit (AEP).

Below, we’ve summarized the key characteristics and differences of both, for your consideration.

What is an Alien Employment Permit (AEP)?

An Alien Employment Permit (AEP) is the most common work permit required for foreign nationals who intend to engage in gainful employment in the Philippines.

The Philippines defines “gainful employment” as an employer-employee relationship between a Philippine-based employer and a foreign employee. This means that you need to already have an employer in the Philippines to apply for an Alien Employment Permit. You can get your work permit after you’ve confirmed a position in a company that’s willing to sponsor you.

This also means that your AEP is tied to your position and your employer. If you change jobs or get a different position in your current company, you’ll have to arrange for a new AEP.

Also note that certain categories of employees, such as foreign diplomats and visiting educators, don’t need to get work permits. You can consult a trusted immigration agency to find out how to define your work according to Philippines regulations.

AEP application required documents:

  1. Application form
  2. Letter of request sent to DOLE
  3. All documents related to the contract of employment
  4. Photocopy of passport with a valid visa
  5. Photocopy of mayor’s permit or business permit

Also read: Learn what types of businesses foreigners are allowed to fully own in the Philippines

What is a Special Work Permit (SWP)?

A Special Work Permit (SWP) is a permit option for foreigners who are planning short-term assignments or employment for up to six months.

Usually, this category includes, but not limited to:

  • Professional athletes visiting and competing only for a limited period
  • Foreign nationals performing emergency or special-case temporary services
  • Artists, musicians, and other performers including supporting staff

However, keep in mind that you will need a sponsorship from a company registered in the Philippines and are willing to serve as a petitioner. In most cases, this should be the company planning to employ you — in cases of athletes and artists, it would be the organizers or promoters of the event you are attending.

This means that you cannot get an SWP as a “temporary” permit while you are freelancing or looking for a job in the Philippines.

Upon issuance of the official SWP order of approval from the BI, it will also serve as the permit to work.

SWP application required documents:

  1. Letter of request by the petitioning company to the Commissioner
  2. Completed  Consolidated General Application Form (CGAF)
  3. Original Passport with valid entry visa
  4. Contract of Service indicating the duration of service, compensation, and benefits, and scope of duties
  5. Applicant’s Tax Identification Number (TIN)
  6. Clearance Certificate from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI)

Also read: Essential tips to incorporate a company in the Philippines

Differences between AEP and SWP

It depends on your intentions and arrangement with your employer about working in the Philippines.

In both cases, you will need a company in the Philippines which has already committed to employing you. You’ll need to have a clear idea about your:

  • Position
  • Terms of employment
  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Salary and benefits

However, the main difference is duration.

If you plan to work full-time in a long-term position in the Philippines, the most common option would be an Alien Employment Permit. This permit lasts for a year or more, depending on your contract. An AEP is also a requirement to get a 9G pre-arranged employee visa, which allows you to legally work in the Philippines.

If you plan on working in the Philippines for less than six months, the more common option is a Special Working Permit. You’ll still need an employer in the country, so this is an option if you have short-term contract work, or if you work in an international company and have projects or meetings with the local branch of your company.


Alien Employment Permit 


Special Work Permit 


Duration of work 

1-5 years 

(depending on contract)

3-6 months 

Where to apply 

Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) 

Bureau Immigration (BI)

What to bring 

  1. Duly notarized application form

  2. Letter of request sent to DOLE

  3. Secretary’s Certificate electing foreign national to position (for non-resident foreign nationals with elective positions)

  4. Authenticated passport with current visa

  5. Photocopy of Mayor’s Permit

  6. Photocopy of Business Permit.

  1. Letter request addressed to the Commissioner by the petitioning company

  2. Completed Consolidated General Application Form (CGAF)

  3. Original Passport with valid entry visa

  4. Acknowledged Contract of Service indicating the duration of service, compensation, and benefits, and scope of duties

  5. Tax Identification Number (TIN) of applicant

  6. Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) Clearance Certificate

We hope you have a better understanding of the differences between an AEP and SWP after considering who can obtain the work permit, the necessary requirements, and the relevant documents needed.

However, the best option for you will still depend on your exact case. In any situation, the safest option would be to consult a trusted immigration service provider, let them

know your needs, and get recommendations.

If you have any more questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us here.

Want to obtain your work permit to expand your business in the Philippines?

Greenhouse can connect you to pre-screened service providers to help apply for work permits and visas for your team members in the Philippines. Learn more about our solutions.

Disclaimer: This content is intended for educational purposes only and should not be taken as legal instructions. You should contact consultants in your target markets before making decisions related to incorporation or service execution.

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