Are you planning to go on vacation to the Philippines soon? If so, then be sure to file an official leave and of course, to prepare the necessary documents. One of these is the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), which we will be discussing in today’s article.
When OFWs go back home for the holidays, they need to obtain an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) or an “Exit Permit” first so that they will be allowed to re-enter Hong Kong from the Philippines. The OEC is one of the requirements needed for every re-entry from the Philippines, including home leave.
What is OEC?
Before anything else, let us talk more about what an OEC is. Basically, the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) is issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to legit and documented OFWs. You can get it from POEA offices in the Philippines, or through POLO offices that are stationed worldwide.
As for the purpose of an OEC, Section 35 of Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 states that the OEC serves as:
- A travel “exit pass” or “clearance” for OFWs at airports;
- A certificate that exempts OFWs from having to pay airport terminal fees and travel tax; and
- A certificate which proves that an OFW is documented, and is therefore guaranteed benefits and protection from the Philippine government.
Before leaving the Philippines, OFWs should present their OEC to the Immigration Department at the airport. This document is valid for 60 days from the date of issuance.
What is Balik Manggagawa?
Sometimes, the OEC is called “Balik Manggagawa” certificate, with reference to OFWs who are “balik manggagawa” or “returning workers.” A person who is on official leave from his/her job may also be referred to as a “Worker on Leave” (WOL).
Specifically, the term “Balik Manggagawa” may refer to any of these persons:
- An OFW who is returning to the same employer and the same job site;
- An OFW who is returning to the same employer but to a different job site; and
- An OFW who has changed jobs and is returning to a different employer.
Who are qualified or eligible to get an OEC? You can apply for this document if you are:
- An OFW who acquired work from an employer or sponsor through direct hiring;
- An OFW who was hired via a recruitment agency;
- An OFW who was hired through the POEA’s Government Placement Branch (GBP);
- An OFW with existing POEA database records and is returning to the same employer and the same job site;
- An OFW with existing POEA database records and is returning to the same employer but to a different job site; or
- An OFW without POEA database records or has changed employers in Hong Kong.
Before applying for an OEC, you’ll need to prepare the following requirements:
- “Balik Manggagawa” (BM) Appointment Form (2 copies);
- Employment Contract verified by POLO;
- Working Visa or Employment Visa (2 copies);
- Passport (original and 2 photocopies);
- Official Receipt of OWWA Membership;
- Supplied Information Sheet;
- Confirmed round-trip airline ticket; and
- Authorization Letter (for representative).
In the following cases, additional documents are required.
For Professional / Skilled Workers (without records in POEA database or changed employers on-site):
- Appropriate Visa (1 photocopy);
- Passport (1 photocopy);
- Certificate of Employment, Company ID, Payslip, or other proof of employment;
- Employment Contract (1 original and 2 photocopies); and
- Business Registration or Company Profile (1 photocopy).
For Domestic Workers (who will renew a contract or have a change of employer):
- Original Standard Employment Contract (2 sets);
- Employer’s Hong Kong ID containing contact number on the same page (1 photocopy);
- Domestic Worker’s Hong Kong ID containing contact number on the same page (1 photocopy);
- Domestic Worker’s Passport (original and 1 photocopy);
- Printed copy of New Employment E-Visa; and
- Duly accomplished OWWA OFW Information Sheet (for representative).
The OEC fee in Hong Kong is HKD 20.00, so be sure to prepare this amount. In case your OWWA membership has expired, you need to pay for this, too, when you apply for an OEC.
How to Get an OEC in Hong Kong Online
The POEA has introduced a new online processing system for OFWs lately. This system enables OFWs to acquire an OEC exemption online (if applicable) or set an appointment with the POEA or POLO to apply for an OEC.
Here are the steps for using the POEA online processing system:
- Visit the official website of the POEA Online Processing System for Balik Manggagawa (POPS-BaM) through this link.
- Click “Let’s Go!” on the e-Registration tab to start creating an account. Enter the required details, including a valid email address and password. Check your email and click the verification link. Don’t forget to record the email address and password that you used in creating your account.
- Log into your account and enter or update your details, such as passport, visa, employment information, etc.
