Since you are going to the United States for work, you need to apply for an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). Every OFW is required to get the OEC as this is a requirement under the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Its purpose is to ensure that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are documented and protected. There are several requirements before you can get the OEC such as the contract. Ideally, this requirement will protect Filipinos from being duped by illegal recruiters.
We can consider the OEC as our exit pass. If you have an OEC, you will not pay the travel tax (which is about P1,620) and the terminal fee (which is PhP 750).
How to Apply for the OEC
1. Visit http://BMOnline.ph to schedule an appointment.
You can choose your location. I would advise against going to the main office of POEA in Mandaluyong. Try their satellite offices instead:
- Duty Free Philippines in Parañaque City
- SM City Manila, located behind Manila City Hall; or
- Trinoma Mall in Quezon City.
If you’re going back to the Philippines for a quick vacation, you can get your OEC at the Labor Assistance Counter in the airport. Ask around to know where that is.
2. Prepare the requirements for the OEC. Get your documents ready:
- Visa, Work Permit, or Residence Permit
- Any of the following items:
- Employment Contract
- Employment Certificate
- Labor Card
- Company Payslip
- Health Card
- Insurance Card; OR
- Latest Issued OEC (if you have been issued one before)
When I first applied, I presented my offer letter in lieu of a contract. I did not apply through any agency. So in the terminologies of POEA, I was a “direct hire.”
3. Pay for Government-mandated services and membership.
When I first applied for my OEC in 2015, I had to pay a little over PhP100. But in 2016, the POEA decided to stop charging anything for the OEC. So it is free now! Perhaps with all the billions of remittance that OFWs send back to the Philippines, this is a small token of appreciation.
I applied for my OEC at the POEA satellite office at the Trinoma Mall. It is not really inside the mall. It is near the entrance to the mall facing the intersection of North Avenue and Mindanao Avenue. Ask the security guard if you can’t find it.
I also paid for OWWA membership and contribution to my PAGIBIG Fund. I cannot remember how much the membership fee was. But I paid P3,500 for my PAGIBIG Fund. But you can choose a different amount when you talk to their employee there.
4. Once you are issued your OEC, print 3 copies of it for your reference.
As far as I know, a printed copy is no longer needed, but it doesn’t hurt to have it in your possession. In the past, a copy will be given to the airline, another copy to the immigration officer who will stamp your passport, and the last copy is yours.
The last time I needed it in 2016, I was caught in the transition between the paid and free OEC. There were no clear guidelines yet for how the free OEC was to be implemented. It was crazy. This is what the old OEC looked like.
Thankfully, today, you can just logon to BMOnline.ph and secure your OEC Exemption. You can see below what the website will show you after you secure your OEC exemption.
If you don’t secure your OEC, you may end up paying for the travel tax and terminal fee. It’s easy to secure the OEC. Go get it and enjoy your status as an OFW.