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

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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

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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.
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What documents are required for ALL Filipinos who are traveling abroad as tourists?
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  1. Passport issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) – must be unexpired with at least 6 months remaining validity*
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  2. Visa – if required at the final destination
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  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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What You Need to Know About Online Passport Application in CEBU (2016)

25 June 2016 | What You Need to Know About Online Passport Application in CEBU

DFA Cebu - Online Passport Application in Cebu

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Good news! You can now apply for a passport online in Cebu and elsewhere in the Philippines. Now there’s no need to start standing in line at the crack of dawn.

Previously, the DFA online appointment system for passport application/renewal only worked in selected DFA offices. Now, the online appointment system has been expanded to include the following DFA Regional Consular Offices and Satellite Offices in the Philippines:

  • Angeles
  • Bacolod
  • Baguio
  • Butuan
  • Cagayan de Oro
  • Calasiao
  • Cebu (yay!)
  • DFA Manila (Aseana)
  • DFA NCR East (Megamall)
  • DFA NCR Northeast (Ali Mall)
  • DFA NCR South (Alabang)
  • DFA NCR West (SM Manila)
  • Davao
  • Dumaguete
  • General Santos
  • Iloilo
  • La Union Legazpi
  • Lucena
  • Pampanga
  • Puerto Princesa
  • Tacloban
  • Tuguegarao
  • Zamboanga

Take note: you still have to go to the DFA office to submit the required documents and have your biometric data captured. The good thing about the online appointment system is that while most DFA offices outside Manila operated on a first-come-first-served basis before — prompting people to start lining up as early as midnight — now you can just show up at your appointed time. Plus, you can now fill in the necessary information online, which saves time at the DFA. Easy!

Online passport application in Cebu

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Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to the passport.gov.ph Home page to read the instructions.
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  2. After reading the instructions, click on Schedule an Appointment on the gray bar at the very top of the page (or just click HERE). There a few more instructions on this page. After making sure you understand everything, check the box next to “I have read and understood the instructions and information on this page, and agree to the Terms and Conditions on the use of this online appointment and scheduling system.” Then click on the blue boxes for either Start Individual Appointment or Start Group Appointment.
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    • You can book an appointment for up to 5 people using the Group Appointment function.
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  3. Fill in the necessary information.

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Filipinos can now get their passport validity extended for free — DFA

19 August 2015 – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) offers to applicants for passport renewals in the Philippines and abroad the extension of the validity of their passports (for 1 to 2 years) free of charge (gratis).

Extensions shall be processed and released within the same day.

Passport extensions for all shall be available only until the end of this year.

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Source: DFA Offers Extension of Passport Validity Free of Charge

 


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Do it.

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Rappler offloading article screenshot

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An article I wrote for Rappler about how to minimize one’s chances of being offloaded by the Bureau of Immigration was published just yesterday and I think it’s worth bringing up a few points:

  • I think we can all agree that the system at the Bureau of Immigration needs improvement. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m no fan of the Immigration people and their profiling methods. As a 5’1″ brown-skinned girl with a relatively high-risk profession, I’ve had my share of raised eyebrows and skeptical tones, and that pisses me off. I hate that you have to prove your innocence instead of them having to prove your guilt. I can rant with the best of ’em, but I choose not to, for the simple reason that it usually doesn’t help. Change the system, yes, by all means! No one is stopping you. But I refuse to be uselessly negative; change is unlikely to be brought about by people rabidly spewing inane analogies and shortsighted generalities from the comforts of their keyboards.
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  • There are a lot of issues here than just the right to travel. Even in the event that someone manages to weed out all the corrupt Immigration officials, there is still human trafficking, drug trafficking, and poverty to contend with. There’s no denying that a lot of people do go abroad with less than pure motives. I don’t blame them — most of them do it to feed their families — but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem. I’m sure that anyone who steps forward with a foolproof way — actually, not even a foolproof way, but even just a better way — to combat human/drug trafficking without subjecting innocent passengers to undue burden would be hailed as a hero.
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  • One thing people always complain about when they get offloaded is that they didn’t know that they should have brought all those extra documents. I strongly believe the Bureau of Immigration should do a better job of educating people. It’s a real problem but a solvable one, so I went ahead and did something about it.
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  • Rappler accepts contributions from everyone —  you can email your articles to desk@rappler.com. Stop saying I should do this and I should do that. If you feel so strongly about it, stop yapping about what other people should do and do it yourself. I will be the first to stand up and clap.

In the meantime, I would rather make a little progress and help a few people, than make a lot of noise and accomplish nothing.

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© Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Filipina offloaded from flight at NAIA 3 for not bringing her grandfather’s birth certificate? Here’s what probably happened — and how you can stop it from happening to you

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Just a few days ago, a Filipina posted on Facebook about her experience being offloaded from her June 17 flight to Singapore. She reports that she was made to wait for 1.5 hours for her interview with an Immigration official and that she was eventually offloaded for not being able to present her grandfather’s birth certificate. As of June 25, 2015, 12:01 AM, her post has been Liked by 9,907 people and shared 11,258 times.

Now, Immigration officers aren’t exactly my favorite people in the world and offloading is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. (Well, okay, it is, but only on my worst enemies. Heh.)

That said, before we join the bandwagon and question the ludicrousness of having to bring your dead grandfather’s birth certificate just to board an international flight, I think it’s worth examining the situation more closely.

Let’s get two points out of the way first:

  • We only know the side of the offloaded passenger. (Let’s refer to her as Ms. dela Cruz, though her complete name and her Facebook name are obvious enough in her post, which she made Public.) As people are never likely to divulge their own shortcomings when ranting, it would be nice if we also heard the side of the IO, just to have a more complete understanding of what happened. (See 26 June update below for the BI’s subsequent explanation.) Details that we don’t know — that might have proved to be important — include:
    • Is this Ms. dela Cruz’s first time to go out of the country?
    • Is this her first time to go to Singapore? (Her Facebook page states that she lives in “Bedok, Singapore.”)
    • How long was she going to stay in Singapore?
    • What was her itinerary?
    • Does she have a job here in the Philippines? (Her Facebook page states that she works in “Pbcom Tower.”)
    • Did she have proof of financial capacity? Or was her relative going to support her stay? If it’s the latter, was her relative able to provide her with the Affidavit of Support & Guaranty and was it duly authenticated by the Philippine embassy in Singapore?
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      At any rate, here’s a screenshot of Ms. dela Cruz’s Facebook post — please just click to enlarge it (it’s rather long).

      From Ms. JA de la Cruz's Facebook page (Public post)

      From Ms. JA de la Cruz’s Facebook page (Public post)

  • Second, I definitely agree that she shouldn’t have been made to wait for an hour and a half for secondary inspection, especially as her boarding time was nearing.

 

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Anti-offloading tips from an Immigration officer

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The most important point, though — and the one that we should be most concerned about, since we don’t want the same thing to happen to us — is the fact that she was offloaded.

Apparently, Ms. dela Cruz was going to be staying with a relative in Singapore. She doesn’t mention in her post how exactly she was related to her host, but she says that the IO asked for “PROOF LANG NA KAPAMILYA KO DAW YUNG TITIRHAN KO” (proof that the person she will be staying with is a relative). She says she gave the IO a copy of her relative’s passport, invitation letter, Singapore ID and Philippine ID. However, the IO asked for proof that she was truly related to her host “KASI MASYADO NA DAW COMMON YUNG DELA CRUZ” (because dela Cruz is a common family name) — that is, it’s possible that they just have the same family names but aren’t truly related.

It was at this point that the IO apparently asked for Ms. dela Cruz’s grandfather’s birth certificate.

According to Ms. dela Cruz, “ANG SABI KO NAMAN, PAG BINIGYAN BA KITA NG BIRTHCERTIFICATE NG LOLO KO NAKALAGAY BA DUN NA GODDAUGHTER NYA KO?” (“I said, if I give you my grandfather’s birth certificate, will it show that I’m his goddaughter?”) This actually confuses me a bit — is “goddaughter” a typo, and she actually meant “granddaughter,” or did she mean that she was her host’s goddaughter, and if it’s the latter, are they really related? Either way, to cut the long story short, Ms. dela Cruz apparently could not present proof that she was related to the person she will be staying with in Singapore, and so she was offloaded.

As a footnote, it’s worth mentioning that Ms. dela Cruz made another attempt to fly to Singapore on June 19, and she was offloaded again, though she didn’t elaborate why.

From Ms. JA dela Cruz's Facebook page (Public post)

From Ms. JA dela Cruz’s Facebook page (Public post)

Why would someone need her grandfather’s birth certificate to fly abroad?

Ms. dela Cruz needed to present proof that she was related to the person she was going to stay with in Singapore. I suspect that the grandfather’s birth certificate was only mentioned as an example of a document that would prove the relationship — say, if she was going to be staying with an aunt, birth certificates would be a way to trace the family tree. If the IO did not explain that, then that’s quite an omission on her part, and Ms. dela Cruz is justified in complaining — though it wouldn’t change the fact that Ms. dela Cruz wasn’t able to prove her relationship to her would-be host. (I think it’s worth pointing out that the IO was right — dela Cruz is a common family name. In fact, the name Juan dela Cruz is our equivalent of John Doe.)

Why is it the Bureau of Immigration’s business whether one is related to one’s host?

According to the BI website, “a traveler will be subjected to a secondary inspection, when deemed necessary, for the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims of human trafficking, illegal recruitment and other related offenses. As such, Immigration Officers (IOs) are allowed to propound clarificatory questions relating to any documents presented or the purpose of travel. Based on answers provided, the traveler will be given a list of additional requirements to support his alleged purpose of travel.”

