One of the many things you have to do once you’re an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) is apply for an OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) membership and request for an OEC (Overseas Employement Certificate) when you intend to visit the Philippines.
I don’t really know what’s the purpose of the OWWA for but it is mandatory if you’re an OFW. The OEC, on the other hand, is an exit clearance certificate. Without an OEC, the immigration officers at NAIA will not allow you to go back to your work country.
To be honest, I was oblivious about these things until I was standing at the POEA/Travel Tax counter at NAIA Terminal 3 last January. In fact, most of the things I know now about getting an OEC came from word of mouth only. There was no clear instruction or briefing as to how it’s done, even on the embassy’s website. This is why I figured I’ll write something about it, even if it doesn’t really cover my niche of topics.
Before I proceed, let me rant out how inconvenient this process is. I mean, why can’t we just have a universal or OFW card that you can use to present to the immigration officers? Less paper, more efficient. Anyway, I recommend that you process all these things WHILE you’re still in your work country and not when you’re visiting the Philippines. Don’t spoil your vacation.
Application of OWWA Membership
You can apply for the OWWA membership and/or request for an OEC at any POEA office if you are currently in the Philippines or at the PH Embassy (see the photo below, it looks like a house) of the country you are currently working for. View the requirements of the OWWA membership here (All links are for applicable for Singapore workers only).
Make an Appointment!
Recently, the Philippine Embassy here in Singapore launched an E-Appointment system to lessen the number of queue. You just need to go to their website, choose a date from the available appointment dates and fill up the form on the next page.
After filling up your particulars, you’ll be asked to print out three copies of the form. Should you wish to change or cancel the appointment, just go back to this page and choose the “Cancel Appointment” button.
Securing an Exit Clearance
Note: I’m not sure if you can still request for an OEC at Lucky Plaza (as stated in this blog post — a really helpful entry on how to get an OEC here in Singapore — that was posted last 2011).
Before you leave the house, make sure you’ve brought everything you need: A black or blue pen, three copies of the information sheet, original passport, work permit/pass, proof of OWWA membership and updated receipt of your Pag-Ibig fund contribution** and some money. Other requirements and details are listed here.
Upon arrival, the security guard told me to head to Window 1-4. I approached the window and since I was early, they gave me a queue number for the 1PM appointment. And because of the famous Filipino Time, the appointment began at 1:30PM. Fortunately, the process was fast and 15 minutes later, they finally called my number (I was #30).
I gave them all the documents they need and informed them that I want 5 OECs*** and told them that I don’t remember my Pag-Ibig number anymore (Last time I contributed was July 2008). Basically, they’ll just process everything in one go.
I had to wait for another 10-15 minutes until my name was called and the amount I had to pay. They don’t accept credit cards or NETS, so make sure you bring cash. An OWWA membership cost $42 (in NAIA 3, it was around PHP1100), while a Pag-Ibig fund contribution cost $5.50 and an OEC is $3/issue. Since I ordered 5 OECs and I’m already an OWWA member, I only paid S$20.50 (PHP670+).
All in all, it only took me an hour and a half of waiting. Just make sure you bring something (games, books, snacks) to entertain and feed yourself because you might face a lot of downtime. Or you can socialize with other Pinoys. :)
If you need to contact the embassy, use the email provided on their website. I had a hard time getting through their phone but I got a response within 24 hours via e-mail. :)
* Because I didn’t know, I had to apply for the OWWA membership at the POEA counter at NAIA Terminal 3. They gave me a bunch of forms to fill up which was severely time-consuming and almost cost me my flight back to Singapore. If you’re going to follow my footsteps (not advisable!), please go to the airport on an earlier time.
** If you’re not yet a member of OWWA or Pag-Ibig, just ask the people at the counter and they should give you forms to fill out (or they’ll just use the information sheet you’ve printed out). Please check the embassy’s website for the complete list of requirements first.
*** I don’t know how it works with other countries but here in Singapore, we’re allowed to secure multiple OECs that are valid for one year upon issue. I highly recommend getting at least 2-3 OECs, so you don’t have to go back to the Embassy every time you need to visit the Philippines (1 for Christmas, 1 for long weekends… National Day, errbody? 1 for birthdays, and so on).