Benito Vacio

A costly trip

Problems that Filipinos have when leaving the country

Have you ever been offloaded in The Philippines on your flight to Thailand? Was the offloading legitimate? How do we minimize offloading?

On my 4th trip to Thailand last May 1st 2013, I was offloaded at Clark International Airport in The Philippines. I passed through this airport because of an attractive promotion offered by a certain airline. I didn't know that I would encounter a more costly trip instead. I happened to watch a public service TV program. A lady was complaining on TV about her offloading experience at Clark International Airport. The lady said the immigration officer did not let her pass through because the immigration officer did not believe that her sponsor, a cousin of hers, was in Thailand.

Then the immigration officer became suspicious that she would be seeking work in Thailand. The lady insisted she would not but when the officer asked for her credentials, the officer noticed her documents were not authenticated by Malacanang (without red ribbons). So she was held by the authorities. What about her return ticket? It was ridiculous. She would only visit her cousin and yet she was required to have her credentials authenticated.

That same experience happened to me. When I checked in three hours before departure, I showed my ticket, passport and exit clearance to the lady officer. She told me to validate my exit clearance from the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) section. Two officers attended to me - asked for my exit clearance, my passport, work contract, and work permit. They asked why I had stayed in the country for more than 5 days. I told them that I had had cataract surgery. They asked for a medical certificate or a doctor's prescription, but I had nothing to show.

I didn't bring what they asked for because those things are not usually required for passing through immigration. To my knowledge, most of the things required are - why are you going to Thailand, what's your job, where will you stay in Thailand, are you going to work there, how much money do you have , do you have an invitation and so forth, but not the medical certificate.

Then they doubted the authenticity of my exit clearance - just to find further fault. They asked me why I got it from SM Manila (Shoe Mart), a mall in Manila and not at the main office of the POEA. I told them there was a big billboard before leaving immigration at the MIA saying ....for convenience you can get exit clearance at the airport, POA Head Office, and SM Manila.

Then one guy turned his laptop on. He even told me to wait a little while. It took him an eternity to get a wi-fi signal. Imagine an international airport without an internet connection. Then they told me they would call up my employer. I told them that the phone number was in the contract. He was dialing his cell phone looking at the topmost portion of the contract and then said "there's no answer". I soon found out when I got the contract back there was no number on the top portion of the contract but it was written below the contract - so he was only pretending. I pleaded to them to let me pass through immigration because I had friends waiting for me on that day in Thailand, but to no avail.

They advised me to go the POEA outside the airport. I did that, but the POEA office was closed because it was Labor Day. So I gave up and returned to Manila. Then I proceeded to the Manila International Airport and got a new ticket. At the airport, it was not difficult for me to have my exit clearance validated for my exit clearance was valid up to 2015. The officer was even surprised why I was offloaded in Clark.

I told him the reason so he gave me a form stating why I had stayed so long in the Philippines. Overwhelmed by the help of this officer, I dropped a note in the suggestion box to commend him for being so helpful and kind to all who approached him. When I got my ticket I was able to get my exit clearance for only 100 pesos as an OFW.

I wonder why Clark International Airport and Manila International Airport have different policies! I was allowed in MIA Terminal 3 but denied in Clark airport. I couldn't help asking myself, "Do immigration officers who offload legitimate passengers get a cut from the airline?" I met one Filipino ticketing officer Filipino from an airline here in Thailand and asked about the whole "offloading business. She nodded and said that in her knowledge, there are a lot of cases like this, which she called "under the table" negotiations - but nothing has been done about it. I researched the topic on the internet. There were a lot of complaints about people being treated like I was.

Some friends of mine shared their own experiences. The first one was a lady who was on her way to take care of a teacher's son. She was offloaded because the immigration officer believed that the teacher could not get a work permit for her relative. Another was a teacher who planned to go to Thailand to visit a friend and was not allowed to go because immigration insisted that she would work in Thailand. Recently, one colleague mentioned that her "nanny" was offloaded because the nanny was under 18.