There have been thousands of cases of people going to other countries as “tourists” only to stay there as illegal workers. This month alone, the BI was able to catch strangers pretending to be friends going on a tour and women pretending to be missionaries, all of them on their way to undocumented jobs abroad as domestic helpers. Mary Jane Veloso flew to Kuala Lumpur as a “tourist” with a “friend” and $500 cash, and look where that got her.

Basically, Immigration officers have seen it all. So when a young girl traveling alone to Singapore says that she will be staying with a relative, but she can’t give definitive proof that she is indeed related to her host, I can imagine that would raise alarm bells for the Immigration officer.

Again, let me emphasize that I am not defending the Bureau of Immigration — I am just trying to put myself in their shoes. It’s a flawed system, and a lot of innocent people get trapped in the net along with the guilty ones, but since Immigration officers don’t have veritaserum or lie detectors, they have to rely on, well, less reliable methods like instinct and experience. That’s why it’s so important for travelers to prepare their documents.

What can we learn from this?

The lesson here is NOT that we should bring our dead grandfathers’ birth certificates when we travel.

What we should bring is proof that whatever we’re going to say to the Immigration officer is true.

If you’re flying to another country soon, here are some articles that might help:

What Filipinos Need to Know About Traveling Abroad: Guidelines from the Bureau of Immigration

Offloading, required documents, and other Immigration FAQs

I can’t stress this enough — it’s really better to over-prepare than to under-prepare. OA na kung OA, ‘wag lang ma-offload.


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Update 26 June 2015: The Bureau of Immigration’s Response

According to the Inquirer, BI spokesperson Elaine Tan spoke to them in a phone interview and said that the IO asked Ms. dela Cruz to provide “the marriage certificate of her father and marriage certificate of her father’s cousin in Singapore whom Dela Cruz was going to visit” because “she was assessed to be financially incapable to travel in the secondary inspection.” Tan said, “Hindi rin po na-establish ‘yung employment niya. So based on the totality of circumstances, she is likely to be a victim of human trafficking. High risk po.” I don’t totally understand it — Is the person in Singapore only her father’s cousin by marriage? Or is the cousin married to a Singapore national which would explain her residency in Singapore? — but, still, the lesson here is to provide proof of your claims.

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How to Get the New Postal ID in Cebu

If you don’t have any government-issued ID, the easiest to obtain is probably the Postal ID. After the Philippine Post Office incorporated security features (including a QR code) into the card, supported by a centralized database containing each individual’s fingerprints, photo, signature, and personal details, the new Postal ID is now accepted as proof of identification by institutions such as banks and government offices. Last February 2015, it was reported that the postal ID can be used as one of the supporting documents for obtaining a passport and this was reiterated by the DFA in a photo advisory posted on their official Facebook page last November 2, 2016.

(For more information on securing a passport, see Passport Application/Renewal at DFA Cebu: What You Need To Know.)

Here’s how to apply for the new postal ID in Cebu:

  1. Fill up the application form. You can download the form here.
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  2. Prepare the requirements:
    • Birth certificate issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO) or the Local Civil Registrar (LCR)
    • Proof of address: either a barangay clearance or a utility bill
    • Note:
      • A marriage certificate is also required for married females in order to validate their change of name from the name in their birth certificate.
      • Bring the original and one photocopy of all requirements.
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  3. Submit the application form and requirements and have your data “captured” at any of the capture sites designated by the Philippine Post Office. A complete list of sites can be found here. In Cebu, the capture sites are:
    • CEBU CITY
      • Cebu Capitol
      • Camp Sergio
      • Cebu City Hall
      • Gaisano Country Mall
      • GSIS
      • Pardo
      • UC
      • UV
      • SM Cebu – Update 5/14/2015: It’s been reported that the SM Government Services Center does not accept postal ID applications. I’ll verify the next time I’m there. In the meantime, the safest bet is the PhilPost branch in Plaza Independencia.
      • SWU
      • Talamban
    • MANDAUE CITY
      • Mandaue City Hall
      • Park Mall
      • GSIS
      • Liloan
      • Consolacion
    • LAPU-LAPU CITY
      • Mactan Airport
      • Sta Rosa (Olango Is)
      • Cordova
        The Government Service Express Office in SM City Cebu (across Prime Care) is one of the designated capture sites for postal ID applications.

        The Government Service Express Office in SM City Cebu (across Prime Care) is one of the designated capture sites for postal ID applications.

        SM_government_services_03

        This machine stands at the entrance and dispenses tickets for each government service counter.

        SM_government_services_04

        There were only a few people in the SM Government Service Center on a Saturday.

  4. Pay the fee of PHP 414.44 — this includes the ID fee (PHP 330), the delivery fee (PHP 40), and the 12% VAT (PHP 44.44).
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  5. Wait for your ID to be delivered within the following estimated time periods after your date of application:
    • Metro Manila – 5 working days
    • Other major cities and municipalities – 7 working days
    • Island provinces and remote barangays – 15 working days

This is all I know for now. 🙂 I will try to get a postal ID soon and let you all know how things turn out.

Sources: PhlPost | gov.ph

 

 

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How to Get the New Postal ID in Cebu” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

 


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