Guide

Day 1 To Departure: A Guide To Exit Clearance Process In The Philippines

Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) is a term often used to refer to Filipino migrant workers, people with Filipino citizenship who reside in another country for a limited period of employment.

In a survey conducted last 2019 on Overseas Filipinos, the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who worked abroad at any time during the period April to September 2019 was estimated at 2.2 million.

Despite the relentless increase in number, working abroad entails a lot of effort. Besides complying with visa documentation in the aspiring OFW's sponsor country, there is one important document that should not be overlooked. Here's what you have to know about OEC and the entire process of exit clearance in the Philippines.

What is an OEC?

OEC stands for Overseas Employment Certificate.  This is the OFW’s travel exit clearance, which serves as proof of being a documented overseas worker.  Securing this shall grant you permission to leave the country not as a tourist but as an overseas worker.

The OEC is presented at immigration upon departure.  This shall only valid for 60 days from the issuance date.  Thus, if you’re planning to fly out of the country or planning your trip to the Philippines, your exit must fall in that 60-day period.

In a nutshell, an OEC will grant the OFW the following:

  • Legal exit from the Philippines as an overseas worker;
  • Proof of legal status as an OFW, which ensures government benefits, protection, and assistance;
  • Exemption from travel tax and terminal fees upon departure; and
  • Supporting document for application for OFW housing loan and personal loans in the Philippines.

Who can process the OEC?

Individuals who are hired by an employer overseas through a local agency will only need to compile the documents required as the agency will process OEC for them.  On the other hand, those who are hired directly by an overseas employer will have to do it themselves through their POEA and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) offices or through their online portal.

In this case, an applicant shall most likely opt for recruitment agencies.  This may look like the easier way out but no, there's so much more to expect in terms of this nitty-gritty business of getting you work abroad.  The government has made strict measures to protect every citizen by securing the best possible terms and conditions of employment.  This is also meant to ensure that each one's rights are protected in whichever country they may be working in.

Here's a quick overview of what OFWs, as well as their respective agencies, go through from preparing their documents to finally bidding farewell to family members at the airport.

Exit Clearance Process in the Philippines

Direct Hires

Last 26th of April 2018, a memorandum circular was issued in accordance with the POEA Rules and Regulations.  This generally stated that no employer shall directly hire an Overseas Filipino Worker for overseas employment except for the following:

a. Members of the diplomatic corps;

b. International organizations;

c. Heads of state and government officials with the rank of at least deputy minister; ord.

d. Other employers as may be allowed by the Secretary of Labor and Employment, such as:

  • Those provided in (a), (b), and (c) who bear a lesser rank, if endorsed by the POLO, or Head of Mission in the absence of the POLO;
  • Professionals and skilled workers with duly executed/authenticated contracts containing terms and conditions over and above the standards set by the POEA.  The number of professional and skilled Overseas Filipino Workers hired for the first time by the employer shall not exceed five (5).  For the purpose of determining the number, workers hired as a group shall be counted as one; or
  • Workers hired by a relative/family member who is a permanent resident of the host country.

If you have already identified which from these exceptions is applicable to you, then you may proceed to following these steps indicated below.

Step 1: Visa Stamping

Requirements for Canadian Visa

  1. Accomplished Family Information Form
  2. Valid Passport
  3. Digital photo
  4. Proof of Purpose of Travel
  5. Travel History
  6. Proof of Means of Financial Support
  7. Business Registration Documents
  8. Letter of Explanation
  9. Visa Fee and Biometrics Fee

Step 2: Submission of Documentary Requirements

  1. Verified/authenticated original employment contract which is over and above the POEA-prescribed employment contract
  2. Passport valid at least six (6) months from the date of intended departure
  3. Valid and appropriate visa or work permit
  4. Certificate of medical fitness
  5. Proof of certificate of insurance coverage covering at least the benefits provided under Section 37-A of RA 8042, as amended
  6. Certificate of attendance to the required employment orientation/briefing
  7. Clearance from the Secretary of Labor and Employment for those covered under Section 124 (d) of these Rules

Step 3: Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar

The online seminar is free.  There are 8 modules, each with an assessment test that takes around 7 minutes on average to finish.  After completing all modules, domestic-helpers-wanna-be will receive a PEOS Certificate which can be used as a complementary certificate when finding a job.

