Since travel restrictions have been lifted, our airports have been bustling with travelers heading to various destinations around the world for purposes of tourism, business, or employment, among others. Due to the surge of outbound passengers, lengthy queues at the airport, such as before the immigration counters, are a regular occurrence. Immigration checks for outbound travelers are indeed necessary to ensure that outbound passengers are traveling with appropriate documentation to protect them from potential illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
Despite the existing measures, some Filipinos, particularly first-time travelers, unfortunately remain vulnerable to exploitation, illegal recruitment, and human trafficking. In this context, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the government body tasked to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, issued the Revised Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Filipino Passengers (the “Revised Guidelines”) which was scheduled to take effect on 3 September 2023. The enforcement of the Revised Guidelines was, however, suspended in view of the concerns raised by lawmakers and the public.
Under the Revised Guidelines, all international-bound Filipino passengers are required to present basic travel documents, which include their passport with validity of at least six (6) months from the date of departure, appropriate valid visa where applicable, boarding pass, and confirmed return or roundtrip ticket for certain categories of travelers. The immigration officers (“IO”) of the Bureau of Immigration are tasked to inspect these basic travel documents and to inquire on the passenger’s purpose of travel. The IO may also ask relevant clarificatory questions and require the presentation of additional supporting documents which vary depending on the category of the passenger.
For instance, self-funded travelers may be required to present proof of hotel booking/accommodation, financial capacity or source of income, or proof of employment. Meanwhile, passengers whose travel is sponsored may be asked to provide substantial proof of relationship with their sponsor, such as original birth or marriage certificates issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (“PSA”). The traveler must also be able to present the relevant identification documents of the sponsor, such as copies of the passport and valid work visa/permit or residence permit, or registration documents in case the sponsor is a juridical entity.
Notably, an Affidavit of Support and Guarantee is required if the sponsor is either a relative up to fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, a non-relative, or a juridical entity. The Affidavit must state, among others, the passenger’s relationship with the sponsor, the sponsor’s contact information, financial capacity to support the passenger’s travel, immigration status, and the reason for sponsorship. Additionally, the sponsor must undertake that the passenger’s travel is solely for tourism purposes, that he or she shall return to the Philippines upon the completion of the tour as reflected in the return ticket, and that the unreasonable failure to comply with the obligations of sponsorship may affect the assessment of the passenger’s future travels and the sponsor’s capacity to invite. If the sponsor is abroad, the Affidavit must be notarized by the Philippine Embassy or Consulate, or by a local notary public in the country of destination. In the latter case, the notarized affidavit must be apostilled by the relevant government authority in the country of destination or duly authenticated by the Philippine Embassy or Consulate.
With respect to departing Overseas Filipino Workers, the Revised Guidelines reiterate the existing formalities which include the Overseas Employment Certificate duly issued by the Department of Migrant Workers, valid work visa/permit, and proof of employment.
The Revised Guidelines likewise seek to protect minors. Thus, parents who are traveling with their minor children may now be required to present their children’s original PSA-issued birth certificates, or the PSA-issued marriage certificate in case the mother is not accompanying her minor children. Meanwhile, a Travel Clearance Certificate or a Certificate of Exemption duly issued by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (“DSWD”) may be required of passengers traveling with minors in specific cases, such as when the parents are not married and the mother is not accompanying the minor. Relevant clearances issued by the National Authority for Child Care, DSWD, the appropriate court where the adoption proceedings are pending, and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas may also be required for passengers traveling with adopted minors. It must also be noted that minors below thirteen (13) years old are absolutely prohibited from traveling alone, pursuant to the existing rules of the DSWD.
The Revised Guidelines also provide additional documents that certain categories of passengers must be able to present to sufficiently establish the purpose of their travel. For example, intra-company transferees must be able to show proof of their local employment as certified by the Department of Labor and Employment and their secondment agreement as executed by their local employer and the foreign host company. Depending on the purpose of their travel, some passengers like volunteer workers, organ donors, Hajj pilgrims, and trainees, may be required to show proper endorsements from various government agencies and relevant institutions.
It remains to be seen whether the foregoing formalities on the part of the passengers will effectively curb the despicable crimes of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. While it may appear that Filipino travelers carry the physical and economic burden of proving the legitimacy of their travels, it is hoped that the Revised Guidelines, when enforced, will prevent the need for the presentation of irrelevant documents, thus minimizing delays in immigration checks and deferred departures. Ultimately, our government agencies must strike a balance between one’s right to travel, as guaranteed under the Constitution, and national security and public safety, in crafting and implementing measures that streamline the departure requirements for Filipino travelers and promote smooth and efficient travel.
This article is for general information and educational purposes only and not offered as legal advice or opinion.
Kristine Bernadette F. Soriano is an Associate of the Immigration Department of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW).