GOING THROUGH THE IMMIGATION OF THE PHILIPPINES ON A TOURIST VISA
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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