The biometric Philippine passport Image Credit: Ma Felicidad De los Santos/Gulf News

Dubai: A surge in the number of applications for Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) has led to people having to endure tiring waits at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (Polo) in Dubai.

A number of Filipino expatriates have complained about having to wait for more than four hours for the OEC, which serves as a form of exit pass for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) travelling back home.

"They only have a few personnel to process the OEC of hundreds of applicants," said Pia Y. after a long wait for her certificate. "I arrived at 1:30pm and was given a priority number of 313. I was only served at 6:30pm. It was a very slow process. Authorities should speed up the process," she said

Ida C., another Dubai-based expatriate worker, received her certificate more than four hours after arriving at the centre at noon on Monday. She said she was heading to her province of Iloilo and wanted to get the document in Dubai itself before starting her holiday.

Tighter rules by authorities in the Philippines have made it mandatory for OFWs to present an OEC after visiting the country and before going back to their places of work. The requirement is meant to ensure that OFWs are properly documented and protected. An OEC costs Dh10 and exempts Filipino overseas workers from paying travel tax (Dh160). Expatriates have to personally apply for the certificate at the Polo office and show proof of employment and a valid residence visa.

Labour Attache Amilbahar Amilasan told Gulf News on Monday that the number of applications for OECs surged after the Philippines government announced through a newspaper in April that immigration officials had tightened the screening of workers and would require them to show proof of their employment abroad.

"So people thought they'd rather wait in the queue here than face difficulties in the Philippines," he said.

He said steps were being taken to increase staff levels. "But rest assured that despite the limited number of staff, we still work beyond office hours just to accommodate all approved applications for the day," he said.