Philippines pilots “OFW Pass” to replace OEC

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Department of Immigrant Workers tests its new mobile app and OFW Pass in 10 countries with the largest number of Filipino workers

MANILA, Philippines – On Friday, July 21, the Philippines piloted the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) mobile application, launching the “OFW Pass” and further automating Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) transactions.

The OFW Pass will be hosted on the DMWMobile app and is a digital replacement for the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

The OEC, also known as an exit permit, certifies that the OFW’s recruitment and documentation are regular and is proof of its registration with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (which was incorporated into the DMW when the department was established). Traditionally, OECs are presented to immigration officials when overseas Filipino workers travel between the host country and the Philippines.

During a launch event at Malacañang Palace on Friday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the launch of the app is in line with his administration’s drive to improve digitization, efficiency and accessibility.

“This innovative app will revolutionize the way our OFWs access certain services, such as verifying contracts and applying for OFW passes. Gone are the days when Filipino workers had to wait in long lines to get certified,” Marcos said .

Immigrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople described how, for 31 years, foreign workers had to wait in line and pay 100 pesos to get the OEC. Human rights groups have long called for the abolition of the OEC as it is a burden for OFWs who have to queue up to pay each time. Both the DMWMobile app and the OFW Pass are free.

During the “peak season” for OEC issuance in November 2022, the sector issued 133,000 OECs that month alone, Ople said. “So you can imagine the queues in every Philippine Overseas Labor Office (now called the Migrant Worker Office) and now our building in Ortigas,” she said.

DMW developed the app in cooperation with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

Ople acknowledged that after 31 years of using the physical OEC, it will take time for OFWs to adjust to the transition to the digital version. That is why the department decided to test the app and OFW Pass first in the 10 countries with the highest number of OFWs:

  • Saudi Arabia
  • united arab emirates
  • Qatar
  • Hongkong
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Oman
  • Taiwan
  • U.K.
  • Japan

Opry said the ministry would remain in the OEC for at least two months to reduce confusion and avoid “panic” over the transition. Some 500 Filipino community leaders from various countries have also volunteered to become “OFW Pass Teachers,” instructing OFWs and aspiring migrant workers on the app.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the OLP will also be integrated into eTravel, the Philippines’ travel declaration system. “No more paper documents, no problem, just show the OFW pass and we will clear the OFW at the immigration area,” he said.

Tansingco noted that as more countries open up their economies post-COVID-19, OFW departures are on the rise. The BI recorded the departure of more than 1.2 million OFWs between January and June 2023.

The DMWMobile app on the Apple App Store has mostly one-star reviews with at least 171 ratings as of publication time. Users complained of registration issues and other technical errors.

Philippines pilots "OFW Pass" to replace OEC 2


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