Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz yesterday belied the claim in the media of Migrante that Saudi authorities are starting to stamp “exit only” on passports of vacationing OFWs because of Saudization.
Citing the official report of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh, the labor and employment chief said the reported stamping of “exit only” on passports it is not possible because Saudi exit/reentry visas issued by the Passport Department or Jawasat cannot be changed in Saudi airports by immigration authorities.
“Labor Attache Albert Valenciano said the report is false. He has checked with immigration officers who had denied the report and who had said that “if it is an exit/re-entry visa then it cannot be changed at the airports,” Baldoz said.
In his report, Labatt Valenciano said the Migrante story is similar to an e-mail thread about Indian workers which has been earlier circulated in the Indian expatriate community and picked up by the media.
Valenciano scored Migrante for tying up its story with the negative effects of the Saudization policy and urged the organization to be more responsible by producing the passport pages of the OFWs onto which the alleged “exit only” visa had been stamped.
Baldoz urged OFWs to stay calm amidst this latest ‘alarmist’ reporting, even as she encouraged them to register once they arrive from Saudi Arabia.
Yesterday, Baldozdirected the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO), and all DOLE regional offices to activate and make available registries in their offices to capture the names and circumstances of all overseas Filipino workers who may come home as a result of the new Saudization policy.
“The OWWA has already a registry of OFWs started during the Libyan crisis, so it can easily activate one for returning workers from Saudi Arabia,” she said.
She also gave instructions to the concerned DOLE offices to immediately brief returning OFWs on available alternative jobs, local and overseas, should these OFWs still chose to go on the route of wage employment, and about livelihood and entrepreneurial undertakings for self-employment, if that is their choice.
“Our OFWs from Saudi Arabia can visit the 17 regional offices of the OWWA to register,” she said.
On the Migrante story, Labatt Valenciano reported that final exit in Saudi Arabia is stamped only after a series of steps both taken by the employee and employer.
The steps, according to the POLO official, involve the issuance of a release letter or no objection certificate (NOC) from the employer stating that it is giving its consent to release the worker and to send him home to his mother country. The worker, then, has to sign a final settlement in which the worker acknowledges that he has received all his monetary claims from his employer.
“These documents are the basis for the issuance by the Jawasat of the worker’s final exit visa. But before the issuance, the Jawasat also checks whether the worker has any pending police case, traffic violation, or bank loan, and that he has no vehicle registered in his name,” Valenciano said.
Valenciano added that the changing of the visa status at the airport is impossible because computer monitors at Saudi airports are incapable of editing visa status.
“Any change in the visa status is done at the Jawasat which issue visas.”
Valenciano clarified that exit/re-entry visa being used in Saudi Arabia today is electronically-generated and printed on bond paper, not the sticker type pasted on a passport page. He said the “exit visa” that Migrante might be referring to is the triangular stamp of the immigration officer normally imprinted on the passports of all airline passengers leaving the Kingdom.