Facing Fears of Getting Offloaded

I’ve been receiving questions on what to expect when facing PH immigration officers. I’ve also seen a lot of offloading stories recently so I understand how some people get extra nervous about their travels even if they’re just traveling for a quick vacation.

Why do passengers get offloaded?

Some passengers get offloaded for security reasons. Some lack documents. Some are just unfortunate.

When a passenger cannot convince an immigration officer of his/her purpose of travel and rootedness in his/her home country, that passenger will most likely get refused to board his flight. When a passenger declares to travel for leisure but shows unnecessary documents such as his/her diploma, TOR, etc, he/she will most likely get refused entry.

Overseas workers have their own set of documents to present to the immigration officer and I will not talk about this since I don’t have enough knowledge about the topic. I have only seen some overseas workers getting offloaded because they lack some documents.

In my opinion, Philippine immigration officers are stricter than other immigration officers because many Filipinos, sadly, are known to have bad travel records. Let’s not sugarcoat it, a lot of Filipinos initially travel for leisure but end up working abroad.

I know it seems like they have generalized PH travelers but if that is how they can prevent illegal or undocumented migrants, what can we do?

So the question remains…

What do immigration officers ask?

They normally ask basic questions about your travel: your travel duration, return ticket, hotel booking confirmation, your purpose of travel, and a little bit about your work or source of income. If you’re traveling from the Philippines, you will be writing these details on a small piece of paper called the Departure Card. You’ll get this form after paying your travel tax and completing your check-in process.

I think the reason why PH immigration officers make you repeat the information written on the departure card is to make sure you really know the details of your travel. This will help them spot passenger/s who may fall victim to human trafficking and those who are likely planning to overstay. There will be instances as well when you will not get asked any questions or you will get more follow-up questions. And this will depend on how you answer the officer.

I’ve faced a number of immigration officers and the experience is always different every time. I haven’t tried getting held and interrogated by PH immigration officers but I have tried being held at the Macau-Hong Kong border and the Singapore-Malaysia border.

Is it scary? Hell, yes! I was in a different country. There can be a language barrier, anything can happen. But one thing I always tell myself every time is to stay confident and to have presence of mind.

So here are some immigration tips that can help you on your next international trip:

  • Dress properly

    I’m not saying you have to overdress because that also makes you look suspicious. Dress up in a way that you feel confident. Wear something casual but appropriate, something fit for the destination you are going.

  • Prepare your supporting documents

    As I mentioned, you need to know the details of your travel. Prepare everything on your phone if you don’t want to bring printed copies. A good hack would be making a Note on your phone with all your supporting documents so you don’t have to scroll through your album looking for the screenshots of your bookings. Or you can also make a separate album with all the necessary documents you might need. That way, it will be easier for you and you don’t make the immigration officer wait.

    You can also bring printed copies but sometimes this gets tricky, especially when you bring out all the papers as if you’re planning to look for a job in another country. So my next tip would be to…

  • Keep your answers short, simple and straightforward.

    If you were not asked to present something, don’t bring it out or show it. Avoid oversharing unless asked by the immigration officer.

  • Have confidence and just own it.

    Don’t get distracted by the surroundings, just focus on what the immigration officer is asking and answer quickly, briefly, and with confidence.

  • It’s going to be okay, you’ve got nothing to hide.

    Sometimes we think too much about what could happen that we end up stuttering or not answering properly. Remember, you are traveling to relax and unwind. Don’t start your trip stressing yourself out.

What documents to prepare?
  • Valid Passport

    Make sure to check the validity date of your passports. Your passport should not expire in six (6) months. If you just renewed your passport, bring your old passport when you travel. Some immigration officers may ask for your old passport especially if it was the old passport version (cannot be scanned).

  • Return Tickets

    Have a copy of your flight booking confirmation. To make sure you are coming home, the immigration officer will likely ask for this.

  • Hotel/Hostel Booking Confirmation

    If possible, make reservations in advance. PH immigration officers usually ask where you will stay during your vacation. Those who will visit and stay with friends or relatives will likely be asked follow-up questions.

  • Travel Insurance

    Depending on your destination, some immigration officers will ask for a copy of your insurance policy. Honestly, I didn’t care much about getting travel insurance before but this may come in handy especially if there will be long flight delays and cancellations.

  • Vaccine Certificate or WHO Yellow Card

    You will need this for your entire trip (departure and arrival). Make sure you have a copy printed or ready on your phone.

  • Other Supporting Documents

    You can prepare your proof of employment or proof of income ready to be shown to the immigration officer but only show this when asked. Don’t bring it up yourself.

    For students, you will likely be asked who are your companions for the trip. For the working people, the name of your company and your position. For entrepreneurs, a little information about your business. And for government workers, you will surely get asked if you have an approved travel authorization.

My Recent Immigration Experience

My recent immigration experience was smooth. I was expecting to answer more questions since my friends were asked a lot of questions. But when it was my turn, I was only asked two questions — my return date and my occupation. This is just pure theory but I think having a valid multiple-entry visa also helped as it proved I had traveled frequently (pre-pandemic).

Side Note:

For first-time travelers — This is not to scare you or to discourage you but most likely you will get more questions than those who travel frequently. Don’t worry though, that’s only the beginning. Just remember the tips I shared.

For solo travelers — I’ve traveled solo more than once and my experiences facing immigration officers during those solo trips were kind of similar. I am a woman traveling solo — this is not about stereotyping but more about security. A lot of women fall prey to trafficking so most likely when a woman travels solo, she will get asked more questions than usual, especially when the destination is known for human trafficking cases.

For group travelers — Usually, the first one from your group will receive all the necessary questions. The rest will get a little to none. The immigration officer will know if you’re traveling with a group and will most likely ask “Are you traveling with (that person)?”. Just say yes and move along!

Always remember to stay consistent and firm with your answers. Be confident and don’t waver. Good luck and keep exploring!

I hope this answers the questions you have in mind about PH immigration officers. If you have something else to ask, don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments. If you like this article and want to see or know more about my other trips and tips, follow me on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.


dee signature text

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s