Immigration clarifies policy on return tickets

MANILA – The Bureau of Immigration clarified Monday that there are no new guidelines for Filipinos traveling overseas.

Immigration chief Siegfred Mison said the rule of asking for return tickets from passengers before they leave the country was set as early as January 2012 by an inter-agency council to prevent human trafficking.

He said immigration officials will usually ask Filipino travelers for their passport, a visa (if necessary) and a return ticket.

“If you are going out as a tourist, then you have to show that you are coming back. You are not going anywhere else to probably reside or work. You are going there as a tourist, might as well get a return ticket…Most likely, the country of destination will also require a presentation of that ticket,” he said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.

Mison said that any person who intends to work in another country must secure an overseas employment certificate issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

He also addressed the situation of a Filipino household helper who was sent by her employers to Singapore to help another Filipino family who was having a new baby. The helper was asked to produce an OEC although she would only be staying in Singapore for three weeks.

“There is a fine line because it could be constituted as a simple help or simple activity that can constitute work or it can be considered as work. What if Singaporean immigration will now say: ‘That constitutes work.’ Then you will need a work visa or work permit. The fact that that person left the country as a tourist already violates our labor laws,” he said.

The immigration chief said that since ASEAN countries do not require visas, the Philippines must be stricter in checking the travel papers of tourists since these countries are known transit points for human trafficking victims.

He pointed out that the Philippines used to be the number one source country of trafficking victims.

In general, he said younger and female travelers are more prone to trafficking.

He said the guideline has led to a decline in incidents of trafficking.

Further proof

Mison said a traveler will only be asked to present further proof if there is a reason to suspect the purpose for travel is different from what is declared.

He said the bureau is also considering electronic screening to avoid inconvenience to passengers.

“If you claim I have no job no source of income but my travel will be financed by someone who is in Dubai, then you have to show us an affidavit of support. (How do you know it’s not fabricated?) It will be authenticated by our consulate,” he said.

Mison also said there are safeguards in place to prevent bribery of immigration officials.

“We have so many people looking at these interviews and after you pass these interviews, we have agents in waiting areas who can spot if you didn’t pass our secondary inspection,” he said.

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Immigration clarifies policy on return tickets
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