I know that feeling a couple of days before your out-of-the-country trip when you can’t just stay still and think of the OOTDs that’s getting in your suitcase, the IG-worthy poses that you’re going to make, and all the delicious food you’re going to taste. That’s the beauty of traveling-- it gives us something beautiful to look forward to. But on that ‘big day,’ there’s one final hurdle we have to face before taking that flight-- the Philippines Immigration. I know you’ve heard a couple of horror stories about people getting offloaded from their flight and this is making you feel anxious (especially if it’s your first time) so I have compiled 32 Important Things and Tips that you have to remember when dealing with them :)
In this article, we summarized the following:
Things to do Weeks and Days BEFORE your Flight
What to do the DAY of your Flight
How to present (Act) yourself in front of the Immigration Officer
Things to Remember When You Are Subject to Secondary Inspection
What to do when you’re OFFLOADED from your Flight
THINGS TO DO WEEKS BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT
1. MAKE SURE YOUR PASSPORT IS AT ITS BEST. Weeks before your flight, inspect your passport and make sure that it is in its best condition. It can’t have any markings other than your signature and the emergency contact page. It can’t have any visible tear or wet marks, especially on the barcode.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR PASSPORT IS VALID FOR 6 MORE MONTHS BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT. FYI, your passport whose validity is for only less than six months is just good to serve as a valid Identification Card. You cannot use it for traveling out of the country anymore. If you insist, you will not even be allowed to check in at the counters, and I also doubt if you can even book your flight since most airlines ask for the expiration date.
Ex. My passport is valid until October 1, 2018. Bilang tayo ng 6 months pabalik, that will be April 1, 2018. So I can only use my passport to travel out of the country if my intended flight is earlier than April 1, 2018. If my flight is on April 1, 2018, I still can’t use it. (They are very strict with this)
3. GET A NEW PASSPORT IF NEEDED. If your passport is in bad shape (as described above), then it’s best to get a new one or risk getting offloaded. Sometimes you can pass through the Philippine Immigration (with a lot of luck), but there’s also a risk of being sent back by the receiving country’s immigration.
4. CHECK-IN ONLINE. If you do not have any check-in baggage, check-in online at least 48 hours before your flight and save yourself from the hassle of lining up on the check-in counters.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO DAYS BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT
5. HAVE ALL YOUR DOCUMENTS READY.The most common things that they ask for are the following and remember to keep these on hand:
Passport and visa if the receiving country requires it
Roundtrip flight itinerary
School/company ID, if any.
If employed, Work Leave Approval
If self-employed, BIR or Business Certificate
If working online - Screenshot any proof of your work publication, Paypal Statement or even transactions on your o-desk or similar platforms
If unemployed, statement from your sponsor / husband with proof of your relationship with sponsor (birth certificate or marriage certificate if not the same last name)
If accompanying minor that is not a relative, get the official travel document clearance from DSWD
6. BRING PROOF OF YOUR FINANCIAL CAPACITY. This could be in the form of cash, debit, or credit card. Once they doubt your financial capacity to travel and once they deem necessary, they could ask for these documents too.
7. BRING SECONDARY PROOF OF FINANCIAL CAPACITY. The worst case scenario is they wouldn’t find your cash/debit/credit card sufficient. So keep all secondary proof with you. This could be in the form of Affidavit of Support from your sponsor, business registration and photos of your business if you have one, and ITR.
8. KEEP THE CONTACT NUMBER OF IMPORTANT PEOPLE. These are people that you can call in case the IO asks something else from you. This could be a relative, an officemate, or your company’s HR.
WHAT TO DO ON THE DAY OF YOUR FLIGHT
9. BE THERE ON TIME. I swear you wouldn’t want to sprint and go through the embarrassment of having to ask everyone if you can cut the line just to make it on time. Be there at least 2 hours before your flight, and you’ll be fine. If it’s your first time, be there at least 3-4 hours, so you have enough time just in case they subject you to secondary inspection.
10. CHECK YOUR BOARDING PASS. Familiarize yourself with the boarding gate and the boarding time, so you know where to go after you pass through the immigration or when you rush after secondary inspection.
