By Mary Charie / 07/06/2017


A Mary Road Backpack (2)

Tingloy, Philippines

My frustration with finding the perfect recipe to perfect a smooth, hassle-free flow of going through (out) the immigration control of the Philippines has reached the next level, obviously. I mean, really? Who writes something about this? I do, because my not-so-strong passport requires braving even the airports in my own country.

When I first flew out of the country, I had a Schengen visa on my passport, therefore, the immigration control experience was smooth, easy, and no hassle. I was surprised of course, after all the horrifying stories I’ve heard from everyone, I did not expect my own experience to be easy.

Since I have been publishing articles about travelling especially visa guides, one of the hardest questions I have to answer every single day is – Will they let me through the immigration control if I’m on a tourist visa? Read here the reason why this is the golden question for Filipino travellers.

RELATED POST: Check out this list of VISA-FREE Countries for Philippines Passport holders

TIP: Use the table of contents below to navigate faster

Schengen Tourist Visa

My second Schengen Visa, first tourist visa

It truly breaks my heart to have no answer for this since I only passed through the passport control with a quick flash of my Schengen visa. Not in the plan but I ended up asking the golden question to myself when I returned to the Philippines after living and travel abroad for three and a half years.

With no “real job” it will take me some luck to be able to convince the immigration officer to let me out of the country again. Fast forward to five months after I went home, I booked my flight to Malaysia, secured all the documents I might need to be able to leave the country.

The longest day of my life was when I woke up at seven in the morning to get ready to head to the airport in eighteen hours. My heart was in my stomach, I was shaking all day, I couldn’t think straight neither could I think of anything else other than what will happen.

Fast forward 18 hours later, I was standing in front of the departure area of NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3 to check in. First, I had to pay the terminal fee which I was not prepared for, I checked online and it says it’s Php1,200.00. When I get to the desk, I had to run to the ATM to get extra cash since the total amount was Php1,620.00.

Next step was to check in myself with the airline. I hate going through that, to be honest, since I travel with a carry-on backpack, I can easily just use a self-service check in. I checked in myself, scanned my passport, and printed my boarding pass. I headed to the immigration control, if you have experienced being offloaded, you surely understand how anxious I was that time.

I entered the immigration control area, I have to fill out a form, local travellers leaving the country need to fill out a form stating their personal details. After that, I proceeded to the queue of the passport control.

Tip: Pick up a form, stand in the queue while filling out the form. Bring your own pen!

Tips on Passing The Immigration Control of the Philippines on a Tourist Visa

1. Spot the happy one

Without being creepy, observe the people in charge behind the glass window. Spot who looks friendly or happy or in the good mood. There were three people in charge at the time I passed through. There were one girl and two guys. I observed who looked happy, the guy on the last window was joking with the travellers he was assisting, that’s who I will go for.

The middle guy looks like a tough one, he was talking to one passenger when I heard the passenger said: “Can I make a call?”. I don’t know what’s that about but I will definitely not going for that guy. The girl looks friendly enough but she seems tired. Besides, I’m a girl, maybe going for the guy is much smarter?

2. Greet and Smile

It’s an old way of showing courtesy, however, flashing a smile and a simple hello is a good thing to do in the immigration process, based on my own experience. Look in the eye of the person in charge whilst you are talking, this sends more sincerity with your answer.

3. Place your document smartly

Make sure it’s easy to access the documents you need, it’s not very attractive to look so stress when fishing your documents in your not so well packed bag. I have been saving PDF files on my mobile phone, this makes my life a lot easier. Plus you will look like a well-experienced traveller.

4. Relax

I know it’s not easy to relax when you don’t know if your flight ticket will go to waste or not. But keep in mind, these are the situations that are out of your control. The best thing you can do is be honest, complete your documents, and not look stressed out when facing the immigration officers.

VietnamvVisa Guide

My Vietnam visa

What Happened When I Crossed the Immigration Control

After I ran to the immigration officer I should go for, I handed my passport, ticket, boarding pass, the form I filled out, and the terminal fee receipt. The guy behind the window asked for my job right away.

