How to Avoid Being Offloaded: 6 Questions Immigration Asks at Manila Airports

There you are at the airport, with your luggage checked in, plane tickets confirmed, and money already exchanged to foreign currency. You’ve planned months and months for this trip, have got approval from your demanding boss, and have skipped buying milk teas just to save money like crazy. As you’re about to head to the boarding gate, all excited and ready to hop into the plane, you're in line at the immigration counter: nervous, worried, and scared to be offloaded. That’s when you kind of back off with all the excitement because let’s face it, sometimes, immigration officers’ questions are just too many and sometimes intimidating. 

When I hear dreadful stories told by Filipino travelers at immigration counters in Manila, I can’t help but feel bad for them. The worst thing that could happen on a leisure travel is what they call as “na-offload.”

What does na-offload mean

Being offloaded means you’re denied to leave the port of exit, such as an airport. Usually, it might be because your travel documents are found questionable or your answers to immigration questions are doubtful. With this, you may experience a delay in departure, miss the flight, and have to re-book it. For some, out of fear and frustration, they just decide not to push through with the trip.

Even if your sole purpose is to go on vacation, unwind for a bit, and that you'll return to the Philippines after a few days or weeks anyway, you get mislabeled as someone who might stay abroad illegally. Sadly, we, Filipinos have a history of overstaying or working abroad without proper papers, thus immigration officers tend to be strict so as to protect all citizens from illegal recruitment, employment abuse, and other maltreatment abroad.
As a solo female traveler holding a Philippine passport, my profile to travel is subject to many questions too. At times, it sucks to get questioned while you know to yourself you don't have any bad intention at all. Nevertheless, I'd say the key to get through is to know what to answer correctly and confidently..(as in confidently with a heart ;p).

So I've listed the most common questions asked by the immigration at Manila airports based on my experiences. Plus, I added a few tips on what to answer and what to do. If it’s your first time traveling abroad with no international trip and a travel history yet, then it’s highly possible to be asked with more questions than usual. Do not fret though. It’s not like you’re being singled out because the truth is, it may also happen to anyone else.

1. Where will you go? 

Saan po ang punta mo, ma’am/sir?” is the usual way immigration officers ask it (in all fairness, they ask politely). This is a question that requires a straight answer, so just be honest. Remember that it’s a way for immigration officers to check if you’re telling the truth and not hiding anything with regard to your purpose of travel.

What to answer: Simply say the country name. If you say the city name, better mention the country name too. When you are specific, the more you appear accurate with your answers. If you have multiple flights, you can say that your final destination is country “A” and you have a connecting flight in country “B” When asked about this, they usually look for your complete itinerary so just make sure you have this with you (preferably printed) and present it to the officer.

2. What’s the purpose of your travel?

Anong gagawin mo doon?” Not that the officer is such a Tito Boy who’s so chismoso to ask you this question. Again, it’s just a way for them to check if you’re telling the truth. You don’t have to be a Kris Aquino either to be a tell-all and talk too much on what you’ll do abroad.

What to answer: If you’ll go to that country as a tourist, you can simply say “For tourism or leisure.” That's the answer I say all the time. Moreover, I avoid elaborating on my replies if I ain’t requested to do so anyway. The golden rule is that less talk, less mistake.

3. Do you have relatives or friends there?

Now, this question is a bit tricky. For me, even if I have relatives and friends in the country I’m going to, I don’t declare them if I really don’t have plans to stay at their place and I booked an accommodation instead.

However, if your plan is to really stay at your relative or friend’s place, make sure you have the invitation letter with you or any document to prove the sponsorship. It will support your answer big time that you’re really invited by that person and he/she will be responsible to you while you’re in that place. I heard some cases that sponsors get contacted by the immigration to verify, so better prepare their contact details too and inform your sponsors of your departure date.

What to do: To bail out of being questioned a lot, you can simply find any accommodation in booking sites like that don’t charge a fee upon reservation. Simply print a copy and bring it at the airport. It’s up to you if you wish to cancel the reservation afterward. Just make sure the dates you book cover your entire stay because sometimes, immigration officers also look and magnify this detail.

4. Is this the first time you leave the country?

This question is often thrown at if the person doesn’t have any stamp on the passport yet. If it's your first time to travel abroad, then just make sure to have supporting documents to prove your purpose of traveling. These documents include round trip tickets (Note: Book a round-trip ticket, not one way), proof of accommodation, tour itinerary, and others.

However, if it isn’t your first time and you rather have a newly renewed passport with no stamp yet:
What to do: Using a rubber band, combine your old and new passports, with the newest on top. Put a rubber band on the back cover of the new passport, then attach the bio page of the old passport. In that way, immigration officer sees right away the bio page, which is an important page, and won’t take so much time turning the pages of your passport looking for the bio page.

5. How many days or until when will you travel?

Just be mindful of your travel dates. Again, this is the immigration officer's way to know if you’re aware of your itinerary. It’s important for them to know you’ll return on time and not overstay especially when your destination requires a visa that has a limited duration of stay for tourists.
What to answer: Simply inform the officer the date of your return. It will also be good to tell how many days. Remember: being specific is being realistic. Also, as mentioned, it’s best to present round-trip tickets. This proves that you’ll return to the Philippines and lessens the doubt that you’ll overstay in one country.

6. What’s your job?

When you fill up the departure card, there’s a field that asks for the occupation. Even if you’ve written your job title in that field already, still, immigration officers repeat the question “Anong trabaho mo?” Sometimes, they also ask the company name and how long have you been working there.

What to do: To back up your answer regarding your job, bring your company ID or a certificate of employment with you. Now, if you don’t have a current job, expect more questions from the immigration then. The thing is, being unemployed sparks the flame of doubt on whether you will just travel for tourism or you have plans to work abroad. To get away with this, you might have to present proof of financial means or proof you’re being sponsored by someone.

Have you ever been offloaded? What did you do?

How to Avoid Being Offloaded: 6 Questions Immigration Asks at Manila Airports How to Avoid Being Offloaded: 6 Questions Immigration Asks at Manila Airports Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 14.11.19 Rating: 5

1 comment:

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