Anti-Offloading Tips from an Immigration Officer

Anti-Offloading Tips from an Immigration Officer | SGMT —
Plus guidance straight from the Bureau of Immigration and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

I recently had the chance to put a few questions to an Immigration officer and he kindly agreed to give me a few tips for travelers who might be nervous about getting offloaded. (I promised him I would keep his identity confidential, even though he didn’t really require this as a condition to answering my questions, and I also assured him he didn’t have to reveal any “trade secrets” from the Bureau of Immigration.) Please take note that these tips are for legit tourists, particularly first time travelers who might understandably be worried about the possibility of being offloaded. If you’re reading this so you can find out how to fool the Immigration officer at NAIA, I urge you to please, please reconsider your plans. You may have good intentions — maybe you just want to work so you can send your kids to school and get your family out of poverty — but the risks can be very high. It might be your family who will end up having to sell everything to save you, so please think about it.

Required Documents: The Basics

First of all, if you haven’t read “Pinoy Abroad: List of Documents Required by Immigration for International Travel” please do so right now. (The link will open in a separate tab so you don’t have to leave this page.) That article will give you a list of documents you have to bring when you travel — the basic requirements, the additional documents that may be required if the Immigration officer has doubts about you, the requirements if someone else is paying for your trip, and the list of people who need a DSWD travel clearance or a Travel Authority. If you want to be really prepared — to the point of being over-prepared sometimes — you’ll find even more tips here: “Offloading, required documents, and other Immigration FAQs.”

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An Immigration Officer’s Tips

Here’s the gist of what the immigration officer said when I asked him for tips for first time travelers:
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Pinoy Abroad: List of Documents Required by Immigration for International Travel

SGMT | List of Documents Required by Immigration — 
In 2014, I wrote a post titled “What Filipinos Need to Know About Traveling Abroad: Guidelines from the Bureau of Immigration” and since then, I’ve had a lot of people writing to me and asking for advice on how to “pass” the Immigration screening. Two years have gone by since that article first came out so I thought I’d create this updated list of documents that travelers may be required to show at the Immigration counter.

What documents are required for ALL Filipinos who are traveling abroad as tourists?

  1. Passport issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) – must be unexpired with at least 6 months remaining validity*
  2. Visa – if required at the final destination
  3. Return ticket

*I emailed Immigration some time ago and they verified that the passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of departure.

The visa must be unexpired.

You must have a ticket for your flight back to the Philippines. A few people have asked if return tickets are still needed if, for example, they plan to go backpacking around Southeast Asia and don’t want to set their schedule in stone. I asked an Immigration officer about this and, yes, you still need a return ticket. This is because the country you are heading to — and most other countries — will almost certainly require tourists to present a return/onward ticket upon arrival, as proof that you don’t intend to stay in their country illegally or for longer than you’re permitted. Without a return/onward ticket, you could be sent back to the Philippines.

  • If you really intend to go on a trip without making specific plans for return, I suggest you set an estimated date of return and: (a) buy a ticket back to the Philippines from a budget airline, so it won’t hurt your pocket too much if you decide not to use it, OR (b) buy a ticket from an airline that will let you change travel dates. This strategy might cost you a bit more but that’s better than being sent back — prudence is cheaper than regret.
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Passport Application/Renewal at DFA Cebu: What You Need To Know

First: The Basics

  • The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is at the Pacific Mall (also sometimes known as Metro Mandaue) in Mandaue City, Cebu.
  • DFA Cebu is open from Monday to Friday 9 AM-6 PM and Saturday 9 AM-3 PM. If you have questions, you can call them at (032) 520-5898 and (032) 520-6193. You may also contact them via email at or
  • You can get an application form from the DFA security guard or download it online HERE.
  • A list of the documentary requirements can be found here: New Applications | Passport Renewal | List of Acceptable IDs and Supporting Documents. Have everything photocopied.
    • According to personnel from DFA Cebu, there may be changes in the requirements that are not reflected right away in the DFA website (and in this blog), so all applicants are encouraged to personally secure an updated list of requirements from the DFA office.
  • UPDATE (26 October 2015): According to Roderick, DFA Cebu is now offering expedited processing (10 days) for PHP 1,200.
    • Lady Love has confirmed that DFA Cebu now offers express processing for PHP 1,200. (Updated 6 November 2015)


The list of requirements can be found in the following pages:

If you don’t have a government-issued ID yet, the easiest to obtain is probably the new postal ID. Although it is not in the official list of accepted IDs yet, news reports say that the DFA will accept the new postal ID — the one with the QR code and other security features and that was launched just recently. You can find out how to secure the new postal ID in this article: How to Get the New Postal ID in Cebu.

A PRC ID is one of the IDs considered valid and acceptable by DFA. Renewing a PRC license/ID is now very easy. See: PRC License Renewal in Cebu in Less than 2 Hours.