11. DO NOT MAKE BOMB JOKES. Like, don’t you even dare! This is not cool, and this is against the law. If an airport staff hears you or someone reports you, your next destination could be in prison!
12. DO NOT EVER TOUCH OR TAKE ANYONE’S LUGGAGE. This applies to all airports and probably all places in the world. Never take it whether it’s from an old woman or a child. You have no idea what’s inside it so doesn’t even think about it, or you might just get in trouble.
TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN DEALING WITH IMMIGRATION OFFICERS
13. RELAX. There’s nothing to be afraid of. They are just humans like us who are only doing their job.
14. DRESS SMART. Don’t get there in your pajamas (some people do this specially seasoned travelers and those on long flights). If it’s your first time, you have to dress smartly. A pair of jeans, shirt, and shoes will be fine. Bring your jacket too as it can be very cold sometimes. And oh, don’t forget you have to be comfy too :)
15. HAVE A PEN WITH YOU. You have to fill out a departure card and an arrival card, so a pen comes in handy. You wouldn’t want to cue just so you can use the free pens, don’t you?
16. WRITE LEGIBLY. Departure and arrival cards need to be read by the Immigration Officers. To avoid delay and being sent back to the end of the cue, write legibly and use only black or blue pen.
17. MAKE SURE YOUR DOCUMENTS ARE AUTHENTIC. Once they find out that you have tampered/fake documents, you will be subject to automatic secondary inspection. And once you go through it due to this cause, there’s a very little chance they’ll make you take your flight.
18. TAKE OUT YOUR PASSPORT FROM THE COVER. I know it looks fancy, and all with your cute passport cover but they only need your passport. Not the cover and anything else that comes with it.
19. BE POLITE. Immigration Officers are officials of the Government and public servants who deserve our utmost respect. So always be polite. Start with a simple “good morning/good afternoon,” and this could just make their day and instantly lift up their mood.
20. DO NOT PANIC. Once they start the Passenger Assessment by asking a series of questions, do not panic. If you know that you’re telling the truth, then there’s nothing to be worried about :) The series of questions they usually ask is: “What’s your work here?” “Who’s paying for your trip?” “Where will you be staying?” “What will you do there?” “When will you come back?” (Easy, right?)
21. BE CONFIDENT. When you sound unsure of your answers, you will give them a reason to doubt you. So always be confident.
22. ANSWER TRUTHFULLY. This is the golden rule. Answer truthfully or risk getting lost in your lies.
23. DO NOT OFFER ANY EXCESS INFORMATION. Most of the questions that they ask can be answerable by yes, no, and something that calls for a five-word answer at most. So don’t give one whole sentence or an even a paragraph! Remember, these people have a long day ahead of them, and there’s a long cue behind you so just answer them briefly and concisely.
24. AVOID ANYTHING THAT WOULD MAKE YOU SUBJECT TO AUTOMATIC SECONDARY INSPECTION. As per the IACAT Revised Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers, the following will automatically be referred for secondary inspection:
A passenger who has no financial capacity to travel and is escorted/accompanied by a foreign national who is not a relative by consanguinity or affinity;
A minor who is traveling alone or is unaccompanied by either a parent or legal guardian without the required travel clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD);
A spouse of a foreign national intending to depart for the first time to join the foreign spouse;
A partner of a foreign national who intends to go abroad to meet/marry his/her fiancé/fiancée but does not have the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Guidance and Counseling Certificate;*
An individual traveling to countries with existing deployment bans, alert levels 3 and 4, and travel advisories AND is in possession of visas to said countries; and
Someone who had previously stayed abroad for more than six months as a tourist or temporary visitor and is intending to depart for the second or subsequent time.
THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU ARE SUBJECT TO SECONDARY INSPECTION
25. KNOW THE GROUNDS FOR OFFLOADING. One shall not be cleared from departure when:
1) A passenger is found to be misrepresenting his/her purpose of travel; and
2) It appears that he/she is a part of a human trafficking operation regardless of whether he/she took part in it or has knowledge about it.
In the second case, the Immigration Officer shall execute an Affidavit of Deferred Departure, and the offending passenger and his/her documents will be turned over to the IACAT Task Force for further investigation and case build-up.
