Skip to main content

Philippines-Bahrain Partnership on the Issuance of Flexible Visas

GCM Objectives


2018 - Present

Type of practice:

Partnership/Multistakeholder initiative


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) embarked on partnerships to ensure pathways for regularization of migrant workers in response to the unintended consequences brought by the Kafala system, a traditional sponsorship system in the Middle East. Addressing Kafala garnered the support of no less than Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, whose pronouncements in his final State of the Nation Address called to address this. President Duterte also mentioned Kafala in the UN General Assembly. What once was not mentioned by States in the UN made it to the UN High Level Debate. Among these efforts is the partnership of the Philippines with Bahrain in the issuance of a “flexible visa,” a work and residency permit valid for two years and renewable indefinitely. This visa was first made available to low-skilled, skilled, and professional migrants, and was later expanded to household service workers. This serves as one pathway to regularize the status of Filipino migrants to prevent being caught in unscrupulous practices that often lead to trafficking.


Main Implementer:

Government of the Philippines

Other Organizations:

Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs


Labor Market Regulatory Authority of the Kingdom of Bahrain

Benefit and Impact

The introduction of the “flexible visa” allowed irregular migrant workers to be freelance and not have their visas tied to a specific employer. The Philippines invested at least 1.5 million US dollars to purchase flexi-visas for 1,075 Filipino migrant workers. The Philippines is probably the only country that spend government funds to regularize its citizens, making it a concrete product of Objective 5 of the GCM.

Key Lessons

This initiative has enabled Filipino workers to obtain a regular status as migrants. The credit is due to the unwavering partnership and commitment of the Philippine government, as a country of origin, and the Bahraini government, as a country of destination, in ensuring flexible pathways for migration, anchored on the realization of Objective 5 of the Global Compact for Migration. Hence, continued international cooperation and bilateral commitments similar to the two countries can inspire programs such as the “flexible visa,” which not only provides access to become regular migrants, but also includes other perks and incentives that cut across other dimensions of migration (i.e. prevention of being caught in situations involving trafficking, improvement of labor mobility).

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

It is ideal that similar initiatives such as “flexible visas” should cover the most vulnerable groups of undocumented workers. For the Philippines, while these visas were later on expanded to household service workers, these workers should be among the first to be issued “flexible visas.” This is because not only is it classified as among the main work of Filipino migrants in Bahrain, but they are also among those prone to be brought in vulnerable conditions.

Given that the “flexible visas” benefit many Filipino migrant workers, the Philippine government’s financial assistance provided to these workers also helped in putting momentum at the early stages of its implementation. Such investment can propel support and goodwill between the two States, and can encourage other States to do the same.

GCM Guiding Principles*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.


These practices show the timely cooperation and cross-border efforts of involved States to pursue regularization of migrants and to serve justice where it is due. Consistent partnerships with countries of destinations are ideal and should be maintained to protect migrants, no matter their status or nationality.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Date submitted:

13 May 2022

Disclaimer: The content of this practice reflects the views of the implementers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the United Nations Network on Migration, and its members.