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Visa cost payment as illegal recruitment

Visa cost payment as illegal recruitment
DENNIS R. GORECHO June 28, 2018

SEAFARERS are not required to pay for the expenses incurred in the visa processing as part of deployment fees. Otherwise, the company may be liable for illegal recruitment per Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) rules.

Under POEA rules, all processing fees required for deployment are chargeable to the principal / employer such as pre-employment medical examination (PEME) in their designated clinic, POEA and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) fees, visas, principal’s/employer’s flag State ship requirements, principal’s / employer’s required trainings and other requirements.

The only incident where refund is allowed is in case of the seafarer’s failure or unjustified refusal to join ship after all processing fees have been incurred by the principal/employer.

As a general rule, transit visa requirements for seafarers are administrative entry restrictions imposed by countries during transit or turnaround.

The validity of transit visas is usually limited to short terms such as several hours to days depending on the size of the country and the circumstances.

The transit visa usually covers seafarer who intend to:

a) join a ship that is (or will be) in a foreign port
b) land with the aim of join another ship that is (or will arrive) in a foreign port

On the other hand, costs chargeable to the seafarer include documentation costs of all statutory requirements such as, but not limited to, passport, seafarer’s identification and record book (SIRB), National Bureau of Investigation / police / barangay clearance, Seafarer’s Registration Certificate (SRC) and birth certificate.

In some cases of non-deployment, there are seafarers who are forced to refund the visa expenses in exchange for the release of their travel documents such as passports and SIRB.

Legally speaking, the unauthorized withholding of the travel documents is a form of coercion that is penalized as illegal recruitment under Republic Act (RA) 8042, as amended by RA 10022, otherwise known as Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

The law specifically states it is unlawful “to withhold or deny travel documents from applicant workers before departure for monetary or financial considerations, or for any other reasons, other than those authorized under the Labor Code and its implementing rules and regulations. ”

Agencies and foreign principals found violating POEA rules will be blacklisted or penalized in accordance with RA 10022.

POEA rules likewise provide that disciplinary actions will be meted against foreign principals and employers of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) found violating Philippine laws, rules, and regulations on overseas employment.

The persons criminally liable for the said offense are the principals, accomplices and accessories. In case of juridical persons, the officers having ownership, control, management or direction of their business and the responsible for the commission of the offense and the responsible employees/agents thereof shall be liable.

Any person found guilty of illegal recruitment shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than 12 years and one day but not more than 20 years and a fine of not less than P1 million nor more than P2 million.

The penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million nor more than P5 million shall be imposed if illegal recruitment constitutes economic sabotage as defined therein.

If the offender is an alien, he or she shall also be deported without further proceedings.

In every case, conviction shall cause and carry the automatic revocation of the license or registration of the recruitment/manning agency, lending institutions, training school or medical clinic.


(Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)/PN