Offloading: Philippine immigration officer reveals how BI spots fake travelers to Dubai and other destinations

Estimated read time 5 min read

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

An anonymous Philippine immigration officer (IO) has shared a now viral post with insights on how he spots fake travelers to Dubai and other destinations, and how legitimate travelers can prevent negative screening at Philippine airports.

The post came after authorities received social media flak when a Filipina tourist missed her flight after being asked “unreasonable” questions, including a demand to present her graduation yearbook, at the Philippine Immigration at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The post, shared by financial planner David Angway, has received thousands of reactions and has been shared more than 16,000 times on Facebook. Angway said he chose to protect the identity of the IO, who has worked for the Bureau of Immigration for a decade.

ALSO READ: David Angway calls for audit of PH immigration officers

The lengthy post shares insights from the IO on how they profile and check Filipino travelers to protect them from human trafficking.

“That’s reality. This is not discrimination. I stand firm on this because I couldn’t take it when I encountered an abused Filipina who was sent home from Saudi Arabia. She was too traumatized. She pretended to be a tourist bound for Hong Kong but jumped to Saudi Arabia instead,” the IO recounted.

“Everything you will read in this post are all about my personal experiences at the counter,” the IO said, adding that it cannot be used as basis for travelers to get clearance at immigration counters “because everything will be based on the totality of the circumstance on the day of your travel”. Here are the IO’s top tips:

Dress comfortably and appropriately

“Yes, your attire matters,” the IO admits, adding, “We are really judgmental.” The officer said that dressing comfortably and appropriately is particularly important for first-time travelers.

Jeans, shirt and sneakers are acceptable. “Avoid heels. It is tiring to run with heels at the airport. A legit or frequent traveler knows this so they mostly wear flats or sneakers,” the officer said.

“Dress appropriately according to the country of destination. If you have a ticket to Singapore but your destination is Dubai and you don’t want the IO to know, but since you flew in December and it’s winter in Dubai, you are wearing a jacket with fur. But it’s not cold in Singapore. So you will likely be offloaded because of the jacket,” the IO said.

Don’t bring heavy luggage

“The heavier your luggage, the more suspicious you become,” the IO said, adding that it is advisable for first-time travelers to book shorter trips and bring a lighter luggage to look “more legit” as a tourist.

Stop checking your phone

“If you keep on checking your phone, I have this presumption that you are talking with someone for instructions. Usually, victims of human trafficking have someone who is coaching them every step of the way. If I see you fidgeting with your phone, I already have prejudice against you and I will refer you for secondary inspection. Also, using of electronic devices is prohibited in the immigration area,” the officer said.

For lone travelers, the IO said acting calm and normal is important. “Stop checking your phone every minute. Why? Because we are particular with the demeanor of those in the queue. We profile you, from your shoes to your bags up to how you behave,” the officer said.

Don’t keep your documents in an envelope

The IO said that documents must be placed inside a bag. “That envelope, for me, is already a screaming red flag. I personally don’t want to see a legit tourist holding an envelope. You’re not applying for work,” the IO said.

“If you need to give a document to the officer, remove it from the envelop because the officer might think you are trying to give a bribe,” the IO added. The same applies for passports with jackets. “Only present documents when asked, if not, do not proactively present [them],” the officer said.

Phone, email, bank account checks are legal

On the issue of phone, email and bank account checks, the officer clarifies: “We are legally armed and protected to do this. Your rights to privacy is suspended at the borders, whether outbound or inbound.” The officer said the IO might insist on this procedure to check against fraud.

If previously offloaded, bring supporting documents

“Bring as much as possible whatever [supporting documents] the IO asked from you when you were offloaded,” the officer advised, adding that it is important to bring one’s airline ticket, hotel booking, certificate of employment with compensation, and a simple itinerary.

Travel with family

Traveling with family also increases your chances of being cleared to travel abroad. “We’re usually not that strict when families [travel together],” the officer said.

Answer questions respectfully

If an IO asks you why you want to travel to your country of destination, “don’t be sarcastic and say ‘because that’s what I want. What do you care?’”

“We would ask this to gauge your knowledge of the place you are supposed to visit. What if you have a ticket to Singapore and you say you want to visit Disneyland? They only have Universal Studios in Singapore,” the IO said. ICA/PIA/Expat Media

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