How to take the seminar?

  1. Go to www.peos.poea.gov.ph. Sign up by filling out the form and log in.
  2. Read through the 8 modules.
  3. Revise and take the Modular Assessment Test before moving on to the next module so that you understand the material very well.
  4. Test results will be sent via email after all modules are completed. A Certificate of Completion will also be attached in the email. Users can print and submit it to POEA directly.

Step 4: Medical Exam

The POEA has a list of Department of Health (DOH)-accredited clinics for the OFW medical screening.  They have a specific format and set of tests for the OFW’s “fit to work” medical certificate, so it’s important that you go to an accredited clinic.

Step 5: Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar

PDOS is short for the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar, which is a compulsory program an applicant must take before given clearance to exit the Philippines for work abroad.

The seminar is specific to region or country, meaning there are different seminars for different domestic work destinations. These seminars are facilitated by people who have previously worked in those destination countries.  PDOS provides modules about:

  • migration facts
  • destination country culture and facts
  • labor law, rights, and employment contract
  • health and safety
  • financial literacy and practices
  • government programs and services available for OFWs
  • travel procedures and advice

Step 6: OEC Application

OEC stands for Overseas Employment Certificate.  This is the OFW’s travel exit clearance, which serves as proof of being a documented overseas worker.  Securing this shall grant you permission to leave the country not as a tourist but as an overseas worker.

The OEC is presented at immigration upon departure.  This shall only valid for 60 days from the issuance date.  Thus, if you’re planning to fly out of the country or planning your trip to the Philippines, your exit must fall in that 60-days period.

In a nutshell, an OEC will grant the OFW the following:

  • Legal exit from the Philippines as an overseas worker;
  • Proof of legal status as an OFW, which ensures government benefits, protection, and assistance;
  • Exemption from travel tax and terminal fees upon departure; and
  • Supporting document for application for OFW housing loan and personal loans in the Philippines.

Walk-in application

  • Compile the documents.
  • Proceed to POEA’s main office at EDSA corner Ortigas Avenue, Mandaluyong City (Balik-Manggagawa Processing Division/BMPD), or at any of their regional offices.
  • Labor Assistance Counters at Manila, Cebu, and Mindanao airports (only for returning OFWs who are staying in the Philippines for five days or less)

Online application

  1. Go to bmonline.poea.gov.ph to access the Balik manggagawa online processing system
  2. Fill up the form carefully, use a valid and working email address.  Once done tick the “I accept the terms of service.”  A new window will pop-up, choose 'accept'
  3. Go to Sign Me Up (located at the lower part of the ‘New User?’ frame).  New window will pop-up. Just choose ‘Okay’
  4. Check your email account (the one you used to register with POEA).  Wait for the email sent by POEA (also check your spam folder) sometimes emails are stored there for whatever reason
  5. Click the confirmation link. It will send you back to Balik Manggagawa Website.  A window will pop-up again telling that you account just got activated
  6. Log-in now to your account under the ‘Already Registered’ frame.  Use your email address and password
  7. New window will pop-out asking for the OEC number verification (enter the last issued OEC number).  Since you are New balik manggagawa account users, you should choose the ‘Click Here’ to book for an appointment.  (You will then be forwarded to new page)
  8. Fill out the Personal Data form completely.  Make sure that you supply information on asterisks (*) mark fields as you won’t be able to proceed to the next page without completing it.  Then hit Save

Needed information: Passport number and expiration, visa validity, birthplace, SSS, Philhealth, Pag-IBIG, local mobile phone number, mother’s full maiden name, and many others.