“Writer? Can you be more specific? He said.

“I write for publishing websites.” I said not very confidently.

“Like freelancing?” He asked.

“Yeah, blogs and such.” I muttered knowing I sounded too suspicious.

“Will you be heading to Denmark after Malaysia or coming back here?” He asked.

“Oh no, I’m going back here” I answered. I was puzzled by his question though.

Next thing I know, I heard him leave a stamp on my passport and I’m good to go. So, what happened? Why was it so easy? Since I cannot ask him what is actually the trick to pass through the immigration, I have some conclusion about the situation.

My passport have two Schengen visas both from Denmark, they are both expired as well. I have a lot of stamps from different Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, and European countries. I think this made my passport and my case strong.

Why did he ask about going back to Denmark?

I think, he didn’t spend enough time to check my Schengen visas. I believe he assumed that they are still valid visas.

How About The Question About My Job

I wrote down “writer”. Most of the time, I tell people I’m a writer, not a blogger because first, it gives a better impression, sadly. Second, I hate talking about my job as a blogger. So, I decided to put on the form “writer” as a job. To me, it looks like freelance writers can actually say “I’m a freelancer, that’s my job” to the immigration officers, then it will be acceptable. It’s hard to say if you need to prepare a proof that you are an authentic freelance writer. Of course, I was ready to show him my website in case he asks for some reference, although I was not very sure if it will help.

Myanmar Visa guide

My Myanmar visa

I Have Never Been Out of the Country, Will it Be Hard for Me?

That’s another thing to take into account. If you have a full-time job, especially works for the government, there’s absolutely no way for them to say no to you even it’s your first time to travel out of the country. If you cannot provide a work certificate, a good standing bank account, a return ticket, I think it will be hard to pass this one. But don’t fret, I do believe honesty is the key. As long as your main purpose is to travel and not to do anything illegal (work without a permit, overstay in a country without a visa, etc), you should be fine.

RELATED POST: Affordable Destinations Outside the Philippines

Can I Go Through the Immigration Control Easily If I Able to Provide a Roof that I am a Freelancer and Without a Full-Time Job? On a Tourist Visa?

If I will be completely honest, it’s hard to say. I do believe that luck plays a big part in this situation. What if the guy noticed that my Schengen visa was expired? What if I was asked by an immigration officer who was having a bad day? Or someone who’s very strict with their rules?

I really really wish I could give an answer to this question, so everything will be well and alright. I think there’s no way to find out but to try it. You might waste some money if you won’t be able to use or refund your ticket. I’d say that it’s all about taking a risk and finding answers.

Georgia Visa Guide

What If They Didn't Allow Me to Leave The Country? What Would have I done?

I love plan Bs, I have thought about this already if they didn’t let me through. I will cry surely, maybe for days. My friend who I will meet in Malaysia decided that if I won’t be successful in my adventure going through the immigration control, he will come and rescue me! He will fly to the Philippines then we can leave together. We both believe this is a good option as they can see that I will be travelling with another traveller and not be falling into a trap with some stranger or plan to work illegally in Malaysia.

I also thought of applying for a real job, save more money, then try again in six month’s time.

I hope this article answered some of your questions. If you have any specific question, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or leave your comment below.


About the author

Mary Charie

She's the person behind this blog, she has been travelling since 2013. Torn between her itchy feet and writing, Mary found herself soaking up in the world of travel blogging. She travels on her own terms and tries to build her own world whilst pushing herself into every corner of life, breaking limit beyond her capabilities.

Mariz - 08/02/2019

Hi Good Day, I just want to ask. I have a Philippine passport and I plan on traveling to Greece this December. I only plan on purchasing a one way ticket as i am not really sure yet until when I will stay. My question, can I at least show the immigration officer an unpaid reservation ticket which i can easily cancel until i board the flight?

    Mary Charie - 09/02/2019

    Hi Mariz,

    My best advice is to book a flight on Expedia, you can cancel without a fee 24 hours after you booked the flight. Hope this helps.

