Sending a balikbayan box to the Philippines
Now that Christmas is approaching, lots of Filipinos overseas are preparing balikbayan boxes to send to their families back in the Philippines.
With the ever-growing number of Filipinos that live abroad, sending balikbayan boxes has become part of the Philippine culture. For Filipinos, it’s become a symbol of sending love despite being thousands of miles away from home.
What is a balikbayan box?
Aptly called “balikbayan”, which means “returning home”, a balikbayan box is a package Filipino migrants usually send back home to their loved ones in the Philippines. It is a corrugated cardboard box that Filipinos fill up with different items that they want to give to their family and relatives, such as household items, toiletries, clothes, non-perishable food and many more.
Filipinos buy the items and fill up the box throughout the year. Once it’s full, they ship it by sea or air before the year ends, so their family can get it in time for Christmas.
Laws for sending a balikbayan box
According to the Bureau of Customs (BOC), for your balikbayan box to be tax or duty-free, you must be a Qualified Filipino and the total value of the items you send throughout the year should be less than Php 150,000. Anything in excess is subject to duty, VAT and excise tax.
You are only allowed to send items less than commercial quantities. Everything that you include must be for the personal use of your family only and must not be sold commercially.
It is also helpful to know that before you pack your balikbayan box, some items may be prohibited or restricted. If caught sending these, the BOC may confiscate the package.
Here are the items prohibited by the BOC:
- Goods in any form that contain anything that advocates or incites rebellion against the Philippine government and its laws, as well as anything that threatens or inflicts harm upon any individual in the Philippines
- Items that promote or administer unlawful abortion
- Any item that represents an obscene or immoral character
- Manufactured goods that are in whole or part of gold, silver or other precious metals, wherein the actual fineness of the quality is not indicated
- Any adulterated or misbranded food, drugs or any goods for human consumption that violate the laws
- Infringement of goods as defined by the Intellectual Property Code
- Any other goods or parts of it prohibited by law
Here's a list of restricted items you can't include:
- Any weapon of war or parts thereof (e.g. dynamite, gunpowder, ammunition, etc.)
- Any device used to gamble or distribute goods that depend on chance (e.g. roulette wheels, loaded dice, marked cards, etc.)
- Lottery and sweepstakes tickets, apart from its lists of drawings and advertisements
- Any drug or any compound used to manufacture or prepare it, except when its importation is authorised for medical purposes
- Opium pipes and its parts
- Imported goods restricted by law
- Weapons of mass destruction and any other item included in the National Strategic Goods List (NSGL) or the Strategic Trade Management Act (STMA)
- Toxic and Hazardous goods under the “Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990”
How to send a balikbayan box
- Find the shipping agency that will deliver your package. Make sure to check out different ones as their pricing and services may vary.
- Choose the box that can fit all the items you’re sending.
- Gather all the items you plan to include in the package and list each one on the balikbayan box information sheet.
- When packing the items, make sure to put the liquids in Ziploc bags or plastic bags in case it spills, and carefully wrap fragile items with a bubble wrap.
- Before closing and taping the box, place the packing list on top of the items.
- Tape the box carefully and ensure it’s sturdy to avoid any damage. Attach a label with your details, as well as the recipient’s name, address and contact number.
- Get the package delivered by the shipping agency.
The delivery time may then vary depending on the agency, your chosen shipment method, as well as external circumstances (e.g. natural disasters, pandemic, etc.).
Required documents to send a balikbayan box
- Original copy of Philippine passport or a photocopy of the Philippine passport page containing your personal information, photo and signature
- For dual citizens without a Philippine passport, a copy of your foreign passport with personal information, photo and signature, as well as proof of dual citizenship
- BOC information sheet
- Receipt of valuable goods
Other useful information to know
Who can send balikbayan boxes?
Everyone is allowed to send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines – both individuals and corporations. However, only Qualified Filipinos can avail of tax and duty-free privilege. Qualified Filipinos include:
- Resident Filipinos (Filipino citizens who are abroad temporarily)
- Non-Resident Filipinos (Filipinos with permanent residency abroad)
- Overseas Filipino Workers / OFWs (Filipinos employed overseas)
What is the balikbayan box privilege?
It is the privilege given to Qualified Filipinos, which allows them to send balikbayan boxes to their family and relatives tax and duty-free.
How many times can I use my balikbayan box privilege?
You can make 3 shipments in a calendar year. You also have to make sure that all shipments must not be more than Php 150,000.
Do the Customs check the parcel before delivering it to my recipient?
Yes, they are required by law to check the contents of the package.
Should I insure the contents of my balikbayan box?
Getting insurance for the contents of your package is advisable, as delivery may damage some of the goods inside.
Can I put money in the balikbayan box?
You are not allowed to send money through a balikbayan box. It is best to send money through a money transfer provider.
How to send money to the Philippines
There are different ways on how you can send money to the Philippines. You can do so through banks and traditional remittance centres, but the best option is through online money transfer providers.
Kabayan Remit is an online money transfer service that specialises in remittances from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands and Gibraltar to the Philippines.
At Kabayan Remit, delivering your hard-earned money safely and quickly to your family in the Philippines is our number one priority. With a great understanding of the needs of our kababayan abroad, we work hard to ensure fast, secure and convenient transfers to ensure maximum satisfaction from our customers.
You can do all your money transfers online 24/7, and if you need any assistance, you can get with us at any time of the day. Our friendly and bilingual customer support team will be glad to answer your queries.