Immigration Tips for Filipinos: A Guide to Philippine Immigration

Philippine immigration photo

I wrote this guide in response to many questions in my blog about answering the questions in Philippine immigration. This guide is about how to handle Philippine immigration as a tourist and not as an OFW.

The first time I heard the word “offloaded” was in my blog. ‘Offloading’ is a Filipino English word that means you are denied entry to another country a.k.a. cannot leave the Philippines because you were unable to pass the Filipino immigration inspection.

If you want to minimize the risk of being offloaded as a Filipino, here are some tips:

Past travel experience is a must.

When I quit my job in China and returned to the Philippines jobless, I was a little scared to travel because I was unemployed. It didn’t become a problem because the immigration officer saw many stamps in my passport and let me through.

The more you travel, the less likely the immigration officer will ask you questions. I know many Filipinos travel with copies of their company ID, bank certificates, income tax return (ITR), etc. I don’t. I was unemployed and single. I just bring and show my return ticket. I think these are important for first time travelers but not for those who are frequent travelers. I have already been to more than 20 countries. I have not worked illegally and my stamps can prove I have always returned to my country. Of course, this is not the same for all cases. This is just my experience.

Even if you’ve been to only one or two countries, as long as he’s seen you’ve got past travel experience and have returned, he will less likely ask you many questions.

Always show a return ticket

Filipinos who have left me questions in my blog are often scared of the immigration officer (IO). They don’t know there’s another gate they have to go through first before the IO and sometimes they can be tougher than the officer.

The airline check-in.

cebupacific

That’s right. These people make sure you have all the proper documentation before you leave, especially the staff at our friendly budget airline, Cebu Pacific. They won’t let you go through immigration if you don’t have the right documents. They will usually ask for the return ticket to ensure a.) you’re coming back b.) you’re complying with the travel regulations of the country you’re traveling to. E.g. Malaysia law requires travelers to have a return ticket when they travel to Malaysia.

When you go to the immigration officer, always show your boarding pass and your return ticket.

I have forgotten to show my boarding pass and return ticket a couple of times because I’m struggling to organize the paperwork I accumulate during the check-in process (terminal fee, travel tax receipts and copies, Cebu Pacific itinerary, etc). Luckily the IOs are often nice about it and gently remind me. Whoops! They’re people too.

The main reason people get offloaded (from what I’ve read in the blogs) is that they weren’t able to show the return ticket. Even if you’re someone who’s traveled to several countries, if you won’t show your return ticket  (again, this depends on the country you’re traveling t0) they won’t let you through.

Be confident. Don’t be nervous.

IOs are taught to profile people. Any signs of nervousness are cause for them to make you more nervous by asking you more questions. If you’re nervous, it means you’ve got something to hide. Further interrogation is a scare tactic used by many immigration officers around the world. The theory behind it is by making you nervous, you’ll slip up and reveal your true intentions. You might say, “But I’ve got nothing to hide. They’re making it worse by making me nervous.” It doesn’t matter. Immigration officers think they are cops and they will bully the answers out of you. So stand your guard, smile and answer confidently with a heart ala Ms Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach.

If you have all your documents in order, what reason do they have to detain you? Unless they are looking for a bribe, of course.

Only answer what IOs ask you but do not elaborate.

There is really no need to give them further reason to ask more questions. Just answer as simply as possible.

IO: What’s your job?

Me: I work as an assistant manager in my family business.

IO: Family business? What do you sell?

Me: Plastic. Pots and pans. Brooms. Lots of household items.

IO: (stamp stamp)

Common questions Filipinos IOs ask you:

  • Where do you work? Follow up questions were what was position in the company? What did we sell?
  • Where will you be staying?

Have a rough idea of your itinerary/what you will do in the country. Just in case the officer ask you, just be ready with a short list.

IO: What will you do in India?

Me: Sightseeing. See Taj Mahal, the Pink City, Hindu temples. Shopping.

Philippine-Passport-e1408437251795

WHAT IFs SCENARIOS

The following answers are collected from other sites or what I would do if I was in that situation. I have by no means encountered them personally so it’s not 100% reliable and you will still need to do your own research. IMPORTANT: No immigration officer is the same. One would let you travel and the other might take you aside for second questioning.

1.) I haven’t traveled before.

You’re a first time traveler. This is probably the most nerve wracking because you’ll be more under scrutiny by the immigration officer. You’ll be less likely to be asked questions if you mention you’re traveling with someone who’s traveled before or if you’re in a tour group/package tour.

I have not done the following below because I was only 6 years old when I first started traveling internationally.

