This post contains a guide to writing your own Invitation Letter for Immigration and a sample Affidavit of Support and Guarantee for visiting relatives abroad. This is for Filipino travelers.
As of 2017, there are over 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers and over 10 million people of Filipino descent living and working abroad. That’s one of the biggest diaspora populations in the world. Ask any of the people in your circle and there’s a big chance that they have a relative or a friend abroad. In my case, I already lost count many years ago.
Hence, it’s no wonder that a great number of Filipinos intend to travel to another country for the sole purpose of visiting someone there. It’s also quite common for Filipinos to travel abroad to work or look for work, sometimes illegally. In order to protect Filipino travelers from human trafficking and other threats abroad, the Bureau of Immigration implement strict measures. Offloading may be an inconvenience to others, but these threats abroad are real. Many Pinoys, especially those with limited capacity to support their trip, fall victim to certain employment scams abroad because they try to skirt around the right process.
The downside, of course, is that some travelers who are really just trying to travel for leisure or visit a friend or relative mistakenly get offloaded too because they can’t prove the purpose of their trip. Thus, when you’re traveling to another country, it is important to have supporting documents including return ticket, proof of accommodations, and proof of employment or financial capacity. We already discussed them here: How to Avoid Offloading.
In this article, however, we’ll focus on just one: the Letter of Invitation.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Who needs a Letter of Invitation?
If you’re visiting someone abroad, you need a Letter of Invitation.
The truth is, the Immigration Officer doesn’t always ask for this. I have been in and out of the country dozens of times over the past nine years. Many of them, I declared that I was visiting my sister or a friend. Yet, I have been asked to present this document ONLY ONCE, and it wasn’t even my first trip abroad. It was so random. Haha.
So you see, you’ll never know when you would need this.
I also have friends who have been asked for this. Most of them were flying overseas for the first time in their lives to visit someone.
If you fall under any of the following, there is a higher chance that you will need to present an Invitation Letter:
- You’re traveling for the first time.
- You’re unemployed.
- You can’t prove that you can financially afford the trip.
- You’re visiting someone who isn’t an immediate family member.
- You’re inconsistent or too nervous when answering the Immigration Officer’s questions, giving them a reason to doubt your real intention.
Again, it doesn’t mean that if you belong to any of the above, you’ll automatically have to present an Invitation Letter. Sometimes, they still won’t ask for it. BUT, it’s a big BUT, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
What is an Invitation Letter?
What is a Letter of Invitation, really? Does the person to be visited just need to write a letter explaining why they’re inviting the visitor, sign it, send it, and that’s it?
Sometimes, that type of letter is accepted. The keyword there is SOMETIMES. Sometimes, a signed letter explaining the reason for the invitation and indicating the inviting party’s contact details is sufficient. But again, NOT ALWAYS.
According to a friend who is an Immigration Officer and the website of the Embassy of the Philippines in Singapore, the safest and most legally accepted “Invitation Letter” is in the form of an Affidavit of Support or Guarantee (AOSG). This looks very much like a regular Invitation Letter — all the details are there — but written in a more legal and formal manner. This must also be authenticated by the Embassy.
What is an Affidavit of Support and Guarantee?
The Affidavit of Support and Guarantee (AOSG) is a legal document that states that the inviter who is living abroad will shoulder the trip expenses of the visitor in part or in full, and that the visitor you will be under their responsibility during the stay in that country. It must also contain both the inviter’s and the visitor’s personal information, the details of the trip, and preferably the reason for the invitation.
The document must be authenticated at the Philippine Embassy in the inviter’s country. This is where they put a gold seal and red ribbon on the document.
If the affidavit is executed in the Philippines, it must be notarized. In one of my sister’s visits, she created one and had it notarized for a cousin whom she invited. She also made one for me before while she was here, and that’s what I presented that one time it was asked of me. The Officer looked at it, read it, and let me through.
Sample Affidavit of Support and Guarantee
Below is a sample Affidavit of Support and Guarantee. You’ll also find a link through which you can download a Word (.docx) file, which you can edit. You can replace the highlighted parts with your own details.Sample Invitation Letter Visiting Abroad
Once you have written an affidavit, you will need to have them authenticated, notarized, or both, depending on the case.
- If the inviter is a Filipino, the inviter must appear at the Philippine Embassy personally to have the affidavit authenticated. They may have their own format of the affidavit and a list of other requirements (such as passport, resident card or permit, certificate of employment, bank documents, etc,). Hence, it’s best to give the embassy a call first.
- If the inviter is not a Filipino citizen, the inviter must first have the document notarized outside of the Philippine embassy before having it authenticated at the embassy. For example, if the inviter is a Japanese citizen, they must have notarized it first at a Japanese notary public then have it authenticated or stamped locally. Only then can the document be submitted to the Philippine Embassy for its own authentication (red ribbon). Each country may have their own additional rules, requirements, processes, and fees.
- If the affidavit is executed in the Philippines, it must be notarized. In one of my sister’s visits, she created one and had it notarized for a cousin whom she invited. She also made one for me before while she was here, and that’s what I presented that one time it was asked of me. The Officer looked at it, read it, and let me through.
Can anyone sponsor my trip?
According to the GUIDELINES ON DEPARTURE FORMALITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL-BOUND PASSENGERS IN ALL AIRPORTS AND SEAPORTS IN THE COUNTRY, issued by the Bureau of Immigration, the inviter/sponsor and the visitor should be within fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity (up to first cousins by blood or marriage). For the purpose of discussion, let’s call relatives within fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity as “CLOSE RELATIVES”.
Sometimes, the Immigration Officers allow those sponsored by someone who is not a close relative to go through but it’s more the exception than the rule.
The embassy can still authenticate affidavits submitted by someone who is not a close relative but it doesn’t mean that it will be accepted by the Immigration Officer. The Embassy’s job is simply to authenticate. The Immigration’s job is to be the gatekeepers. That said, even if the sponsor is not a close relative, it is still better to have this document than nothing.
Does an Affidavit of Support guarantee that I will NOT get offloaded?
NO. It doesn’t guarantee anything. You can have it and still get offloaded.
It all depends on the assessment of the Immigration Officer. It is based on many factors including the details of that letter, your other documents, and your demeanor when answering their questions. However, having the affidavit will help you convince the Officer. It can help but not guarantee.
It’s also safe to have a copy of proof of relationship and proof that the inviter can afford to support you. These may be certificate of employment or bank documents.