The most common concern of first-time travellers is to avoid getting offloaded at their chosen airport: either at NAIA or at Clark Airport.
Plane tickets and hotels are booked? Check.
Your day-to-day itinerary is planned and printed out for reference? Check.
Already have your VaxCert PH? Check.
Great! Now, all that’s left for you to do is to check in your bags (or not!) and successfully pass the immigration here at the Philippine airport so you can wait for your airplane at the official boarding gate.
If you’re clueless about the immigration requirements and how to avoid offloading, this article is made just for you.
My NAIA Experience – First Time Travelling Internationally
During my first ever trip alone abroad, I was going to Tokyo to watch a Lead concert.
I was only 23 years old – “fearless” and excited for my first travel abroad all by myself! But then, I got extremely nervous when my father texted me this:
“Be confident sa immigration para hindi ka ma-offload. Text ka kapag lagpas ka na immigration para uuwi na kami. Kung na-offload ka, text ka din para sunduin ka namin ulit. Relax and enjoy your trip!”
Reading this text, I panicked.
“Ha? Anong offload? Why do I need to be confident? May question and answer? Anong sunduin ulit? Pwedeng hindi ako papasukin ng eroplano?!”
It also didn’t help that I was wearing this, since #FeelingJapanese:
Thankfully, the Immigration Officer (IO) assigned to me just asked me one question: “Are you alone?” to which I replied, “Yes” and all was well.
Now, the case may be different for you, so to guide you and help you avoid getting offloaded, let’s get started.
Top Tips to Avoid Offloading at NAIA
Travelling for the first time and want to clear immigration successfully, so you can get to your dream tourist destination?
My passport has had over 100 stamps now, as I’ve been travelling internationally for the past few years, so I’ll share with you a few tricks on how to avoid getting offloaded.
Let’s talk about the tried-and-tested tips you can follow to pass the Philippines’ immigration system at the airport.
1. Always bring your valid travel documents
- Unexpired DFA-issued passport
- Unexpired visa (if visa-required at final destination)
- Return ticket
These 3 immigration requirements make sense, of course, since you’re going to travel as a tourist to another country.
Pro-tip: If you just got a new passport, make sure to give both the old and new passport to the Immigration Officer. I’ve experienced giving just the new passport, so they asked me to show my old passport too.
Of course, if you’re travelling on vacation, you have to make sure that you have a return ticket back to the Philippines, right?
What if you’re going to Singapore but your flight back to Manila is from Bangkok? This is okay.
Nowadays, Filipinos who choose to backpack in Asia are common. Just make sure that you have your return ticket with you to avoid being offloaded.
Note: In addition to your travel documents, make sure to also comply with the travel requirements for your destination country. For example, here are the travel requirements for Thailand from the Philippines.
2. Know the “frequently asked questions” during immigration interviews
Expect the IO to ask you a question while they’re checking your passport and flight tickets.
Common immigration questions asked are:
Where are you going?
Be honest, and don’t mess this one up! 🙂
What are you going to do in _____?
Tell them you’re going on a vacation or “tour” since after all, you’re a tourist.
If the Immigration Officer asks you to specify your activities, tell them specific tourist attractions in the country you’re visiting.
Prepare an itinerary of your tour, since that’s what you’ll be doing, right?
For example, if you’re going to Singapore, here are the best cheap things to do in Singapore that you can add to your itinerary.
Pre-booking attraction tickets (theme parks/concerts/museums) is also helpful.
Who are you going with?
If you’re alone, tell them that. If you’re going with a loved one or a friend, tell them that as well.
What’s your job?
They may ask for your company ID so bring it. Some friends told me the IO also asked them to describe their work briefly.
Other IO may also ask you details about your company, like your HR manager’s full name, or who your company president is.
Where are you staying?
Tell them about the hotel name of where you’re staying at, or hostel reservation (and make sure you have a copy of the reservation!) It also helps if know the address of your accommodation.
If you tell them you’re staying with family/friend, be prepared with the official documents too.
Personally, the best question I received during “interrogation” was this:
3. Prepare for a secondary inspection (just in case!)
In a perfect world, all you need to pass the immigration are these three papers + honest answers to the Immigration Officer’s questions.
But, in certain events, a secondary inspection MAY be done in order to combat human trafficking, human smuggling, and illegal recruitment. According to the Philippines’ immigration policy:
What does this mean? It means the IO has the authority to inspect you again if…
You disclose a doubtful, false or suspect travel intent
Please be honest when answering questions. Also, make sure you have the relevant documents to back up your answers.
Telling the IO that you’re staying at a hotel – but not having any hotel reservation papers/digital copy sounds suspicious.
What’s also a possible cause for another inspection is telling them you’re travelling with a family member, but not having any proof of that (birth certificate/family photos).
Your passports and travel documents/visas are counterfeit, fraudulent, falsified, simulated or tampered
Never present any fake documents. Your IO is well-trained to spot these.
Your totality of circumstances manifests a well-founded certainty of human trafficking, smuggling or illegal recruitment.
Basically, Immigration Officers are professionally trained to be “judgmental”. They’re supposed to prevent drug trafficking and human trafficking, after all. They’re supposed to judge you based on:
- Age: When the IO asks proof of your age, present them with your birth certificate or government ID (SSS, UMID, Philhealth, Pag-IBIG) that has your birth date.
- Educational attainment: If you’re required, bringing a copy of your Transcript of Records/Diploma may be helpful. Just give these if the IO asks for them specifically. Don’t just show them agad-agad, okay?
- Travel history: If you’re a first-time tourist, expect the IO to question you accordingly. Remember the FAQs in #2?
4. If asked, show proof of financial capacity
You don’t need to be a spankin’ millionaire to be able to travel.
What do you need, then?
Just provide proof that you can afford your trip, so if you’ve saved money from your salary for your travel fund, make sure you have these prepared to avoid getting offloaded:
- Your bank certificate from your savings account
- Your Certificate of Employment
- Your latest Income Tax Return with you
- A regular or secured credit card or debit card may be helpful too. They just want to make sure that you’re capable of paying for your trip.
- Travel insurance
Yes, it’s inconvenient to prepare all these – but it’s better than being offloaded and being denied to go on your dream vacation, right?
Note: Present these only if you’re asked for them. Don’t present them immediately!
5. Be honest and confident
As much as possible, wear decent clothing when facing the immigration.
A simple pants + clean shirt + shades would be nice. Or a wholesome dress.
Just don’t wear something scandalous, unless you want the IO to pay “special attention” to you. Dress like a tourist.
The IO will be profiling you, so to avoid being offloaded, dress appropriately.
Be polite and give direct-to-the-point answers. No need to tell a long story. You’re not close friends with them. It’s a professional question-and-answer session.
And the most important tip in this blog post?
Never lie to the Immigration Officer.
You have nothing to hide, so look them in the eye and relax. Don’t look nervous. You’re going on a vacation – not delivering a speech in front of a crowd!
Better yet, once you hand them your passport and boarding pass, smile. Or you can do what I do which is show a professional face to the IO, confident but not arrogant.
Lastly, if there’s just one tip you remember from this guide, it’s this: tell the truth & have the necessary documents as proof.
As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How was your experience with the immigration here at the Philippines?
Did you get offloaded? If not, what other tips can you add to avoid getting offloaded?
Do you have any questions/comments, let me know in the comments below and I’d do my best to help you. 😉
Make sure to follow Live Free With Lianne on Instagram for more adulting and travel tips!
Your Adulting + Travel Accomplice,
Live Free With Lianne