It’s a tourist’s biggest nightmare: not being allowed by Immigration Officials to board the plane. The trip ends even before it begins. Not only can it be humiliating, it also puts to waste everything invested on planning the trip: time, money, effort, emotions. And with the Bureau of Immigration putting in place stricter measures to combat human trafficking and prevent potential illegal aliens, they may need a little bit more convincing.
According to the Bureau of Immigration, every day around 40 people are offloaded at NAIA Terminal 1 alone. Most of them had the intention of seeking employment in their destination country without proper papers.
It’s been a highly controversial issue these days with some questioning the constitutionality of the policy , as it goes against a Filipino citizen’s right to travel. Also, its vagueness makes it prone to abuse. But while we continue to discuss this in social media, the bureau has long been implementing this.
So, if you’re traveling to another country soon (especially if it’s your first time) and wish to breeze through the airport immigration process without incident, here are some things that could help:
Related: First Time Abroad: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
There are three things that you MUST present to the Immigration Officer before you are allowed to board:
- Valid passport
- Roundtrip ticket
- Visa, if applicable
At the very least, you should have these three. Usually, these are all they will ask from you. Usually.
Based on experience, however, they sometimes ask the following:
- What company do you work for? In other words, do you have a job? In my past 30-ish trips, I was almost always asked to show my company ID as proof.
- Where will you be staying? They sometimes ask to see a copy of your hotel reservation. If you’re staying at a friend’s, they sometimes dig deeper.
When the officers deem necessary, they will ask for more documents to prove you would be returning.
According to a memorandum entitled Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers, released by the Bureau of Immigration to their airport and seaport officers in 2012, the traveler will then be assessed based on the following. (Yes, criteria for judging. 😛 )
- Educational attainment
- Financial capability to travel
The last item usually becomes the issue. According to the bureau (as told to a news agency), tourists who are more likely to be questioned are:
- First-time tourists flying to a not-so-popular destination. (Uhm, hello backpackers. Haha)
- Tourists with no steady source of income in the Philippines and no benefactors.
Financial capability is not a requirement, according to the Bureau. “A person may only be asked to present further proof for his travel abroad if the person appears to have a reason different from what he has declared before an immigration official.”
Still, THREE to FOUR of the 50 people who get offloaded actually had legitimate reasons but were still not allowed to leave. Collateral damage, they say. What went wrong varies from person to person, but they have one thing in common: the Immigration Officers didn’t believe they should leave the country.
When Deemed Necessary
Show me the moneeey! Char.
The key phrase in the previous section is WHEN THE OFFICERS DEEM NECESSARY.
What does that mean? It means you’ll never know for sure whether you will be subjected to a secondary inspection or not. Your trip happening still highly depends on these gatekeepers.
To avoid getting offloaded, you need to be prepared with the right documents all the time.
In case you are subjected to a secondary inspection — again, just in case — you need to prove you are coming back to the Philippines soon or that you have the means to financially support this trip. How are you going to do that? It would be best to always have the following with you when you travel, even if you have the truest intentions:
- Company ID
- A copy of your latest Income Tax Return (ITR)
- Certificate of Employment (best if it indicates your salary and how long you have been with the company)
The above items should be sufficient to prove that you are still working here in the Philippines (which means you have something to return for) and that you can fund this trip. In some cases, the officers might ask for more proof.
If you’re a freelancer, you probably don’t have a company ID and no one to get a Certificate of Employment from. Here’s what you should have.
- A copy of your Income Tax Return for the past year. If you pay taxes yourself, you should have it. If the clients pay/paid for you, they usually give you a copy of it when they release the check. If not, ask if they could provide you a copy.
- Certificate of Employment-type of document. Ask your client(s) if you could give you a document certifying that you’re doing business with them. The address and telephone number of the client must be indicated. Best if it also includes the salary and how long you have been working with them.
- Business Registration Certificate. If you’re registered as a Sole Proprietor, a copy of this should also be very helpful.
I always have a copy of those three to be safe. On a recent trip, they were particularly more inquisitive. They asked where I would be staying, what I do for a living, what company I work for, how much money I have. I forgot my ID then but thankfully I had a Certificate of Employment from a client and answered their questions confidently. They let me through.
Here’s the format I followed when I asked my clients to provide some sort of certification that I was working for them. Make sure you have your client’s contact numbers. Best if this is printed on an official letterhead.Sample Certificate Employment PDF
Travelers with NO Financial Capability
People who can’t financially support the trip themselves should have the following documents handy:
- Authenticated affidavit of support indicating the relationship within the 4th civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, together with the supporting documents.
- An affidavit of undertaking/ guaranty
Note that having the above papers do not guarantee getting through.
Automatic Second Inspection
Please note that if you belong to any of the following, you will be automatically subjected to a secondary inspection:
- 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). More info here: How to Get a DSWD Clearance
- 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 fiance without the CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate
- Passengers traveling to countries with existing deployment bans, alert levels and travel advisories and those in possession of a visas to the said countries
- 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.
Travel Authority for Government Employees
In addition, government employees must also provide a travel authority. You’ll find more info in the table below.
Final Note: Summary
All these lead us to three important points:
- Have all the requirements: Valid passport, roundtrip ticket, and visa (if applicable).
- Bring a copy of documents that can prove you will travel as a tourist (and that you will not be working or looking for a job there and/or that you can afford this trip): Company ID, ITR, Certificate of Employment (or Business Registration Certificate), hotel reservation (if applicable), the credit card you used to book the ticket (or a copy of it if it’s not yours).
- Be honest, consistent, and confident. If they ask questions, answer truthfully. Being honest makes you more confident because you know the details no matter how stressful it gets. Know your trip — you don’t need to have a printed itinerary but at least have a sort of plan in your head. Where will you stay? What sites will you visit? When will you return? The last thing you want is to appear like you’re lying even when you’re telling the truth.
Travelers found misrepresenting the purpose of their trip as tourist shall not be cleared for departure.
This post is based on a memorandum entitled Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers, released by the Bureau of Immigration to their airport and seaport officers in 2012.