Stephanie chin - 15/01/2019

I think the answer to why it was easy for you is because mainly immigration officers profile passengers at the start of the queue. They observe how you behave, docs you are carrying, docs you present, etc. There are a million reasons your profile can be suspicous, but in your case, it seemed that the officer has didnt see anything suspicous hence, just a few clarificatory questions if incase you raise any red flags. Hope this helps

    Mary Charie - 16/01/2019

    Hi Stephanie,

    Appreciate your input. Although I do believe my past Schengen visas helped a lot, while I also take “luck” into consideration. If the IO noticed that my Schengen visas were expired, the situation could have turned a different route.

Lorraine - 04/06/2018

Hi.. do you have any idea about the business visa in Vietnam? Is business Visa safe to use rather than tourist Visa since I’ve never been to out of country, and I dont also have a bank account? One of the company in Vietnam will provide me a business visa. tnx.

Jelly - 24/02/2018

Hi, This blog is very informative but i do have question;
I got a Tourist Visa for Australia however i just realized that my middle name isnt showing on my Visa which my passport has. Will i get offloaded even if my i do have all the supporting documents. ? Help!

    Mary Charie - 25/02/2018

    Hi Jelly, I think I already replied to your email x

Justine Catacutan - 06/02/2018

Hi. Your story was very helpful, and I just have a few questions.

I booked a round trip ticket from MNL to Vietnam last month. I will be traveling as a tourist for 4 days. I have my passport, Certificate of Employment for Travel are these documents enough for me to get through the NAIA immigration?

Airene - 02/12/2017

What if I have a tourist visa from Manila to Istanbul, and I have no credit card, ?only cash? Is it acceptable?

    Mary Charie - 02/12/2017

    Hi Airene,

    I personally haven’t tried that myself. But if you can show a work certificate, leave of absence approval letter from your work, and bank certificate, plus return ticket and hotel bookings, I see no reason for you to be off loaded.

Ren - 02/10/2017

Hi Mary,
Feels great that I read your blog. Me and my husband have had D type cel wydania visa going to Poland. Our flight is on Friday night, my concern is also about the immigration control. We are OFW before in Dubai then resigned and went back home in Philippines. We got the visa from our employer to Poland and have a working permit in our hands. My question is, what might be the IO ask for more supporting document so that we could pass through?

    Mary Charie - 03/10/2017

    Hi Ren,

    Thanks for reading. I personally haven’t got any experience with this. With my experience with IO, I would suggest you prepare you accommodation certificate or whatever your employer provided to you, contract of your job, passport copy of your employer, their business certificate (to provide that the company exists). So far, this is all I think what’s important. If something else pops in my head, I’ll add this on this comment 🙂

Mae - 14/08/2017

Just wanna ask, so during your first travel abroad you had a schengen visa type C and in the immigration they let you through easily??? or they asked you some questions ?

Thanks for the response 🙂

    Mary Charie - 15/08/2017

    Hi Mae, thanks for reading! I had a Schengen visa type D since it’s a temporary residence permit but not allowed to work. And yes, no questions were asked. My second one was a Schengen tourist visa type C but I flew out from Vietnam and not the Philippines. Hope this helps!

    Mae - 15/08/2017

    Oh! Thank you for the response 🙂 ! I love your blogs by the way !

    Mary Charie - 17/08/2017

    Thank you so much! That means a lot xx

Cam - 15/07/2017

What if my situation is:
First time traveller
Meeting a friend
Going to Central America
A 20 year old fresh graduate

Will I pass through?

    Mary Charie - 16/07/2017

    Hi Cam! This is a tricky situation to be honest, but if you have enough funds on your bank account, can prove you are a freelancer (print out your profile or work that you have done), do you get paid through Paypal? Print that out. If you have the chance, I really suggest you try to travel around Southeast Asia first to make your passport more appealing.

    Hope this helps!

mai - 09/06/2017

I would say, in your status you’re such a lucky girl for passing through the immigration. But I sure believe that they feel your honesty.
‘Good job little monkey 😀
Keep safe.

    Mary Charie - 15/06/2017

    I think you’re right, sis! Thanks for dropping by <3 <3 much appreciated! xx

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