- Then, it’s time to apply for an OEC. Go to “My Links” on the left tab, then select “Balik Manggagawa.”
- Make sure that the initial assessment is colored green, then click “Next.”
- Enter the date of your departure from the Philippines.
- Confirm your employment details. The screen will show your latest employment information that is registered with the POEA. Make sure that everything is marked “Clear.”
- The system will ask, “Are you returning to this job site?” (i.e. the same employer shown on the screen). If your answer is YES, proceed to OEC Exemption (see below). If your answer is NO, proceed to step no. 9.
- Enter your latest employment information, such as the name of your employer, business permit, employer’s valid ID, employer’s address, etc.
- Select the nearest POEA or POLO office, and set the date and time of your appointment.
- Print your Balik Manggagawa Information Sheet. You can also take a screenshot of your confirmed appointment.
- On the date of your appointment, bring your Balik Manggagawa Information Sheet and other documents to the POEA or POLO office to obtain an OEC.
NOTE: When creating an account on the POEA online processing system, only one (1) e-Registration account is allowed for one (1) OFW.
If you have already obtained an OEC before, and you haven’t changed employers, you can be exempted from OEC. This means that you don’t need to go to a POEA or POLO office to get this document; you can simply print an OEC exemption online.
That being said, even if you are exempted, please noted that you still need to register on the POEA online processing system before getting a “Balik Manggagawa” exemption. Here are the steps for acquiring an OEC or Balik Manggagawa Exemption:
- Follow steps 1 to 8 from above (How to Get an OEC in Hong Kong Online). You will be asked, “Are you returning to this job site?” (i.e. the same employer shown on the screen). Click “Yes.”
- Check your record and make sure that all your employment details are updated and correct. Don’t forget to enter the starting date and duration of your contract.
- After entering all the required details, the system will generate your OEC or Balik Manggagawa exemption. Print this document as proof that you are exempted.
Upon leaving the Philippines, show your OEC or Balik Manggagawa exemption to immigration officials at the airport. Once again, it’s a good idea to print a copy of this document and bring it on the date of your flight, to avoid any problems.
How to Get an OEC at POLO Office in Hong Kong
If you have recently changed jobs, or if you are returning to a different employer or job site, then you need to apply for an OEC at the POLO office in Hong Kong. This involves booking an appointment before getting your OEC, as follows:
Part 1: Booking a “Balik Manggagawa” (BM) Appoinment
- Enter your latest employment details on the POEA online processing system. This applies to those who have a change of employer and/or job site, and those who already have a record with POEA but have not yet registered on the system.
- After entering your latest employment details, click “Submit.”
- Book a “Balik Manggagawa” (BM) appointment by choosing your preferred processing location (e.g. nearest POLO or POEA office).
- Choose your preferred appointment date.
- That’s it! You have just made a BM Appointment.
Part 2: Getting an OEC at POLO Hong Kong
- On the date of your appointment, go to the POLO office in Hong Kong.
- Proceed to the OEC booth and get an OFW Information Sheet. Fill out all the necessary details.
- Return to the OEC booth and submit your requirements for verification.
- Pay all the necessary fees.
- That’s it! After payment, you will receive your OEC. Check the details and make sure that there are 4 copies of your OEC; one each for the airline, Terminal Fee counter (at the airport), Labor Assistance Center (LAC) counter, and Immigration counter.
Upon leaving the Philippines, be prepared to present your OEC to immigration officials at the airport. Make sure that all your declared information is correct and that your OEC is valid on the date of your departure, to avoid any problems.
NOTE: The POLO office in Hong Kong does not issue OECs to OFWs who arrived on a tourist visa or visit visa, then eventually got hired and got a working visa. The POLO office will only verify the worker’s employment contract. To obtain an OEC, these OFWs need to apply through a POEA office in the Philippines.
