31 January 2020 / Pasay

Tips to Avoid Getting Offloaded by Philippine Immigration (For Solo Female Travelers)

Tips to Avoid Getting Offloaded by Philippine Immigration (For Solo Female Travelers)

The Philippine Immigration is infamous for offloading Filipino passengers for various reasons. I can't really blame them, however, they have offloaded legit travelers for trying to prevent illegal activities. First of all, some Filipinos have been notorious in traveling to look for work illegally abroad. Second, human trafficking is still prevalent and Filipino women are still being illegally recruited to do inhumane work. And in some cases, victims aren't aware.

Why is there OFFLOADING?

Note: If you are planning to become a TNT, please don't. People like you will keep our passport weak. There are legal and safer ways to find better opportunities. Check the POEA for employment opportunities.

Solo Traveling as a Filipina - a Red Flag for Human Trafficking

I was never questioned why I travel alone but recently this seems to be a hot issue and I heard of other Filipina passengers who got questioned for traveling alone.

preventing filipino human trafficking by immigration

For the first time, I got screened twice by the immigration officers. Previously, I had a corporate job so they never questioned me whenever I leave the country even alone. However, I have quit this job and had no fancy job title to write on my departure card. That was a red flag.

Sadly, not having my traditional office job anymore is a red flag, plus the fact that I was traveling alone.

I was asked some ridiculous questions on a traveler’s perspective, but thinking about it they just have to protect people from being trafficked and prevent people from trying to become a TNT (illegal worker).

Immigration Officer: Why are you traveling alone?

I was quite surprised by the question because I don’t know how to explain a personal preference. There’s not really a reason, it’s just a preference. I simply answered that I’m a solo traveler.

Immigration Officer: Have you done this before?

I answered yes.

I had a renewed passport and that was my first international trip with it. She asked if I have my older passport. It was a good decision that I brought 2 older passports with me.

The previous one had a valid US tourist visa. I still brought another older one because it had more stamps on it. She browsed through my previous passport and once she saw my US visa, she let me go. Now I can really say that having a US visa is really helpful not only when going to the US.

Philippines passport avoid being offboarded by immigration
I almost got Offboarded from my flight to Chiang Mai

It only got worse on

the third day so it appeared to be not an eye irritation. We have a
booked flight to Chiang Mai and I was having second thoughts of just
going to a doctor when we arrive in Chiang Mai. I had time in the
morning and there was a hospital near where we were staying at.

It took me 2 hours and Bangkok has a really good hospital service. I finally got a proper diagnosis which was Blepharitis.

As defined in Wikipedia

Blepharitis is one of the most common ocular conditions characterized by inflammation, scaling, reddening, and crusting of the eyelid.

... the overall etiology is a result of bacteria and inflammation from congested meibomian oil glands at the base of each eyelash.

cited from Wikipedia

The doctor prescribed an antibacterial ointment and I also asked for a medical certificate. That was something I never thought I would need just hours later.

I was wearing sunglasses because my left eye looked like someone has just punched me. I took it off at the check in counter to be identified and it was okay.

Prior boarding, they asked me to take off my sunglasses and suddenly the flight attendant was concerned. She didn’t let me in and asked me what it was. I explained it was a bacterial skin infection and it was not contagious. I thought they were concerned with that but apparently they were thinking of something else. It doesn’t look like a pink eye at all, it looked more like a bruise. The skin eye infection was on the eyelid so it was dark.

The flight attendant called her colleagues to take a look at me. That’s when I realized my medical certificate would be useful. I showed them the diagnosis from a few hours ago and they let me go instantly. Had I not have that medical certificate, they might have offboarded me for human trafficking suspicions.

Tips to not get offboarded by immigration

Tips to Avoid Getting Offboarded (for Filipinos)

These are just tips but make sure you have the basic requirements such as a RETURN Ticket, visa depending on destination and your passport must be valid for 6 months. For official travel requirements by the Bureau of Immigration, check it here in their website.

#1 Bring necessary documents

As for all Filipino tourists, they require that you have a round trip ticket and your passport must be valid for six months.

They usually don't ask for a lot of documents but if you ever go through secondary inspection, it would be best that you can support your answers. For instance, bring your company ID or a Certificate of Employment showing your leave dates if you are employed. This would support that you will be returning to the country.

It is also possible that they ask for your financial capacity so bring your credit card or have access to your online banking in case they ask how much funds you have. Other documents that can support your tourism purpose are hotel bookings, travel itinerary, pre-booked tours, tourist visa (if applicable to the destination country) etc.

#2 Bring an old passport especially if you have a renewed passport.

I am currently carrying 3 passports: the current passport, one old passport that has my valid US visa, and another older passport that shows more stamps as I have traveled more during that period. That will show that you have never overstayed in a country and would somehow prove you credibility as a traveler.

