Dubai: Filipinos applying for exit clearances in Dubai now have to present a copy of their plane tickets as proof that they will be travelling to the Philippines.
The exit clearance or Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) is a Philippine requirement that shows that a returning Filipino is in the Philippines for a holiday and intends to go back to the same employer abroad. Filipinos won’t be allowed to leave Manila airports without it.
The labour office in Al Ghusais only issues 250 clearances daily this Ramadan because of the shortened working hours. But a number of Filipinos have applied for the document for a different reason.
“We have found out that some Filipinos send it [OEC] to relatives back home, whom they are sponsoring to the UAE on a visit visa. Apparently, some immigration officials reportedly look for the document as proof that their sponsors are indeed working in the UAE,” Labour attache Delmer Cruz told Gulf News.
The exit clearance, however, is not listed in the Official Guidelines for Departure Formalities issued by Manila’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in 2012 and implemented by the Bureau of Immigration.
This surge in demand for exit clearance by those who are not travelling has brought OEC applications to around 400 daily, resulting in serpentine queues outside the labour office that begins at around 2am. Cruz said they are now asking for copy of plane tickets to filter legitimate applicants.
Maxine, a sales representative, arrived at the labour office at 5am but was surprised to see some 250 people who had already gathered there from the night before. She urged the Philippine government to fast-track plans to make the processing of exit clearances online to eliminate serpentine queues at the labour office, especially during summer and Ramadan.
“Why can’t they just make everything online and make it just one click away to make the system more efficient?” Maxine, who came with her two young daughters, told Gulf News. “Every time we go on a holiday, we have to suffer having to queue for one day just to get one document.”
Plans to launch the online OEC system were expected to go live within the first half of 2014.
Maxine also criticised the ‘unclear queuing procedure’ since food vendors act as ‘volunteers’ to list applicants’ names unofficially. She questioned the absence of a courtesy lane for pregnant women, women with toddlers, and senior citizens.
Rowena and Pearl also arrived at the labour office early but failed to get their exit clearances for the same reason.
“We know it is Ramadan and the working hours are shortened. But it wouldn’t hurt if they make the queuing and appointment system more efficient,” Pearl said.
Cruz, however, denied having an inefficient queuing system, saying they have a number system in place.
“We cannot deploy an officer there starting at dawn. We start distributing tokens at 7am, an hour earlier than our official working hours. So we appreciate those [volunteers] who offer to make the list,” Cruz said.
Cruz said the 250-applicant cut-off this Ramadan is the actual number of applications they process during lean months.
“Despite the fact that we have shorter working hours, we still try to process 250 applicants. We pulled out one staff from another department to have three dedicated processors.”
Cruz appealed to applicants who can’t be accommodated to consider applying for the clearance at Duty Free Philippines in Paranaque, SM Manila, Trinoma Mall in Quezon City, Pag-ibig Main office in Makati City, and in regional offices of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
To get the full list of locations, visit www.polodubai.com.