So how do we avoid being offloaded? I have asked those who were victims and some friends and they said:

1. Bring a copy of all your legal documents when travelling to another country. Include medical certificates if necessary so that when your travel is in question you have evidence to show the immigration officer.
2. If you want to travel on a public holiday and you're near Terminal 3 in Manila, depart there because they have offices for your travel needs.
3. Review your notes on Pre-departure Orientation Seminar prior to departure if you are an OFW.
4. If you are touring Thailand, only have light baggage, sufficient spending money, and give the officer the impression you are not going to work there.
5. Be ready with your visa cards, ATM cards or bank books to show you can support yourself.
6. Ask for advice from friends/ travel agents on how to answer immigration officer questions.
7. Have your authenticated credentials authenticated by Malacanang (with red ribbons).
8. When sponsored, have the letter of sponsorship plus the sponsor's Xerox copies of his/her passport,, work permit, contract, etc. (with translation if possible).
9. Make your old passport available to show that you have travelled to other countries already. Frequent travelers are always given priority.

I don't know why Filipino immigration officers are so strict in allowing their legitimate countrymen (those who have the basic documents) to go out of the country. Don't our countrymen have the right to travel? Why are strict regulations imposed to legally employed Filipinos in other countries who merely take a vacation?

Why do they have to be inconsiderate at the expense of our countrymen who borrow or even sell their properties just to be able to go abroad? It is okay if the traveler is questionable. But for those like me who have the right to travel, who have a valid re-entry permit from Thailand, have a contract and work permit, return ticket and exit clearance, the officers should let me go without incurring more expense. My cataract operation had cost me more than 40,000 pesos already. They should have also given me consideration as a senior citizen as a sign of respect.

Fortunately I was able to sort out things and return to Thailand within 24 hours. What if I did not have the resources? I guess it's high time for the Philippine government to look into the offloading problems of so many Filipinos - especially those with tickets bought through promotions. The poor Filipino is jeopardized here. Their hard earned money is wasted even when not necessary.


Why they are sooooo strict with public school teachers? The immigration is simply degrading teachers. Teachers can afford to travel. Especially when its a need to relieve stress. Teachers are not robots. Let them travel they also need vacation especially during long weekends. Its not a joke to face 60 students with diverse personalities and attitudes. Hopefully in no time, POI change their policies.

By Prep, Olongapo City (14th February 2017)

Emma, if you are going next month, be sure you have your passport, 2-way ticket, and perhaps 500 dollars pocket money .The issue of off loading was made clear by the Philippine immigration in a TV program I watched 4 days ago, Off loading is done only this time to avoid human trafficking. So, if you are there for a holiday, there's no reason for you to be denied. It is our right to travel if we can afford it. I think, they are more lenient now. They are only particular about the safety of our people who go abroad as tourist and work. But if they know that you are financially capable, I'm sure they will let you go. It's better you don;t know anyone there, just tell them that as shown in the ticket you are coming back because you have responsibilities here and have to come back on the date specified in your return ticket (even if it is not true).. Ask other people, from friends who recently left, etc.). Good luck.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi, Thailand (19th March 2014)


Im a Filipina and planning to visit Thailand next month.
That means I will be going as a tourist. My passport and 2-way ticket are all ready but Im still cared about the issue on offloading.

DO I need to secure some documents other than passport and tickets?

By Emma, Philippines (18th March 2014)

Hi po, thank you for sharing your article. It is my first time to travel back to Thailand, with a valid work permit, and re-entry Visa. i would like to know what other important documents do I need to prepare to show to the immigration officer? i also dont have a return ticket back to the Philippines, should I get a return ticket? Thank you very much.