#3 Dress decently

Sadly, some immigration officers profile you based on your looks. One of the travelers we met in Chiang Mai who was from the US even gave us this tip. He would always have a clean cut and would dress with a collar and in jeans whenever he would go back to and from Thailand for a visa run. It’s not only the Philippine immigration who watches out for travelers who might not be able to afford traveling within their country.

#4 Answer immigration officers honestly, calmly and patiently

Be nice to the immigration officer even if they are being rude. I had a chat with the immigration office in their official Facebook messenger account. I complained about how rude the immigration officer was to me. They admittedly told me that don’t have the need to be nice as they are not “customer service”, they are law enforcers. That’s a sad mentality but that’s what we have to deal with. I told them they can be professional and treat people with respect while doing their job.

#5 When traveling alone to meet a foreign partner, bring proof of your relationship.

If you are meeting someone abroad, bring proof of that invitation. This can be email exchanges or photos of you together. I watched a vlog of a Filipino who even called the girl she was visiting abroad. The girl was Filipina as well and she had to show the immigration officer of her work visa over that video call! They are really going to these lengths to ensure you are not doing something illegal.

Lastly, some odd things might happen like in my case. I had a skin eye infection which looked like a black eye. Anything that might appear like you were being hurt, bring a medical certificate to prove that this isn’t a case of violence. However, if you are a victim, get help. Don’t cover it up! You can earn money somewhere else but you can’t take back your life if someone is hurting you!

UPDATE: Due to the pandemic travel restrictions, a CFO (Commission on Overseas Filipinos) is a helpful supporting document to show to Immigration if there reason for your travel is to meet your foreign partner. A CFO use to be required for those who plan to marry their foreign partner but a lot of unmarried travelers have been asked for this document. I believe this would help support that you in a real realtionship since you would have gone through a telecounseling with CFO. You may check the CFO website for this https://cfo.gov.ph/

#6 Always check CURRENT travel requirements

IMPORTANT UPDATE! Due to the pandemic, travel requirements can change from time to time anywhere in the world. It's recommended to check official government sites for updates. The Bureau of Immigration regularly updates their Facebook page as they now depend on IATF guidelines as well. For instance, as of 25 Oct 2020, they have lifted the antigen test requirement.

Aside from their usual travel requirements, they currently require the following for non-essential travel:

  • Confirmed roundtrip tickets (this has always been a requirement pre-pandemic but they want to reiterate this)
  • Travel Health Insurance that covers COVID-19
  • Signed BOI Travel Declaration and Acceptance of Terms and Risks Form which you can download below.

Again, always check the updates. I am writing this on 26 Oct 2020 and they can change rules any time.

#7 Get a multiple entry US visa, if possible. LIFE SAVER!

This is valid for 10 years. I have used this once but I found it to be useful whenever you need to prove that you have a good record. I wrote some tips on how you can prepare and a transcript of my interview at the US embassy.

Have you been
wrongfully offloaded?

Know your rights. This is the link sent to me by the immigration office through FB messenger which lists their travel requirements. Their grounds for offloading based on actual testimonials are not found here as cases and scenarios per passenger vary.

If you can prove that you have wrongfully offloaded, file a complaint to the immigration office by sending them the following information.

In other countries, this can be ground for a legal case. I have not looked into it but if you know someone who would be more familiar with our law, you can ask them to take a look at your case. The problem is we have always been passive and just accept everything that authorities does to us.

Send your Feedback to BI

  • Name of complainant:
  • Date of birth:
  • Name of passenger:
  • Date of birth:
  • Passport number:
  • Airport Terminal:
  • Flight number:
  • Airline/s:
  • Date
  • Time
  • Name of Immigration Officer
  • Name of Immigration Supervisor
  • Narrative of the report Complaint

The good news is the Immigration Office is very responsive. You just need to send them a chat in FB messenger or a message through their other channels. If you don’t tell them your experience, they would think that everything is alright on the ground. Let them know.

On the other hand, give them good feedback if they treated you fairly so they maintain this kind of good service.

Do you already have a Travel Insurance?

Travel Insurance is the best protection you can bring with you when you’re abroad. There are unexpected events in any country but that shouldn’t stop you from living your dream. Before my trip, I researched thoroughly and found that SafetyWing is the most affordable and the best part is you can extend your insurance wherever you are in the world!

Other travel insurance in the Philippines require you to be in the country after some months and this is not ideal for me as a digital nomad. Thankfully, SafetyWing lets you extend wherever you are and they even allow you to register even if you are already abroad which other travel insurance wouldn't allow.

I originally wrote this guide before the pandemic. It is possible to still travel to open countries or countries with exemptions but the Philippine Immigration is much stricter. Here are my recent guides on how to avoid getting offloaded during the pandemic. ➡️Avoid Getting Offloaded During the Pandemic 2020 ➡️Outbound Travel Checklist for Filipino Non-OFWs May 2021

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