Offloading, required documents, and other Immigration FAQs
What documents are required by the Bureau of Immigration?
I get this question all the time, so I thought I’d create another post just for this.
Technically, there are only 3 documents that are required:
- Round trip ticket
- Visa (if necessary)
So, for those who are asking: “Kailangan pa ba talaga ang…” the answer is only the three documents above are technically required. You don’t need those other documents in the sense that they are not technically required.
However, the Immigration officer will want to make sure that:
- You can afford your trip;
- You are only going there for your stated purpose (tourism); and
- You are coming back to the Philippines.
I am not an Immigration officer and I can’t predict what other documents or questions the IO will ask from you. But based on my experience and the experience of others, here is what I suggest you bring:
- Your old passports – to show that you have traveled before and that you came back to the Philippines of your own free will.
- Visa – if necessary for your destination.
- Round-trip ticket with receipt or other proof that the ticket has been fully paid – to show that you intend to return to the Philippines.
- Hotel reservations, preferably with receipt or other proof that the entire stay has been fully paid – to show that you can afford your accommodations (and in fact have fully paid for it) and to help show that you are there as a tourist (and not living in another person’s house as, for example, an illegally recruited helper).
- Bank statement (if available) – to prove that you can afford your trip. Even better than a bank statement, which will only show your account balance and transactions within a limited period of time (usually the last quarter), is a bank certification, which includes information like YTD balance and the date the account was opened — data that will show that the account was not opened for the sole purpose of supporting your trip. The Bureau of Immigration, as far as I know, has not set a minimum account balance. And please do not think of this as show money. It is not just for show. You need to have enough money to cover your expenses during the trip and still have savings left when you return to the Philippines — because if you spend all your savings on a vacation, that will be highly suspicious.
- Proof of ownership of assets such as land, house, car, etc. (if available) – to show that you can afford your trip and that you do not need to work abroad illegally and that therefore you are coming back to the Philippines.
- Certificate of employment (stating your position and salary) and approved leave of absence with a photocopy of the company ID of the signatory of these documents (if applicable) – to show that you can afford your trip and that you are likely to return to the Philippines because you already have a job here. If, instead of a regular job, you have your own business, bring the papers related to your business (DTI, SEC, BIR, etc.).
- Income tax return (ITR) – to show that you can afford your trip.
- Affidavit of support (if necessary) – instead of, or in addition to, proof of your own income. The affidavit must include proof of the income of the person paying for your trip. This person must be a close relative, ideally your parent, child, or sibling. I’m not sure which other relatives are accepted — the BI says up to the 3rd degree of consanguinity — but one reader said an affidavit from her mom’s cousin was not accepted by the IO. You can see an example of an Affidavit of Support / Guaranty here and a general Affidavit form here (courtesy of the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore).
- Tour itinerary – to help prove that your purpose for travel is tourism only. Not only should you have an itinerary, you should know your itinerary, in case the IO asks you about it.
- Tickets/reservations/confirmations to the attractions listed in your itinerary – to prove that you are going to those attractions and that your purpose really is just tourism.
- Marriage certificate and birth certificate of children (if applicable) – to show that you have family in the Philippines and are therefore likely to come back.
- CFO certificate (if applicable) – if you are meeting a foreign spouse or boyfriend, you will mostly be required to present the Guidance and Counseling Certificate from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
(I will update this list if I think of other documents to bring.)
Do you have to bring all these documents?
No, you don’t have to bring all these documents; again, they are not technically required. It’s possible that the IO will just let you board the plane without asking any questions at all or without asking for any documents. But it’s better that you have these documents on hand, even if the IO does not ask for them — rather than if the IO asks for them and you have nothing to show. Better safe than sorry.
Is a bank statement necessary? Can you just bring cash?
Again, the bank statement (and most of these other documents) are not technically required. Perhaps you know of some people who just brought cash, with no bank statement, and they were allowed to board their plane. That’s very possible. But it’s also possible that the IO will ask for your bank statement so you might as well prepare it — again, better safe than sorry. Remember that Mary Jane Veloso had lots of cash on hand when she left the Philippines for Kuala Lumpur. After what happened to her, you can be sure the Immigration officers will be stricter than ever.
If you bring all these documents, can you be sure that you will not be offloaded? Can you be sure that the IO will not ask for other documents?
No. Like I said, I’m not an Immigration officer, and I can’t predict what they will ask from you. And even if I were an Immigration officer, I still can’t guarantee anything anyway, because IOs differ. They rely partly on their experience and intuition, partly on the answers that you give in your Immigration form and to their initial questions. And they have different personalities too — some are strict by nature, some become strict when they think something’s fishy with the answers you give, some are nice, some are not so nice. So it all depends.
My advice is: bring ALL the documents that you can bring. All.
This applies especially if:
- You’re young.
- You’re female.
- You’re single.
- It’s your first time traveling abroad.
- You have a history of being offloaded.
- Someone else is paying for your trip.
Some people are lucky. Some people, especially those who are mukhang mayaman, pass through Immigration with no problem at all. The rest of us don’t like it, but it’s the reality. The IOs have a difficult job — trying to determine who’s lying without the benefit of a lie detector or veritaserum — and sometimes they really just have to resort to profiling. Now, there’s nothing we can do about the color of our skin, but we can improve our chances of being believed by being as prepared as possible, dressing decently and being confident when we answer the IO’s questions.
Please read What Filipinos Need to Know About Traveling Abroad: Guidelines from the Bureau of Immigration for more information.
“Offloading, required documents, and other Immigration FAQs” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.