By Michelle Santos, Manila (28th November 2013)

Joseph, thanks a lot. I hope our readers will benefit from your experience. Yes, I know a lot who go to Thailand with only their tickets and passport to show to immigrationand they were able to pass t through the immigration, I hope that the Philippine immigration officers will be more lenient now that ASEAN Community in 2015 will commence.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi, Thailand (31st August 2013)

I had been offloaded twice at the Manila International Airport Terminal 1 and 3 when I first attempted to go to Bangkok. I had all the documents cited as prerequisites in this blog entry. But still, I suffered the same fate of being offloaded. When my friend who is a teacher in Bangkok learned about my experience, she gave me this advice."The next time you try to go out of the Philippines as tourist, do not show them (immigration officers) so many documents. Legitimate tourists carry with them a round-trip ticket and passport only which are the only important things to be presented to the immigration counter. The more documents you have (letter of invitation, hotel voucher and several others), the more questions they will ask you. One more thing, don't be intimidated by their indifference or snobbish look. Give them the impression that you have the right to travel and they don't have the right to deny you that." True enough, the next time I dared crossed the immigration counters, I went through it without any hassle. Just sharing my experience...

By Rey Ortega, Bangkok (31st August 2013)

Joseph, thanks a lot for reading my blog. I am not so knpwledgeable in immigration matters but based on my experiences, if your friend will not be able to go to Singapore even if you are around (I hope not..) if her documents are complete, has the required show money and will be in Singapore as tourist, there is no reason for her to be offloaded. As long as there is no intention of working in Singapore, she might be able to pass the Philippine immigration In your case, isn't it that most countries give a month visa for tourists? If you can't come back despite of having your ticket, make use of the one month stay there and you can come back to your country later. By then you can seek advise on how to bring your friend with you without problems in the airport Immigration. Good luck and I pray that in your visit you will not have any problem when your friend travels with you.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi, Thailand (26th August 2013)

Hi, im a singaporean and i intend to bring a Philippines friend over to singapore for a one week trip in october. I will go there and fetch her and we will go to the inmigration together. If my friend unluckily got offloaded, can i extend my stay in philippines (by exiting the airport and forfeiting the flight) or do i have to fly back to singapore first then return again?

By Joseph, Singapore (26th August 2013)

Zeian, she can get an invitation letter from PHil. Embassy in Bangkok.. it will be a red ribbon and she can sent it to her niece... Hope that this offloading issue in the Philippines will stop and the Phil. Gov't will take action on this.

By Irvin, (20th July 2013)

Zeian, if your aunt's niece is not a minor ( say above 21) she can visit as a tourist. As long as she has her travel documents, return ticket, has a show money of at least 500 dollars, and her purpose is to see tour Thailand , I think she can pass through. Sometimes, those with sponsors are questioned so much. Many of my friends came to Thailand as tourists. As long as they are not teachers, and show that they have the capability of travelling, they can do it. Everything can be arranged when she is already in Thailand. To my readers, if you have some ideas, please help the Filipina lady who wants to see her niece.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi (12th July 2013)

Can anyone help me with diz: my aunt fr. Phils who is a thai citizen for almost 40yrs, she is now a senior citizen here in thai and retired as a teacher before, now she wanted her niece to come and visit her here but then she was offloaded at clark airbase and they didnt believe her reasons, they were asking for a supporting documents but they did not consider her work permit,leave of absence of work can anybody tell me what are the documents for a senior citizen here to be completed so she could send it again to her niece? Thank you and excuse my errors n blunders.

By zeian, saraburi (11th July 2013)

Philippine airports and immigration law in the philippine sucks,its only in the philippines that an airport dont have an internet can we expect tourist to have fun in the philippine islands....what is this stone age....

