Random Image Display on Page Reload

A balancing act for Immigration bureau

AFTER hogging the headlines in the past few months because of impertinent immigration officers asking for yearbooks as proof of graduation, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has again become the target of attacks on social media and among the general public.

Last week, its Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat) issued revised guidelines for Filipinos traveling abroad to protect citizens from human trafficking and illegal recruitment. The context for this is the almost 200 Filipinos who were lured to work in Thailand and ended up working for abusive cybercurrency syndicates in Myanmar.

Airport personnel check travelers’ documents near the immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City on April 4, 2023. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIAAirport personnel check travelers’ documents near the immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City on April 4, 2023. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

Airport personnel check travelers’ documents near the immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City on April 4, 2023. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

The updated departure rules, which take effect on September 3, have raised concerns. Some say the new rules echo the strict requirements before. Lawyers also reminded the Immigration bureau that mere guidelines cannot supersede the people's right to travel, which is enshrined in the Constitution.

However, BI officials clarified that the updated protocols “did not impose any additional burden” on departing travelers.

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said that the new guidelines merely list requirements for categories of departing Filipinos. “The guidelines have been here since 2012, which is more than a decade ago, and have been refined by Iacat to address concerns raised by the public. Departing tourists need not worry,” he said.

The move to revise the guidelines comes after a series of complaints from travelers who have reported missing their flights or being offloaded due to strict — even impertinent — questions from BI officers.

The Justice department pointed out that over 95 percent of travelers are required to present only the basic documents: a passport valid at least six months from the date of departure, a boarding pass, an appropriate visa, and a confirmed return or roundtrip ticket, when necessary.

According to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, the additional requirements will mostly apply to first-time travelers, who may pose as tourists but might have intentions to work abroad.

Showing proof of financial capacity “will only come in if the Filipino traveler is not able to adequately present and prove his purpose of travel, or in more regular parlance, when there are indications of red flags,” said Justice Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty, who is in charge of Iacat.

He said that people who have traveled before without any issues will likely be able to get through immigration quickly. Having documents such as proof of financial capacity or a certificate of employment “would be a very good way to go” for first-time travelers, Ty said.

For seasoned travelers, whose record of travel would be reflected in their passports, the basic documents will be sufficient, he said.

In addition to basic travel documents, an immigration officer may require a passenger to present supporting documents when applicable. Self-funded travelers may be asked to provide proof of accommodation, financial capacity or source1 of income, and proof of employment.

Travelers whose trips are sponsored by a relative within the first civil degree may need to present an original birth or marriage certificate or report of marriage, copies of the sponsor's passport, a valid work visa or residence permit, and an overseas employment certificate (for OFW sponsors).

The immigration officer may ask for a notarized original affidavit of support and guarantee and an original birth or marriage certificate or report of marriage if the sponsor falls within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to show the relationship between the traveler and sponsor.

Meanwhile, OFWs leaving for the first time may be asked to show OEC or OFW clearance issued by the Department of Migrant Workers along with a valid employment visa or work permit and an employment contract.

Primary inspections should last 45 seconds and secondary inspections 15 minutes, unless extraordinary circumstances require a longer period of inspection.

These are all well and good, but they may not reflect what happens on the ground. What are the updates on the cases filed by OFWs against immigration officers who allegedly asked for bribes? Has there been a re-training of immigration officers so they would stop inanely asking for things like yearbooks as proof of graduation?

How would freelancers and those in the gig economy show proof of income? And finally, have the dismal immigration officers' salaries been raised so that they now work with the same sense of dignity as the immigration officers in other lands?

So many questions still need answers, not a list of recycled guidelines.

*****
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

Check Also

Dissonant voices

Echoes from so many voices, including the silent ones who speak a lot. Like on …