Video: Requirements for Balik Manggagawa in Hong Kong
To have a better idea of the documents that a “Balik Manggagawa” must prepare, check out this video shared by “Admin Mocha HongKong” YouTube channel. In this video, the vlogger discusses the different requirements, including an OEC:
Frequently Asked Questions
Meanwhile, below are some frequently asked questions — and answers — about the OEC, OEC exemption, and the POEA online processing system:
1. How long is the validity of an OEC?
The validity period of an OEC is 60 days, beginning from the date of issuance. You must make sure that your departure date from the Philippines falls within this period.
2. How much is the OEC fee in Hong Kong?
The OEC fee in Hong Kong is HKD 20.00.
3. Can I acquire an OEC even if my OWWA membership is inactive?
No, you cannot get an OEC or OEC exemption if your OWWA membership has expired or is inactive. You’ll need to pay the OWWA membership fee when applying for an OEC.
4. The POEA online processing system has confirmed that I am exempted from OEC. Am I still required to go to a POEA or POLO office?
No. If the POEA online processing system has confirmed that you are exempted, then there’s no need for you to go to a POEA or POLO office. You can print your OEC exemption and show it to immigration officials at the airport upon leaving the Philippines.
5. I am returning to the same employer in Hong Kong. How can I get an OEC exemption?
If you are returning to the same employer and job site, you can get an OEC exemption through the POEA online processing system. Simply follow the instructions onscreen to obtain your Balik Manggagawa or OEC exemption.
6. Can I change the email address that I used when registering on the POEA online processing system?
No, you cannot change the email address that you used since it will serve as your permanent log-in account on the POEA online processing system. Nonetheless, you can still change your account password from time to time.
Aside from your email address, the following details cannot be manually changed on the system, too: name, gender, and date of birth. Hence, always make sure that you enter correct and accurate information!
7. I forgot the email address and password I used to create an account on the POEA online processing system. What should I do?
Go to the online POEA Help Desk through this link. Click “Create a Ticket” and file an electronic ticket, explaining that you need to correct your email address and password. To follow up your ticket, just click “Inquire Ticket.”
8. I was able to obtain an OEC during my last vacation, but I haven’t registered on the new POEA online processing system yet. Can I get an OEC exemption?
No. You are still required to register on the new POEA online processing system to get an OEC, even if you were able to obtain this document during your last vacation.
9. Each time I go on vacation to the Philippines, do I need to get an OEC?
Yes, you need to get an OEC each time you go on vacation to the Philippines. This involves logging into the POEA online processing system and applying for an OEC or OEC exemption (if applicable) before returning overseas.
10. I am going back to the same employer and I was able to get an OEC before. However, the POEA online processing system is re-directing me to the appointment page. I wonder why?
Take note that the POEA online processing system will re-direct you to the appointment page if you happen to be:
- An OFW who is on a watchlist, or your employer is on a watchlist;
- An OFW who is going back to a non-compliant or restricted country;
- An OFW who doesn’t have any records in the POEA database, or there are discrepancies between the information entered and the data in the system;
- An undocumented worker (e.g. tourist, student, dependent) who became an OFW; or
- A sea-based OFW who became a land-based OFW.
If you are planning to go on vacation to the Philippines and return abroad within 60 days, don’t forget to apply for an OEC through the POLO office in Hong Kong. On the other hand, if you are returning to the same company and job site, you can apply for an OEC exemption online, without having to go to a POLO or POEA office. In any case, make sure that you register on the POEA online processing system and update your employment details.
Contact Information: POLO Hong Kong
For those who have any queries or concerns regarding the OEC, you can get in touch with POLO Hong Kong through contact details below. Please note that the office hours are between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, from Sundays to Thursdays, except during holidays.
Address: 2902 29/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong
Telephone: +852 2866 0640 / +852 2865 2445 / +852 5529 1880 (hotline)
Google Map Location
The POLO office in Hong Kong is located at: 2902 29/F, United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong. Below is the office’s location on Google Maps, for your reference:
DISCLAIMER: We hope that the above guide has been helpful, especially for those who are planning to go on vacation in the Philippines soon. Please keep in mind that the above guide is presented for general, information-sharing purposes only. To learn more about the latest requirements, fees, and steps in acquiring an OEC or OEC exemption, please visit the official website of POLO Hong Kong.
READ NEXT: How to Renew OWWA Membership in Hong Kong