According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who worked abroad at any time during the period April to September 2014 were estimated at 2.3 million. Out of this population, 6.4 percent work abroad Singapore, trailing third along Saudi Arabia (24.8 percent) and United Arab Emirates (15.6 percent).
Even if Singapore OFWs comprise just 6.4 percent of the total OFW population, they are the ones who regularly go home to the Philippines, given its proximity to the country (roughly 3-hours air travel) and its currency position in the global market, being a first world country (SGD1 = Php33, more or less equivalent to the Australian dollar).
This is the reason why most OFWs based in Singapore planning to go home for a vacation should know more about exit clearances. Returning Filipino workers abroad need to obtain an overseas employment certificate (OEC) to be documented as OFW.
OFWs in Singapore and Exit Clearances
Returning OFWs, or what the government calls Balik Manggagawa, should familiarize themselves on what is an OEC and how do they go about obtaining one.
What is an OEC?
An OEC, Overseas Exit Clearance, is a documentary requirement issued to an OFW traveling back to the Philippines with the intention of returning to the country of his employment, to the same employer. This ensures that the Balik Manggagawa is properly documented.
It is presented to the POEA Labor Assistance counter (LAC) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the airport upon departure.
This allows OFWs to be exempt from travel tax and airport terminal fees.
Once issued, an OEC is valid for sixty (60) days. For OECs issued by the Labor Assistance Centers (LACs) at the airports, it is only valid for one (1) day.
What are the forms of Exit Clearance?
- Overseas Employment Certificate
- E-receipt (electronic receipt)
- Multiple Travel Exit Clearance (MTEC)
To save time, a returning OFW can also apply for an MTEC. It can be used for at least three (3) exits within the validity period of the existing contract of the worker whose contract with the same employer has a duration of not less than twelve (12) months from the date of application for travel exit clearance. MTEC shall strictly be used for travel to the worker’s job site.
What are the requirements to obtain an OEC?
The documentary requirements for Balik Manggagawa are the following:
- Proof of existing employment (such as valid employment contract, employment certificate, valid company ID, pay slips)
- Passport valid for at least 6 months from the time of departure
- Valid visa / re-entry permit / work permit or equivalent document
- Filled-out OFW information sheet
The fees for processing the OEC are:
- POEA processing fee – Php 100.00
- OWWA membership fee – US$25 or its peso equivalent (per contract basis)
- PhilHealth – Php 900.00 (good for 1 year coverage)
- Pag-Ibig membership – Php 100 (minimum)
How do you apply for an OEC?
OFWs can apply for their OECs at Philippine embassies or consulates abroad, at Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), at POEA offices in the Philippines, or via Teleserv Express Clearance System.
Labor Assistance Centers (LAC) at international airports in Manila, Cebu and Mindanao can also issue OECs. OEC issuance at LACs is limited to those classified as regular balik manggagawa, vacationing workers, rehires, POLO-registered workers – with confirmed airline bookings on the date of request of BM OEC issuance, and whose home leave does not exceed five (5) days.
OECs are usually issued on the same day of application, depending on staff availability and queues.
OFWs in Singapore may apply for the OEC either in the Philippines or in Singapore.
What is the Balik-Manggagawa System (BM)?
The Balik-Manggagawa System (BM) is a system that allows OFWs to apply for their OECs online. They can set an appointment on their own and print the certificate themselves.
Inaugurated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz last 2014, it has served at least 75,000 Singapore-based OFWs, on top of all other OFWs based in other countries using the system. It has helped ease the long queues at embassies and sped up the processing of certificates, improving the overall experience of returning OFWs.
For more clarifications on how the BM system works, click here.
Author’s bio: Jonathan is the Head Business Development of OFWguru.com, a job listing website for OFWs. On his free time, he likes to read the news especially those that concerns OFWs. He publishes articles that guide OFWs in their work abroad, from finding a job and adapting to diverse cultures, to stories about the ups and downs that OFWs go through in their life abroad.