Why visiting Filipinos are required to show guarantee affidavit before coming to UAE

The imposition of the document raises questions about its necessity and its impact on the right to travel, a migrant rights advocate says

by

Angel Tesorero

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Photo: KT file
Photo: KT file

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 11:24 PM

Maria, a Filipina nanny, has a brother who is supposed to come this week to visit her in Dubai. All expenses have been taken care of by her Emirati employer – visa has been released; tickets purchased. The visiting brother already has a place where he can stay.

But there’s a dilemma: Maria’s brother could be offloaded at the Philippine airport for not presenting an affidavit of support and guarantee (AoSG).

AoSG is a document required by the Philippine immigration to prove that a Filipino UAE resident can sponsor a visiting family or relative's stay in the country. It can be easily obtained from Philippine missions in the UAE but there is a prohibitive condition requiring expats who are single to show a proof of having at least Dh10,000 monthly income before he or she can sponsor a family member to visit the UAE.

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Part of the AoSG that Filipinos like Maria will have to sign is a “guarantee that (the visiting family member/s) shall not in any way or manner whatsoever be a public burden or ward in the UAE or any country en route from or to the Philippines.”

AoSG also serves as an assurance that “all financial support to pay for the food, accommodation and travel, including airfare for return to the Philippines, medication and hospitalisation, and other expenses, debts, and obligations incurred including but not limited to immigration fines and penalties” will be covered by the sponsoring relative.

Unfair condition

“But all expenses have already been taken care of by my kind employer,” Maria told the Khaleej Times. “This is a very rare opportunity for my brother to come to Dubai and it’s unfair that I could not bring him here because I’m just a nanny and my salary is below Dh10,000.”

This issue was also raised by migrant rights advocate Barney Almazar. He said: “The issue of AoSG as a mandatory requirement for Filipinos seeking permission to travel abroad will always spark a discourse on the delicate balance between ensuring the welfare of Filipinos overseas and safeguarding their fundamental constitutional right to travel.”

“While acknowledging the government's commitment to protecting Filipino citizens abroad, it is essential to critically examine whether the current requirement aligns with the principles of proportionality and reasonableness – the key tenets of a valid exercise of police power as enunciated by the Philippine Supreme Court, added Almazar, who is also director at the corporate-commercial department of Gulf Law in the UAE, Philippines, UK and Portugal,

Arbitrary requirement

Almazar explained the constitutional right to travel is implicitly protected under the due process clause. Restrictions on this right must be carefully examined to ensure they are reasonable – not arbitrary – and have legitimate governmental objective.

Advocate Barney Almazar. Photo: Supplied
Advocate Barney Almazar. Photo: Supplied

Every person has the right to travel. “The right to travel is not a mere luxury. It is a conduit for personal growth, economic development, and cultural exchange. The imposition of a mandatory affidavit of support and guarantee appears to be a broad measure that raises questions about its necessity and its impact on the right to travel.

“That the traveller will not be a public charge is the primary concern of the UAE, and not the Philippines. If the UAE government has issued a visa to the traveller allowing entry to the Emirates, the Philippine immigration must respect that.”

Almazar continued: “Under UAE immigration regulations, if the tourist is found to have no apparent means of subsistence, he can be deported and his sponsor shall be financially responsible for him, not the Philippine government. Moreover, the AoSG is not a legally enforceable document in the Emirates. It is the visa sponsor and not necessarily the person who issued the affidavit who will bear the responsibility for the tourist.

No empirical evidence

Almazar said the Philippine government has not provided any empirical evidence showing the direct correlation between prevention of human trafficking and AoSG.

AoSG was first introduced in 2002 to purportedly curb human trafficking. It was rescinded following allegations of falsification and redundancy but was eventually reinstated. In 2022, a total of 32,404 Filipinos were withheld at the airport. Of these, only 472 were reported to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment; 873 produced fraudulent documents; while 10 travellers were found to be minors who sought to work abroad, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration reported.

Balancing safety and right to travel

Almazar and Maria said the Philippine government should scrap AoSG. “A careful reassessment of the AoSG requirement is not a call for unchecked travel but a plea for a balance that respects individual liberties while fulfilling the government’s duty to protect its citizens,” Almazar noted.

He added: “We should shift from mandatory to voluntary registration of Filipino travellers. The system of exit pass and submission of AoSG are merely ways of collection, exchange and verification of information.

“If the government will ensure that the traveller’s rights are respected, Filipinos like Maria’s brother, will have no fear of being offloaded and this will encourage full disclosure of their travel/work information which the government can use to monitor and protect OFW abroad," said Almazar.

“There are so many ways to protect the travellers from the dangers of human trafficking. Curtailing the right to travel is not one of them.”

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