In response to widespread protests and concerns from lawmakers, businesses, the travel industry, and commuter groups, a recent move to impose stricter immigration checks on certain outbound Filipino travelers has been temporarily suspended. These travelers were to be subjected to additional documentation requirements beyond the standard passport, ticket, and e-travel log, which were mandatory for boarding. The implementation of these new measures, which were originally slated to take effect on Sunday, September 3, 2023, has been halted.
The decision to suspend the new guidelines was announced by Manila authorities, specifically by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The initial aim of these measures was to combat human trafficking.
Under the now-suspended guidelines, Filipinos planning international travel were required to provide specific documents to prove their financial capacity or a reliable source of income, as well as evidence of employment.
These new travel rules for outbound Filipino passengers were outlined in the 2023 Revised Inter-Agency Task Force Against Trafficking (IACAT) Guidelines on Departure Formalities for Internationally-Bound Filipino Passengers, designed to address human trafficking concerns.
The proposed guidelines, approved by IACAT, granted immigration officers considerable discretion to request “travel documents” from outbound Filipino travelers, in addition to the standard requirements of a ticket, visa, and passport.
This suspension follows a decision by the Philippine Department of Justice issued on August 31, 2023.
The additional documents that travelers would have been required to furnish included proof of employment, proof of financial capacity, bank statements, and proof of hotel booking or accommodation, especially for first-time Overseas Filipino workers or first-time travelers.
In cases where the journey was sponsored by a third party, travelers would have had to provide an array of documents, including a work visa and an overseas employment certificate. Furthermore, in addition to the standard passport, visa, and ticket documentation, they would have been mandated to provide consularized or notarized “affidavits of support and guarantee,” along with the sponsor’s registration papers.
The temporary suspension of these measures offers some relief to Filipino travelers and will likely be welcomed by various stakeholders who raised concerns about the potential logistical and financial burdens these new requirements could place on travelers, particularly those traveling abroad for the first time. The decision also underscores the importance of striking a balance between national security and the ease of travel for citizens.