Process time for controversial travel document for UAE Filipinos cut down

The Philippine embassy has warned Filipinos sponsoring the visit of their relatives to the UAE against dealing with travel agencies or individuals who facilitate the processing of an affidavit of support and guarantee.

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ABU DHABI // The Philippine embassy has cut the processing time of a controversial document required by Filipinos travelling to the UAE from five to three days.

The affidavit of support and guarantee is notarised by the Philippine embassy or consulate in the UAE, and shows proof that a relative in the country is financing the trip.

Officials at the embassy said the decision to expedite the release of the document was made to “better serve the Filipino community”.

Notarised documents are readily available from at least 10 travel agencies in Dubai for a hefty Dh300 fee, according to migrant rights group Migrante UAE. However, the affidavits provided are usually fake, and the unauthorised issuing of these documents is illegal under Philippine and UAE laws.

Both the Abu Dhabi embassy and the Dubai consulate have been on the receiving end of complaints from UAE-bound travellers and their relatives. Since August 2010, airport immigration officials in Manila have barred passengers on tourist visas who they suspect are victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment.

The consulate and embassy charge Dh100 for notarising the affidavit, a process that usually takes 10 working days.

Migrante UAE said in August it had evidence that proved staff from the embassy were taking cash in return for blank affidavits, an allegation denied by Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador in the UAE, last month.

At the weekend, Manila’s department of foreign affairs issued a statement confirming that the Philippine embassy was not “connected with any person, company or entity that offers or claims to offer facilitation services” to execute the document.

"The personal appearance of the applicant at the embassy or the Philippine consulate in Dubai is required before an affidavit of support and guarantee could be issued," the DFA said.

On Monday, a Filipina travel agent in Dubai insisted the documents she had provided to clients were genuine.

“I don’t think the documents are fake because I’ve issued them to about 200 passengers for the past two months, and they did not have any problems with immigration in Manila,” she said.

She claimed the agency had a “contact” in Abu Dhabi who provides them with affidavits notarised at the Philippine embassy.

“Personal appearance is not required,” said the woman, who works for an Al Rigga-based travel agency.

She charges Dh250 for each affidavit, which is released after two to three days.

“I encourage them to go to the consulate, which charges Dh100,” the agent said. “But they don’t want to wait for 10 days for its release.”

When contacted, Karen Tanedo, the chairwoman of Migrante UAE, said the reduced processing time at the embassy will not stop people from dealing with travel agencies. They would rather pay Dh250 to Dh300 than queue at the consulate or embassy.

“It will not kill the black market,” she said. “The business will continue to flourish even if the embassy decides to release the affidavit in one day.”