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

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The Bureau of Immigration sparked furious discussions a few months ago when they announced they will be asking Filipinos traveling abroad to show proof of financial means.

You mean only the rich have a right to travel?” was the outraged question from citizens all over the country. There were also those who pointed out that — for those traveling to such areas as the US or Europe — we wouldn’t be granted a visa if we hadn’t already proven our capacity to pay for our trip. It’s bad enough we have to prove our innocence(!) to foreigners; do we have to prove it again to our own countrymen?

Related post: 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

I have my own strong opinions about how the Immigration guys seem to pick who to interrogate and who to let breeze by, but those opinions will help no one. 🙂 Here, instead, are the actual rules of the Bureau of Immigration regarding:

  • What documents will be required during “primary inspection” of Filipino citizens traveling abroad
  • What circumstances may prompt the immigration officer to ask for additional requirements
  • Which travelers will automatically be subjected to “secondary inspection”
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  • If you’re traveling with a child, make sure to read this as well: Must-Knows for Filipinos Traveling with Children. (The link will open in another window so you won’t have to leave this page.)
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DOCUMENTS REQUIRED DURING PRIMARY INSPECTION

  1. Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure
  2. Visa (when required)
  3. Round trip ticket

WHEN ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS MAY BE REQUIRED

The Immigration Officer will consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to require additional documents:

  • Age
  • Educational attainment
  • Financial capability to travel

Regarding financial capability, the Bureau of Immigration says:

  • “If not financially capable to travel, an authenticated Affidavit of Support or Letter of Invitation, indicating therein the relationship within the 4th civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, together with the supporting documents may be entertained; and
  • Affidavit of Undertaking/Guaranty may likewise be entertained.”

(To be honest, this sounds reasonable enough, and the BI says they are doing this to curtail human trafficking, illegal recruitment, etc. There is still something annoying and just wrong about having to prove your innocence — instead of them having to prove your guilt — but until the system is improved, there isn’t much we can do, and there’s no point fighting a battle you can’t win, so…what the heck, dalhin na ang mga diploma at mga gold bars!)

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WHO WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE SUBJECTED TO FURTHER INSPECTION

The Bureau of Immigration says they will automatically subject to secondary inspection those people who fit into either of the following categories, so be prepared.

  • “Travelers without financial capacity to travel escorted/accompanied by a foreigner who is not related;
  • Minor traveling alone or unaccompanied by either parent or legal guardian without the required travel clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD);
  • Repatriated irregular workers, in which case, travel may not be allowed without the clearance from the IACAT (generate data);
  • Partners and spouses of foreign nationals intending to depart to meet and/or marry his/her fiancé without the CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate;
  • Passengers traveling to counties with existing deployment bans, alert levels and travel advisories and those in possession of visas to the said countries; and
  • Passengers who stayed abroad for more than one (1) year during a previous departure from the country as a tourist/temporary visitor, intending to depart for the second and/or subsequent time.”

For more tips on documents that might be required by the Bureau of Immigration, read: offloading faqs

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OFFLOADING / DEFERRED DEPARTURE

As travelers, one of our most dreaded scenarios is being unreasonably detained on the whim of an Immigration/Border Control officer, missing our flight, and consequently having all our travel plans (and expenses!) messed up. (Or is it just me? A friend and I were once detained on arrival in Singapore, fingerprinted, and released with no explanation given…but that’s another story.)

Here’s what the Bureau of Immigration has to say about offloading, or deferring the departure, of Filipino travelers:

BI_Screenshot_DeferredDeparture

There have been incidents involving abusive Immigration officials — and, to be fair, I’m sure there have been incidents of abusive passengers as well — and while knowing the rules won’t necessarily protect us from profiling (or extortion attempts), we can at least minimize our chances of being detained by having all the documents we need (and might need) on hand. Happy travels!

Sources:

  1. Bureau of Immigration > FAQs > Travel Requirements
  2. “Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers in All Airports and Seaports in the Country”

Note: I am not an authority on Philippine travel regulations, just a girl who did some research. While I will try my best to answer any questions you might have, you will definitely get a more authoritative answer from the Bureau of Immigration (contact details HERE). If I answer your query with a succint “Please contact the BI” that means I don’t know the answer (and probably that I’m ridiculously busy at the time and can’t manage a lengthier reply). 🙂 Good luck and happy travels!

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QUESTIONS I WAS ASKED BY IMMIGRATION

I’ll update this section every time I go through Immigration. They won’t ask the same for all travelers — experienced travelers will probably get asked less questions than first-timers — but I hope this will give you an idea of what the IOs might ask you.

March 2015

  1. You’re a [my occupation]?
  2. When are you coming back?

September 2015

  1. Where are you going?

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What Filipinos Need to Know About Traveling Abroad: Guidelines from the Bureau of Immigration” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 


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