By Stonemelter, Planet Earth (10th July 2013)

Thank you guys for commenting on the blog. That of Mr. Dee and Vince enriched the information on offloading and I hope these things will be of benefit to all our readers and traveling countrymen.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi (10th July 2013)

we did experience the same when we visited thailand last december. when we were nearly in front of the immigration both, a woman who was inspecting asked many things, and requested documents that were needed.Upon showing those documents this woman again asked for other documents which obviously we do not have. My mother is a government employee and this woman said that the letter signed by the mayor for leave of absence was not legitimate and that there should be a letter from the Malacanang stating that my mother is allowed to take vacation and to travel abroad. i was SO surprised about this and so i started asking questions and some legal proofs about her claims, until such that the woman stepped aside and went to inspect others. when we were in front of the immigration officer, we were asked basic questions about the purpose of our travel. we showed the documents and then we boarded. Had i known that the event happened was one of their crafty activities to take advantage of OFW's i would have videotaped the whole thing. People like them are the ones destroying the image of the government. We should all be sober and STOP this cunning agenda of corrupt government officials by broadcasting them to the whole world that they may be ashamed of themselves. taking advantage of the weaknesses and hardships of others especially to our OFW's deserves to be humiliated and spat upon.

By vince, (10th July 2013)

Great article. This usually happens when Immigration officers in the Philippine's international airports are trying to look for ways to coerce us to shelve out money just to get out of the country. There has been so many complaints about this not only for Filipinos who work in Thailand but elsewhere too. I don't really like to say something negative like this about my country, but its a fact that corruption is very rampant in our country's government, even the mere rank and file government employee tries to find ways to make an extra buck. Of course corruption happens here in Thailand too, but in my opinion, if I compare it with corruption in our country, ours is purely and insanely ridiculous. That's why I have my family here with me, and we rarely go back home, because our compatriots at home think we earn millions from teaching in Thailand. There's just many taxes and fees to pay just to get in and out of the country. Especially in Manila's international airport terminals, where they ask you to pay for an expensive friggin TERMINAL FEE for you to use the facilities of an ugly, mediocre and run-down Airport. Plus you get the chance of being scammed by these opportunist government officials coming up with lousy and senseless ways to NOT let you get out of the country because they claim they are "just protecting you from human trafficking etc" BS and so on.
I would like to add a few things here to our fellow Filipinos who might be reading the article above and this comment on how to DEFEND and PROTECT yourself from instances like these:
1. When something goes wrong and you are pretty sure you have all the correct papers as specified by fellow travelers who were able to get through successfully, Don't PANIC. Be cool but act intelligent.
2. Assert your right to Know the reason why they might offload you. Make sure you ask clear questions and ask them to clarify their reasons. Every answer they make should make perfect sense or else they are just making it up.
3. Politely ask for their Full Name and ID number, or take down notes of who you interact with. You are allowed to get their full name and ID because they are government workers and they should abide to public trust.
4. If you sense that you are going no where with your discussions because he/she is playing hardball, POLITELY ask for their supervisor. Continue writing down getting their names and ID. Escalate to a higher-up if nothing happens with that supervisor.
5. Remember that you have a Right to know and a right to criticize their reasoning. As a citizen of the country, government officials are responsible to serve,act and treat you with respect.
6. Do not raise your voice when you talk to them, and if they raise theirs, politely ask them to calm down. Refer to #5
7. If they claim something new in their policies, ask them to show the memorandum about it and take note of it. It should be signed and sealed with the RP emblem by the Bureau of Immigration or DFA.
8. If you are traveling with a friend or family, have them take pictures of you and the officers, or better yet, record a video of your conversation using a mobile phone. But do so inconspicuously. If they find out and ask about the recording or picture, stop it immediately and let them know that it is for documentation purposes that your lawyer might find helpful. :)

In short, ACT SMART! This way, officers who think they can "con" you will give up and probably let you through.

By Mr. Dee, Thailand (10th July 2013)

a good article, very informative, and a bit alarming, specially offloading a person with legal documents to prove that he has a "legal" job waiting for him in Thailand.... That immigration officer in Clark? what is she or he up to?

By Jaime A. Paster ,Jr., Nakorn Pathom Thailand (10th July 2013)

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