NOTE: Items Number 23 and 24 are just guidelines. This will still be subject to the Primary Officer’s discretion based on the outcome of your profile assessment. It’s a case-to-case basis and will vary depending on the ‘totality of circumstances’.
26. IT IS NOT THE END OF YOUR JOURNEY. This is just a secondary inspection to check your documents further, and your circumstances so don’t think that you’re going to be offloaded. As long as you have all the documents I stated above, you’ll be fine.
27. KEEP YOUR CALM. At this stage, the Immigration Officers will ask you clarificatory questions. I know this can be frustrating and nerve wrecking but as much as possible, keep your calm and politely raise your arguments. Try to hold your cool and avoid raising your voice.
28. FILL OUT THE BORDER CONTROL QUESTIONNAIRE (BCQ) TRUTHFULLY. Aside from asking a series of questions, they will ask you to fill out a BCQ. Fill it out legibly and truthfully.
29. MIND WHAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR LUGGAGE/PHONE/LAPTOPS. Once you go through secondary inspection, these people can go through the contents of your bags, laptops, and cell phones. I don’t even know if it’s legal, but this is what usually happens. Yikes!
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE OFFLOADED FROM YOUR FLIGHT
30. CANCEL EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE CANCELLED. The harsh truth is you won’t get any compensation AT ALL when you get offloaded from your flight (so don’t even try to raise this argument with the IO). So when you get offloaded, cancel the hotel bookings and tours that you already booked. Hotels will probably charge you for just one night, and the rest is fine. Try to save any amount that you can save.
31. KNOW THE IMMIGRATION OFFICERS’ DUTY. Know so you can understand where they are coming from. These people are not there just to stamp our passports. They are there to prevent illegal/undesirable aliens from coming in the country and for our fellow Filipinos from being subject to human trafficking aside from many other things. They have a lot on their plate so don’t think that they are just there to annoy/offload you or they did it on purpose.
32. MOVE ON. I know it’s very hard to do this, but there’s nothing you can do. It sucks. But think of it from a different perspective. Maybe it’s not yet your time, and a bigger and better trip is in store for you! :)
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS - AIR PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS
Once you’re through with the IOs, you will now go through another phase which is boarding the aircraft. Most of the time you have to wait, and usually, flight gets delayed longer than usual. 1 or 2 hours is understandable but 6 hours?? No way! It is important to know the Air Passenger Bill of Rights as provided by the Civil Aeronautics Board and I’m summarizing it here:
RIGHT TO BE INFORMED- Right of the consumer to be informed of the complete terms and conditions of the contract of carriage, among others. This shall appear on the ticket and boarding pass. For online bookings, the customers must be informed at least twice of such terms and conditions.
RIGHT TO NON-MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS- This requires air carriers to disclose all other mandatory fees and charges, including government taxes and fuel surcharges, in their fare advertisements.
RIGHT TO BOARD THE AIRCRAFT- In case of overbooking which is not outrightly prohibited, the air carrier is mandated to seek volunteers who would be willing to give up their seats for reasonable compensation. In case the volunteers are not enough to accommodate all booked passengers, the air carrier is required to increase further the offer to entice sufficient volunteers. The air carrier may not bump off passengers without their consent.
RIGHT TO COMPENSATION AND AMENITIES IN CASE OF CANCELLATION OF FLIGHT- In case of cancellation of a passenger’s flight, the air carrier is obligated to provide sufficient refreshments, hotel accommodation, transportation from the airport to the hotel, free phone calls, texts or emails and first aid, if necessary. Furthermore, the passenger must be reimbursed for the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges, or endorsed by another air carrier or rebooked to the next flight available without additional charge.
RIGHT TO COMPENSATION AND AMENITIES IN CASE OF FLIGHT DELAY- This gives rise to rights similar to when the flight of the passenger is canceled. However, if the delay extends to at least six hours from the estimated time of departure, the flight will be considered canceled, and the rights afforded to passengers booked in canceled flights will apply. Moreover, the passenger will be entitled to receive additional compensation. Nevertheless, if the air carrier pushes through with the flight despite the delay of more than six hours, the passenger has the option to board such flight.
I hope this article will be of help to you! Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll surely get through our Philippine Immigration, and you’ll be bound to your dream destination. Happy and safe travels! Xx
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