THE REALTTORNEY

Insights of a Real Estate Attorney

Can a Foreigner Become a Licensed Real Estate Service Practitioner in the Philippines?

Posted by Atty. Jojo on August 18, 2009

Can foreigners become licensed real estate service practitioners in the Philippines? The categorical answer is YES.

However, it does not seem apparent when you look at the qualifications listed in Section 14 of Republic Act No. 9646, popularly known as the “Real Estate Service Act” (RESA). The first qualification provided therein is states that the candidate for the licensure examination must be “a citizen of the Philippines.”

But RESA does allow foreigners to have the opportunity to become licensed real estate service practitioners in the country under Section 24 (Foreign Reciprocity).

The practice of real estate service is very much similar to the practice of medicine and all other professions that are regulated by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), pursuant to its mandate based on Presidential Decree No. 223.

RESA grants the right to practice real estate service to a person after he or she passes the licensure examination given by the Professional Regulatory Board of Real Estate Service (See Section 12, RA 9646). If we are to read Sections 12, 14 and 24 side by side, Filipinos and foreigners who want to become licensed real estate service practitioners in the Philippines must first be qualified to take and pass the licensure examination.

Numerous decisions of the Supreme Court have long recognized as a valid exercise of governmental power the passage of legislation and administrative regulations requiring those who wish to practice certain professions to take and pass licensure examinations. For further reference on this point you can read the recent case of BOARD OF MEDICINE, ET AL., vs. YASUYUKI OTA (G.R. No. 166097, July 14, 2008)

It must be stressed that the license to practice real estate service in the country is a privilege or franchise granted by the government. The power to regulate and control the practice of real estate service includes the power to regulate admission to the ranks of those authorized to practice real estate service.

Now, what does a foreigner have to do in order to be qualified to take the licensure examination for real estate service? Under Section 24, the foreigner must prove that his country “specifically allows Filipino real estate service practitioners to practice within its territorial limits on the same basis as citizens of such foreign country.”

How does a foreigner go about proving reciprocity? If you read RESA you cannot find the answer. The answer lies in Section (j) of PD 223 which defines the extent of the power of PRC to grant licenses.

The said Section states that the PRC may, upon recommendation of the board, approve the registration and authorize the issuance of a certificate of registration with or without examination to a foreigner who is registered under the laws of his country, provided the following conditions are met: (1) that the requirement for the registration or licensing in said foreign state or country are substantially the same as those required and contemplated by the laws of the Philippines; (2) that the laws of such foreign state or country allow the citizens of the Philippines to practice the profession on the same basis and grant the same privileges as the subject or citizens of such foreign state or country; and (3) that the applicant shall submit competent and conclusive documentary evidence, confirmed by the DFA, showing that his country’s existing laws permit citizens of the Philippines to practice the profession under the rules and regulations governing citizens thereof.

The same provision further states that the PRC is authorized to prescribe additional requirements or grant certain privileges to foreigners seeking registration in the Philippines if the same privileges are granted to or some additional requirements are required of citizens of the Philippines in acquiring the same certificates in his country. 

Now, must the foreigner demonstrate to the PRC that the requirements of the foreign law are practical and attainable by Filipinos? Or must the foreigner prove first that a Filipino has been granted license and allowed to practice real estate service in said country?

The case of Board of Medicine vs. Ota says that “it is enough to prove that the laws in the foreign country permit a Filipino to get license and practice therein.” Hence, a foreigner need not prove first that a Filipino has already been granted license and is actually practicing in his/ her country in order to be qualified for the licensure examination or be given a license without examination.

To be required to do so would be an arbitrary exercise of the powers of the PRC as was held in the Ota case. All the foreigner has to do is to submit “competent and conclusive documentary evidence, confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, showing that his country’s existing laws permit citizens of the Philippines to practice the profession under the rules and regulations governing citizens thereof.”

Simply put, a foreigner must submit to the PRC a duly notarized English translation of the foreign law that grants him/her the right to practice real estate service in that foreign country, duly authenticated by the Consul General of the Philippine Embassy of the particular country.

Finally, what about foreigners who are licensed real estate service practitioners in other countries? Can they practice their profession in the Philippines? YES, they can.

For example, Realtors® from the United States can practice their profession in the country upon the recommendation of the Professional Regulatory Board of Real Estate Service (Board) to the PRC. And only after the PRC has approved the registration as well as authorized the issuance of a certificate of registration with or without examination. [See Section (j), PD 223]

If a US Realtor® is issued a certificate of registration with or without examination by the PRC then he/she can practice as a real estate service professional in the country. However, if this does not appeal to the US Realtor® then he/she has a final option.

It is also provided in RESA that the “upon application and payment of the required fees and subject to the approval of the Commission, the Board may issue special/temporary permit to real estate service practitioners from foreign countries whose services are urgently needed in the absence or unavailability of local real estate service practitioners for the purpose of promoting or enhancing the practice of the profession in the Philippines.” (Section 23)

Hence, if the US Realtor® is issued a special/temporary permit by the PRC then he/she can probably serve a foreign corporation who would want to lease a land or any other real property in the country.

However, it seeem absurd for the PRC to issue a temporary or special permit to a foreign real estate practitioner due to the unavailability of Filipino licensed real estate service practitioners in the country at this time.

I think with the more than 20,000 licensed real estate practitioners in the country any foreign or local corporation will be able to find a professional to their liking who will serve them with utmost competence, respect and responsibility as compared to a foreign real estate service practitioner.

But, should you be able to provide me with a better example on why the PRC will issue a special/temporary permit to a foreign real estate service practitioner then please do inform me.

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