Here are documents you need to prepare:

  • Return ticket (a must)

The following are what I got from other Filipino traveler websites. For more information I’ve included their links at the bottom of this article.

  • Company ID
  • Certificate of employment or if you’re a student, a student ID
  • Original or photocopy of your passbook or bank certificate
  • ITR (income tax return- just in case)
  • The addresses and numbers of the places you’re staying

Proof of financial funds

  • I have never encountered this in the 20 countries I’ve traveled to. My friend who visited the US wanted to prove he had sufficient funds by “show money” when the US immigration officer stopped him. “You should never show your money,” he warned.

I personally think “show money” is a Filipino or developing country thing. Proof of sufficient funds for other countries usually means a bank certificate or a copy of your passbook to show how much income you have.

2.) I’m a housewife.

I don’t think it’s really a problem if you can show you have sufficient funds in your bank account even if it’s a joint one. You can also show your husband’s employment certificate to prove he is still employed.

3.) I was employed when applied for a US/Schengen/whatever country’s visa and now I’m unemployed. My current plans do not match the one in my visa application form.

Let me tell you something.

The immigration officer on both sides don’t care.

Government bureaucracy is so bloated that I don’t think consulates share your information to the immigration officer unless requested. As long as you’re returning to your native country and you’re not planning to do anything illegal, they’ll let you in.

My current itinerary certainly did not match the one in my Schengen visa application. Plans change. I didn’t get in trouble for that.

In case the officer ask you your occupation, just tell them your old job.

4.) I’m unemployed.

As long as you’re not applying for a visa, it should be easy if you’re going to countries Filipinos can enter visa free (Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, etc).

Prepare the following documents:

  • Proof of sufficient funds (even if it’s a joint account)
  • Your spouse or partner’s certificate of employment
  • Less of a problem if you’ve traveled before or traveling with your husband or with a tour group. Just mention that to the officer.
  • See documents for #1 I’m haven’t traveled before.

5.) I’m a freelancer.

I’m afraid I do not have experience with this or what documents you need to provide. Click on the link below for more detailed instructions on freelancers.

FIRST TIME ABROAD: Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

6.) I’m traveling abroad on a brand new passport. I’ve had a pretty good travel history but it’s all in my old passport. Do I show my old passport too with my new one to the officer?

 Yes.

7.) I’m sponsored by my relative/boyfriend/fiancé.

This is probably the hardest especially if you’re unemployed, single, traveling alone and it’s your first time traveling. If your friend/family member is with you and also single and unemployed, you can share the requirements. He/she must have the same copies or you can go to the IO box together.

Prepare the following:

  • Invitation letter and say he/she is supporting your travels
  • Proof of sufficient funds from your sponsor or the person paying for the trip (copy of passbook or bank certificate)
  • If you have enough money in your bank account, prepare a copy of your passbook or bank certificate
  • A photocopy of his/her credit card, if possible
  • Return ticket (a must)

You’re less suspicious if you travel with someone or are in a package tour.

I have an invitation letter but I can support myself and am planning to pay for my own trip.

Unless they ask where you’ll be staying, there’s no need to show the invitation letter. Just show your proof of sufficient funds.

8.) My boyfriend/friend/sister is traveling with me. Should I ask my sponsor to include them in the invitation letter?

Yes. In the letter, describe your relationship together and you’re traveling with your sister/friend/boyfriend.

9.) I have been offloaded before. Would this affect my chances?

It might but it will not prevent them from keeping you if you have all proper documentation. Show all the necessary paperwork and answer the questions confidently and you might be able to board your flight. This isn’t 100% foolproof because it will depend on your circumstance and your immigration officer.

This has been a comprehensive list. I hope this article has been helpful to my fellow Filipinos. Again, this isn’t 100% fool proof. It is more of a guide to help you.

The most important thing is all will still depend on the immigration officer who interviews you. 

If you haven’t found the answer to your specific immigration dilemma in this guide, check out the resources links below or call the Philippine Bureau of Immigration customer service hotline. They would be your best best bet in addressing your concerns.

Due to my new busy schedule, I found I couldn’t answer the comments in a timely manner. It wouldn’t be fair to the readers so I’ve decided to disable the comments section. If you have a question that can’t be answered in this post, you might find your answer in the comment section. Good luck!

Bureau of Immigration contact number

Bureau of Immigration main office

Good luck and happy traveling!

Read my related post on immigration.

What to Expect at the Border: A Guide to Immigration Interview Questions

Resources Links:

FIRST TIME ABROAD: Tips and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to Avoid Getting Offloaded

For OFWs: 9 Tips To Avoid Being Offloaded at NAIA

Photo credit:

Immigration booth

Philippine passport

Cebu Pacific