The ‘Overseas Employment Certificate’ Drama

I never imagined that getting an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) was even harder than what I originally anticipated; in fact, I never imagined that it was going to eat 7 hours of my time. Yes people, I was at the main office of POEA from morning until early evening and it sucked big time.

For OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who have never processed their own OECs before (like me) or for those who are not connected to any employment agency, this article might just give you a picture of how the process goes.

You must be wondering what is an OEC for. An OEC is a travel exit clearance required of all OFWs leaving the Philippines. This clearance will serve as your exemption permit to the Philippine travel tax which will then be reviewed by immigrations officers in the airport once you have checked in; without it, you will not be allowed to go on board. Tourists, however, do not need this clearance.


Since I already had an employer and was just on-leave, I applied for an OEC through the ‘Balik-Manggagawa’ queue. A ‘Balik-Manggagawa’ applicant is summarized by POEA as:

1) A worker who is on vacation or on leave from employment under a valid and existing employment contract; and who is returning to the same employer regardless of any change in jobsite, to finish the remaining unexpired portion of the contract;

2) A worker who was rehired by the same employer after finishing his/her contract and who is returning to the same employer, regardless of a change in jobsite; and

3) A returning worker whose employment contract was not processed with the POEA but was subsequently verified and registered in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and who is returning to the same employer either as a worker-on-leave or rehire, regardless of any change in jobsite.


So if you fell on any of the three categories then you can follow what I did in obtaining your OEC. I processed mine at the POEA head office, the one near Robinson’s Galleria in Ortigas. I honestly didn’t have a clue on how to do it so I sort of just followed where most were going and fell in line. The lady in front of me mentioned the words “balik-manggagawa” to the man who was handing out forms so I did the same thing. He gave me three forms: Pag-ibig membership form, Absentee Voter form, and the Balik-Manggagawa form. I didn’t bother filling out the Pag-ibig membership form because I was already a member and have been making contributions. I was also not planning to fill out the form distributed by COMELEC but thought otherwise. I’ll tell you why I changed my mind later on during the day.

A word of advice, go to POEA as early as possible. If you can get there before the office opens then that would be better. When I lined up at 9:30am, the forms distributed were already in the 900-series; mine specifically was #0942 which meant that there were 941 people ahead of me. This obviously explains why I was there the whole day, amongst other reasons.

balik manggagawa form

In the beginning of the day, I thought that waiting was fine. I was even thankful in some way because I had time to check my documents (valid visa or work permit, passport, proof of employment) and properly fill out the form; but when two hours have passed, I became restless. I decided to walk around the vicinity to take photos. I got tired after 30 minutes (and I think the guard who was following me was too) so I started bugging the first person nearest to me with questions. This is just me. If you’re not the friendly sort, you can search for a seat (if you can find one) and doze off. Don’t worry, the guards will let you be. They know how boring it was to watch the number screen change every 5 or 10 minutes.

waiting time

After another hour, I got tired of exchanging mindless comments and decided to do something useful with my time. I pulled out the Absentee Voter form provided by COMELEC and filled it up. When I checked the number screen, it flashed #480 so I decided to line up in COMELEC’s queue to have my photo taken and my signature registered. The whole task took 15 minutes of my time and the number screen (disappointingly) still flashed #480.

Obviously, I was not going to be accommodated soon so I walked to one of the guards and asked him if it was alright to leave the premises and just come back since my number was in the 900-series. He told me that it was fine and that I can come back at 2:30pm. I left POEA and happily walked to Robinson’s Galleria to eat and window shop.

By 2:30pm, I was back inside POEA but more OFWs have graced the premises by then and while I was scouting for an unoccupied seat, I happened to have seen the forms of some OFWs nearby and seen one with the same number as mine. I thought, “No freakin’ way!” I looked a little closer at the other OFW’s form and observed that her form was stamped B while mine was stamped A. I walked over to the guard stationed near the entrance and inquired about the form numbers. He explained that I was part of Set A (the first set of 1000 Balik-Manggagawa applicants) which meant that at that particular time, POEA may have reached a 2000 quota.


Three hours after, a guard announced that numbers 0901 to 0950 will be the next to be accommodated. I was getting anxious by this time so you could just imagine my relief when the guard made that announcement. When it was finally my turn, I briskly walked to the counter and handed over my form and passport. The officer asked for my contract and told me to have it photocopied. At that very moment, I was secretly imagining turning her face into pulp. I have verified my documents with them in the morning and even asked if there was anything else that I need to prepare while I was still waiting for my turn. I ran to the nearest exit so I can have my documents photocopied outside and yes I was still imagining turning her face into pulp while I was huffing my way to the nearest photocopier stall.

I went back to her counter a few minutes after and she finally gave me the go signal after I gave her the copies she requested for. I passed by OWWA first for verification and itemization; then was told to go to the cashier thereafter. I paid a total of PhP2,447.63 for everything – POEA processing fee, OWWA membership, Philhealth/Medicare (which I find completely useless abroad), and Pag-ibig membership.


Now, I can finally go back to Bangkok.

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  1. Wala ko kasulay ani bah, thank God. For OFW sa SG, mas advisable to get the OEC sa Phil Embassy before going home sa Pinas. Grabeh ang raket sa Pinas Ma’am!

    • denramonal says

      naa man unta daw toh sauna sa bkk pero gitanggal…ambot ngano…wa sad ni klaro ang phil embassy sa bkk…mas maayo unta na magkuha na daan bag-o muuli…