  1. Personal data summary will show up.  Edit it to make some corrections.  Edit link is located adjacent to Personal Data.
  2. Complete the second form (Contact Particulars). Fill up the company / employer/ position.  There are choices in the dropbox.  Make sure that you choose exactly the one shown in the dropbox.  You may also edit it as you please to the next page. Save the changes.  Needed information: Salary, departure date and arrival, and contract duration.
  3. Complete the third form (Legal beneficiaries / Qualified Dependents).  Supply the needed information, then save.
  4. Go to the next step. A new window will pop-up asking for your flight schedule, supply the information accordingly.  Then submit.
  5. You will now choose the closest POEA office based on your current location.  Then hit next.
  6. Choose your desired date and time based on the available schedule, for your appointment.
  7. A new window will pop-up showing the copy of your print out form.  Review it the details on it once again.
  8. Print your OEC

Agency Hires

If you’re hired through an agency, you'll be less stressed with all the manual paperwork for you to run.  The need to authenticate your employer’s papers is handled entirely by the agency.  However, the job application won't be easy because you're going to different hoops and try to outmatch other candidates for the employment that you’re applying for.  Most agencies conduct massive hiring and do processing by batch so you'll have to wait and leave it all up to the timeline of the said agency.

During recruitment, expect that you’ll have to go through a series of scheduled interviews.  While other may be fortunate enough to finish this within a few days, most applicants will take a few weeks, or even months! So, not only is it challenging because of the number of people that you have to outwit, but also because of how dragging it can get.

Step 1: Submission of Documentary Requirements

a. Request for processing (RFP) using the POEA-prescribed form indicating the following:

  1. name of OFW
  2. position
  3. salary
  4. contract duration
  5. job site
  6. particulars of certificate of cover of mandatory insurance
  7. name of principal based on the POEA-approved master employment contract

b. Passport valid at least six (6) months from the intended date of departure

c. Valid and appropriate visa

d. Individual verified employment contracts for low/semi-skilled workers

e. One-page summary of the contract for other highly-skilled and professional Overseas Filipino Workers containing the following basic contract provisions:

  1. name, birthdate, and sex of the worker
  2. name of employer
  3. job site
  4. position
  5. basic salary, overtime pay, and allowances
  6. food and accommodation
  7. contract duration
  8. mandatory insurance provider and certificate of cover/policy number

f. Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar (PEOS) and Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) Certificates

g. Certificate of medical fitness issued by DOH-accredited medical clinics for OFWs

h. Educational attainment

i. TESDA Skill Certification

Now these next steps will be duly accomplished by the agency you are working with.

Step 2: Accreditation

Requirements for Accreditation of the Principal/Employer

A. General Requirements:

  1. Recruitment Agreement
  2. Job Order indicating the positions, the number of positions required, and salary per position
  3. Copy of valid commercial registration and business license of the principal issued and authenticated by the chamber of commerce or a relevant government office, including information on business activities, number of years in operation, and volume/size of the current labor force
  4. Master employment contract signed on all pages by the principal or his/her authorized representative
  5. Contingency plan as may be applicable

B. Additional Requirements:

B.1. For Foreign Placement Agencies

  1. Business license or valid commercial registration of the actual employer hiring skilled Overseas Filipino Workers
  2. Master employment contract from the employer, signed jointly in all pages by theFPA and the actual employer or his/her authorized representative
  3. Manpower Request from the employer
  4. Service agreement between the FPA and the client/employer
  5. FPAs hiring domestic workers shall be required to put up an escrow account with a bank authorized by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to handle trust accounts, with a deposit in the amount of Fifty Thousand United States Dollars (USD50,000.00). The escrow deposit shall answer for all valid and legal claims arising from violations of contracts of employment
  6. Undertaking by the FPA/employer to monitor the employment of Overseas FilipinoWorkers and to submit a report of significant incidents relative thereto

B.2. For Staffing/Sourcing Company

  1. The list of names and addresses of its clients
  2. Manpower request from the client
  3. Service agreement between the company and its clients

Step 3: Issuance of Accreditation Certificate

The Administration/POLO shall issue, upon full compliance with the requirements, a certificate of accreditation duly signed by an authorized officer, which shall contain the following information:

a. Name of the employer/company

b. Complete business address, email address, contact number

c. Name of authorized representative

d. Validity period

e. Date of issuance

Step 4: Registration

The POEA shall register a principal/employer duly accredited by the POLO upon submission of the certificate of accreditation by the POLO, including the supporting documents.

Step 5: Processing of Agency-Hires' Documentary Requirements

Note: The minimum deployment age and the minimum salary of a domestic worker shall be determined by the POEA Governing Board.