Ang mga papeles nga gikinahanglan sa pagkuha ug passport makit-an ani nga mga website:


  • Priority is given to certain individuals and the persons with whom they are processing their passports:
    • Minors (7 years old and below, according to this DFA release)
    • Senior citizens (people over 60 years old)
    • Pregnant women
    • Persons with disabilities
      If you have any of these priority applicants in your family, strongly consider getting your passport at the same time they are.
  • The DFA requires photocopies of all your requirements, but if you forget to photocopy something, don’t panic — there’s a photocopier inside the DFA itself (P3/page).

Pacific Mall



dfa cebu online passport application appointment*


July 2016 — It’s already possible to book an appointment online at DFA Cebu and many other DFA offices nationwide so some of the tips below are already unnecessary. I am keeping them here for historical purposes, but please click HERE to read how you can set an appointment for your passport application/renewal and avoid lining up at dawn.



avoid offloading



Immigration officer tips



The Process

  • Update October 2015: According to Frolic Fraulein, the guard recommended applying for a passport from 3 PM to 5 PM, as there are fewer people during those times (those with priority numbers have presumably been entertained by then). Roderick went to DFA at 3 PM and completed the whole process in half an hour. Lady Love arrived at the DFA office at 4:47 PM; there were no other people around and she finished by 5:05 PM. Alternatively, Phil and Suzeth recommend going there on a Saturday, which tends to be less busy than other days. On Saturdays, DFA entertains those who go through agencies first, so Phil recommends going there at around 11 AM, while Suzeth suggests 1 PM. (Thank you so much to all those who took the time to share their experiences here!)

This is what the schedule at the DFA looks like:

  • As early as midnight
    • People start lining up for priority numbers.
  • 7:00 AM
    • The security guard gives out priority numbers to those in the queue. The priority numbers usually run out pretty fast. (There were no more priority numbers available when we arrived shortly before 8:00 AM.) Applicants without priority numbers MAY still be accommodated in the afternoon, when those with priority numbers have finished, but this is not guaranteed.
    • A DFA staff member collects the application forms of priority applicants: minors, seniors, pregnant women, PWD’s, and members of their party. This early collection is done so that their information can be encoded ahead of time.
  • Shortly before 9:00 AM
    • The guard admits all priority applicants and their companions to the building, where they proceed to the DFA office at the 4th floor.
    • Another guard right outside the office doors will give instructions (sit down first, form a queue, et cetera).
    • Once admitted to the office, those who were able to submit their forms at 7 AM can go straight in and are called first.
    • Those who weren’t able to submit their forms earlier should stop by the Information desk to hand their forms to the receptionist, who will then have these encoded.
    • Everyone sits and waits for their names to be called.
  • 9:00 AM
    • Another guard starts calling the names of priority applicants. When your name is called, you are told which counter to approach.
    • At the counter, present all your documents.
    • Once your documents are examined and approved, you proceed to the cashier. (It’s P950 for regular processing, and you will make the cashier very happy if you bring the exact amount.)
    • After paying, you get your photo taken and verify all your information. You then sign a form that says everything (spelling, dates, other info) is as it should be, and you are then told when to come back to get your passport.
  • 10:00 AM
    • The rest of the [non-priority] applicants are admitted to the DFA office.
  • 3 PM to 5 PM
    • If you can’t queue early in the morning for a priority number, several people recommend going to DFA late in the afternoon. Hopefully, all those with priority numbers will have been entertained by this time and you can just walk in and have your application processed.



    • DFA Cebu does not have the appointment system yet, as far as I know.
    • For emergency cases or lost passports, or if you need your passport validity extended for good reason, it’s best to go to DFA Cebu and present your case to them directly.
    • The usual processing time is 30 working days (6 weeks) from the date you applied. However, passport releasing is sometimes delayed — see the DFA’s statement here — so make sure you apply for a passport as early as possible. The DFA specifically says: “The public is advised to secure their passports prior to booking their flights. Flight bookings should ONLY be made if passports are still valid for at least six (6) months.”*


Passport Application/Renewal at DFA Cebu: What You Need To Know” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. Parts of this post were originally published in What You Need to Know for Passport Application/Renewal at DFA Cebu. Reposted with permission. All rights reserved.


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Please note that I will no longer entertain questions similar to this: “Mao ni akong documents X, Y, Z — okay na ni?” Please don’t give me a list of your documents and ask me if they’re enough to get a passport. It takes up too much of my time and it is something that you can do for yourself. Just compare the list of requirements with what you have. Pwede ra man ninyo tan-awon ang lista sa requirements ug i-kompara sa kung unsa ang naa ninyo nga mga dokyumento. Dili na man kinahanglan nga ako pa ang mobuhat ana, di ba? 🙂

For your convenience, here again are the articles that you might find useful:

Passport Application/Renewal at DFA Cebu: What You Need To Know 

Getting A Philippine Passport at DFA Cebu: List of Requirements for First Time Applicants 

Renewing A Philippine Passport at DFA Cebu: List of Requirements 

Getting A Philippine Passport: List of Acceptable IDs and Supporting Documents 

Good luck! 🙂