For many OFWs, myself included, after the holidays comes a very busy time when we scour the land for souvenirs to bring back to our workplace, say our goodbyes, and after several despedida parties, go to NAIA terminal 2 to check-in and finally, board on the plane that will take us back to our respective job sites abroad.
It may seem as if buying the souvenirs is the most difficult part of the whole "process" (it is difficult, though) but that couldn't be any farther from the truth. I go through this process year after year ever since I started working in Japan 3 years ago, and I have to say that checking in at the airport is the most tiresome and frustrating part. And there doesn't seem to be any improvements at all.
Below I will run through the check-in procedure for OFWs with OEC.
*OEC is a form that you get from POEA that will allow you to leave the country without paying the travel tax, and it serves as proof that you are legally hired overseas. So make sure that you visit POEA before your departure date and get your OEC. You will be given four(4) copies of the OEC.
*For OFWs without OEC, the process might be different. However, I cannot provide information on the check-in process, as I always get an OEC from POEA.
As I have only traveled through NAIA Terminal 2, I will only be providing information based on my experience and thus, I may not be able to provide information about other terminals.
- Make sure to arrive at the airport at least 3-4 hours before your departure time.
- Upon entering the terminal, proceed to the left end of the room and look for the POEA counter. Present your passport and OEC. They will verify your information, stamp your OEC, and keep one(1) copy. You will be left with three(3) copies of the OEC.
- Proceed to check-in your luggage. At the check-in counter, ask the person in-charge for an Embarkation card. You will need to fill-up this form and submit it to Immigration later.
- After checking in your luggage, go to the OFW counter located beside Counter 62, near the center of the terminal. Present your boarding pass and OEC. They will keep another copy of the OEC, leaving you with two(2) copies.
- Make your way to the right end of the terminal, where the Immigration gate is. Don't be confused with the counter for the travel tax payment, as all OFWs with OEC are exempted from paying this. Make sure that you have filled out the Embarkation card. At the Immigration counter, present your passport, boarding pass, and embarkation card. The Immigration personnel might ask you questions about yourself based on your passport, etc., just to verify if you really are who your documents say you are. The Immigration always has a long line because everyone, including non-OFWs have to pass through their gates.
After you pass Immigration, you just have to pass through another scanner and you're on your way out of the country- or just to the waiting lounge where you will probably wait for a couple of hours before you can get on your plane and say "I shall return."
Based on my experience, as the post-holidays are always a busy time because of OFWs, and vacationers returning to their job sites and own countries, respectively, the whole process- from arrival to the airport until Immigration- takes a little more than an hour. And that's for someone who didn't have any problems with their documents or luggage. Sure, an hour doesn't seem that long, but if you're carrying around heavy luggage, you will definitely feel that squeezing your way through the thick crowd of people, and having to go from end to end of the terminal is an excruciating and cruel experience.
So I say, go there EARLY and PREPARED so that you can leave the country smoothly.