Step 6: Issuance of OEC

While agencies are known to make the process a lot easier for aspiring OFWs, you have to be vigilant enough in order to protect yourself.  Before you pursue a job offer and start processing or paying any fee for an employment agency, make sure that you verify their legitimacy first beforehand.  You can go to poea.gov.ph and check out the complete list of licensed and accredited agencies.

How to get an OEC Exemption?

Only OFWs who are returning to the same employer or workplace and have a record in the POEA database can be exempted from securing an OEC.

To get an OEC exemption, log in to your BM Online account before your scheduled return to your employer.  Then click on “Acquire OEC or Exemption.”  If you’re exempted, the system will display a confirmation message with your BM Exemption number and pre-departure instructions on what documents to present at the airport.

Guidelines on Departure Formalities

Now, you have finally arrived to the stage where you've done packing your bags and you've made past all the necessary procedures and actions. But wait, there are a few things to note on departure formalities.

1. First Time Overseas Filipino Workers

1.1 Travelers under this classification shall present the following documents as validated by the Labor Assistance Center (LAC):

a. Passport

b. Visa

c. Airline/Seacraft Tickets

d. Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC)

1.2 Allowable Visa Usage (Based on POEA Rules and Regulations)

Should there be any discrepancy in the actual job position/job title in the visa and in the Overseas Employment Certificate, travel may nevertheless be allowed provided that the POEA through its LAC has validated and approved the variance based on the following:

a. The visa category is related to the workers’ position or in line with the principal’s nature of business;

b. The recruitment agency executes an Undertaking on Visa Usage; and

c. The worker is aware of the visa discrepancy situation and has executed a Declaration of Awareness and Consent.

1.3 Instance When Visa Usage is NOT Allowed (Based on POEA Rules and Regulations)

The use of Visa Usage Undertaking (VUU), however, does not, and can never, apply to Household Service Workers (HSW).  The visa category should be strictly for household-based positions, otherwise, a traveler will not be cleared for departure and the aforementioned documents shall be confiscated for further investigation and appropriate action.

1.4 For Acts Involving Reprocessing of Contracts and Other Documents

OFWs in possession of “reprocessed” documents shall not be cleared for departure.

Based on R.A. No. 10022, the following constitute acts of reprocessing:

The job description/position as indicated in the work visa is different from all other pertinent documents such as the Overseas Employment Certificate, the PDOS Certificate, among others;

The actual job as promised or offered is different from the actual overseas work as indicated in the pertinent papers; and

All documents used under the afore-mentioned provision shall be confiscated and turned over to the POEA for further investigation and appropriate action.

2. Balik-manggagawa/ Returning Workers

2.1 The following OFWs fall under the category of Balik-Manggagawa/Returning Workers:

a. Worker-on-Leave – a worker who is on vacation or on leave from employment under a valid and existing employment contract and who is returning to the same employer, regardless of any change in the job site, to finish the remaining unexpired portion of the contact.b. Rehire – a worker who was rehired by the same employer after finishing his/hercontact and who is returning to the same employer, regardless of a change in the job site.c. POLO registered worker – a returning worker whose employment contract was not processed with the POEA but was subsequently verified and registered with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the job site and who is returning to the same employer either as a worker-on-leave or rehire, regardless of any change in the job site.  The same employer/principal refers to the current employer of the worker at the time he/she came home for vacation and to whom he/she is returning to resume employment upon return to the job site.

2.2 Balik-Manggagawa OFWs shall be required to present the following:

a. Passport b. Valid visa c. Airline/sea Craft Ticket d. OEC issued onsite by the POLO or by the POEA

2.3 In case of incomplete or questionable documentary requirements, the OFW shall be referred to the POEA-LAC for further investigation and appropriate action.

3.Overseas Filipino Workers on vacation but visiting other countries before returning to original worksite/destination

A Balik-Manggagawa OFW with a valid visa and existing work contact who intends to go to other countries while on vacation need not get a POEA travel exit clearance/OEC. Hence, he/she is considered a tourist and is not exempt from travel tax and terminal fee, but shall be allowed to travel.

The road to becoming a legit Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) will be strenuous and demanding.  But once you're able to surpass all these, you'll surely be proud of yourself not only for your personal milestone but of the contribution you'll be bringing to country's economy and progress!

Last edited: 10/07/2020

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