September 8, 2011

Authenticated Invitation Letter Now Required For Filipinos Visiting Singapore

There's a lot of chatter and frustrations going on about the new requirement on Filipino tourists flying out of the country. Actually, blogs and forums are awashed with discussions regarding the issue. It is because the immigration officers are now asking for Authenticated Invitation Letters coming from the sponsors in the destination country. That is required if you plan to stay on your friend/relative's house. For package tours, I think this is not required. Authenticated means you have to get a notarized letter from the Philippine embassy. For people bound for Singapore, the resident/OFW/expat would have to go to the embassy in Nassim road. But since the embassy is open only from Sunday to Thursday wuth office Hours at 9am-12pm and 1:30pm-5pm, the sponsor would have to take a leave just to get it. One leave to pass the requirement and another to get the sealed envelop with the the authenticated letter inside. In short, it's a big hassle and expensive. Before we proceed, here are the requirements when trying to get an authenticate invitation letter.
  • IC or EPASS or SPASS
  • Your Passport
  • Photocopy of Passport (the page with ID)
  • Copy of Passport of visitor
  • Pen
  • Filled out invitation letter form (available at the embassy)
But do we really need it? Here's what the Vice Consul in Singapore has to say.
Please be informed that the Affidavit of Invitation, or the invitation letter, may be required by the Immigration officer at the airport in the Philippines to verify the traveler's status as a bonafide tourist. This requirement was reinstituted as a preventive measure against illegal recruitment and human trafficking, which has recently risen in incidence. The sponsor or host in Singapore will need to execute the Affidavit of Invitation at the Embassy for the person in the Philippines being invited. This Affidavit, in the original, may be requested by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration upon the departure of the invitee from the Philippines. This Affidavit of Invitation is not a guarantee that the invitee will be allowed to travel and enter Singapore
Okay, we got the point -- trafficking and illegal recruitment. But you have to prove that you are a bonafide tourist? Would the letter prove that you are not recruited illegally? If people are hired direcyly by companies here in Singapore, is that illegal recruitment? What about our right to travel? All the while, I thought all we need is a valid passport with at least 6 months validity and visa issued by the destination country if required. But what happens here is that you need a visa to be able to travel outside the country and it's your own country that's requiring you to have one on top phe passport. And this stupidity is costing a lot of money to our poor breathrens. Case in point, a friend had to go here in Singapore in a short notice to inspect the medical chest of a ship that will pass by Singapore. The ship will only anchor for six hours to resupply so she had to fly immediately. But our good immigration officers thought that she's not telling the truth and she's just going here to find a job. She almost missed her flight when she was interrogated in a room in the immigration area. Luckily, she was allowed to leave. She's back there in the Philippines now but her employer is worried that she won't be able to inspect their client ships later. It's a big hassle for them and it will cost a lot of money. Potentially, they'll lose the client. A more unfortunate case is when the cousin of my officemate wasn't allowed to board the plane. She's only coming here for a short visit (4days) and to go to Universal Studios Singapore (they got tickets and all). She was supposed to board on the same flight as my officemate and also plans to stay in her flat. But she was also sent to the interrogation room (including my friend who is an employment pass holder here) and was treated harshly. They were saying that they felt like they are criminals and terrorists. In the end, her friend was not allowed to board. Goodbye 10,000 ticket, goodbye terminal fee and goodbye travel tax. There's a lot of similar cases (wasted tickets) that you can read in PinoySG. Now my officemate is worried that her sister will not be allowed to visit her this September. She bought the tickets months ago. So already submitted the invitation letter, she'll get it next Monday. But do you know how painful it is to get that stupid authenticated invitation letter? Below are some of the gripes.
  1. The price of authentication is $42 and then you'll have to send it via LBC/DHL for another $15+. That's about $70. In comparison, you can buy a return ticket for $150. That's about $75 per one way.
  2. You have to go the Philippine embassy twice, first to submit the invitation letter and the second to get it after three days.
  3. The Philippine embassy opens at 9am, that means you have to be there before that. That also mean you have to take a leave at least once.
  4. At 8am, even on a Tuesday, there is a line snaking in the Philippine embassy. Now, imagine if you go there on a Sunday. It's even worse, you have to line up just to get in the embassy premises and the queue again when you get in.
  5. The 'grilling' process is particularly harsh for women
  6. You're already paying the travel tax plus the terminal fee and then this one, another kind of travel tax
And then there's another twist. If you are a 'conio', you won't encounter this problem. It's a subtle discrimination if you will. If you look like a rich kid, then chances are you'll be able to pass immigration without trouble. But what about the people with money who just didn't look like a 'mayaman'? Ultimately, this rule is subject to abuse... and then there's one who shared an experience.
and then upon completing the application form Mr.T asked me if i have an invitation letter, so i gave him an invitation from my friend, attached in there is my friend's NRIC ID and passport copy. He asked me for my company ID so i show him my ID, He asked me where is my leave form, i show him my leave form... haayyysss... and after that i was still denied... i already think that this might happen to me because i have a friend working in the immigration told me to bring all those requirements because those are the possible requirements the IO may ask from me.. if i cannot present any of them i might be denied.. and they are doing this for a "LAGAY" and that is P1500.. this is the dirty business in the immigration... As much as possible i don't want to asked help to my friend inside the immigration
Read the whole comment from the link below. I cannot vouch for the comments in this blog, though. And this is not limited for people going to Singapore. The link below shows the frustrations that some of our kababayans went through.!! There's a lot of similar stories in forum. And hat tip to Jel of jel-sg- for answering the queries posted by his readers. More than the post, read the comments. Link below.

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