Onward Travel Requirement to Use the BalikBayan Privilege
I’ve written about this subject many times in the past. The last time was here: Thoughts On Onward Travel and Throwaway Tickets — 2015 Edition
I’ve also answer many, many times questions on this subject, typically centered around the subject of “Do I need “onward travel” in advance before being allowed to board a flight to the Philippines, with my spouse, intending to avail of the Balikbayan privilege program.
The answer is NO.
But you might want to read about our latest BB-involved trip to Bali just to understand the difference between totally “smooth sailing” and being flexible, polite and not giving up.
A little over a week ago my wife and I purchased round-trip tickets from Manila to Bali, Indonesia and return to Manila.
When we approached the ticket counter at the Bali airport to check in our bags and get our boarding passes, the ticket agent looked at our tickets and seemed to get extremely flustered. She immediately called her supervisor over and as soon as he saw our situation, he looked extremely upset also. Jeez, all these people upset and not a word has been spoken yet? Wonder what’s up (as if I didn’t know)?
Trying To Explain The UN-explainable:
The ticket agent supervisor started to very patiently explain how the Philippines was “very strange” and “very strict” and how he couldn’t issue boarding passes to foreigners who didn’t have onward travel. He got about 5 or 6 things wrong in his explanation but the facts certainly are that if you are a foreigner and are NOT availing of the BB privilege,thenyou must have onward travel. No problem, that’s a given.
But I WAS Availing of the BB, and I Met the Requirements
So I started trying patiently to explain how things worked to this gentleman. Of course I talked to fast, used too many unfamiliar words and was undoubtedly letting my impatience show. Never, ever do that. The way things were going I might STILL be arguing at the airport in Den Passar.
But my lovely, talented and quick thinking wife slid up next to me at the counter, flipped open my passport to the page with all my previous BB stamps and said, “Sir, what my husband is trying to say is, becuase he’s married to me, when we get to Manila he will get one of these stamps, good for a year, just like a permanent visa.”
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
The airline rep’s face changed completely. A look of relief swept over him, he broke out in a big smile and said, “Oh thank you ma’am. He’s a permanent resident then, no problem, let me print your boarding passes”.
Well, no, not exactly a permanent resident, but I do know when to keep my big mouth shut sometimes LoL.
The agent then asked permission to “take a picture” of the stamps in my passport, which I, of course happily agreed to. Words were failing us but seeing the stamps and then taking a picture of them just solved everything. It was like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.
By the Time Picture Taking Was Finished
Everyone was all smiles, the machine had printed out our boarding passes and off we flew to Manila. Remember guys and gals, lectures are boring, visual aids work best.
So now, just from personal experience …
- In October 2006, my dual citizen (US.Filipino) wife and I traveled to the Philippines to begin our full-time life here. October 2006 to October 2015, (9 years so far and counting. No regrets.). We bought one way tickets on Philippine Airlines (the airline one would expect to know best about Philippines law — not so). They refused to board me, a US citizen, without onward travel, even though my wife showed them our documents and explained that we would be availing of the Balikbayan Privilege Stamp for me. Solution? I bought a refundable $90 USD one way ticket from Manila to Hong Kong on PAL, then they boarded me. Upon arrival in Manila, the Immigration Officer stamped my passport with my one year BB stamp and welcomed me with a smile. No mention of onward travel, of course, since BB Privilege Stamp holders DO NOT REQUIRE onward travel. I then refunded the ticket. The airline was wrong. but hey, no out-of-pocket cost, no harm, no foul.
- So in October 2006, the airline cared, (wrongly) about my onward travel and I bought a refundable ticket in order to board.
During 2007 and 2008 I stayed here in the Philippines on a combination of the BB Privilege Stamp and then I converted it to a Tourist Visa (easily done at any BI office) and stayed through 2008 as a tourist.
- In March 2009, my wife and I bought a RT ticket from Clark, Philippines to Macau. When we showed up to board the return flight at Macau, the Cebu Pacific check-in personnel took us aside and told me that as a US Citizen, they could not board me for the flight back to Clark because I had no “onward travel”. As soon as my wife showed them our marriage certificate and explained we were going to avail of Balikbayan Privilege at Clark, the airline representative said, “Oh, yes, sure, no problem, here is your boarding pass”. Upon arrival at Clark, we asked for the BB stamp from the Immigration Officer, he smile, stamped, and then we smiled too. Good for one year, easy-peasy.
- So in 2009, the airline “cared’ about the requirement and would have refused boarding had I not been ‘legal’ to return without “onward travel”.
- In March, 2010, My wife and I bought RT tickets from Manila to Orlando Florida and back to Manila on Delta Airlines. Getting on board for the flight home to Manila in Florida couldn’t have been easier … we did curbside check-in at MCO (Orlando airport), got boarding passes for all legs of our flight at arrived in Manila, walked up to the Immigration Officer, asked for Balikbayan Privilege stamp for me, and we were walking out with a smile in less than one minute.
- So in 2010, the airline could not have cared less about my onward travel. Nobody asked, nobody cared.
- In September 2012, I bought a RT ticket from Manila to Denver and back to Manila for me, traveling alone. I took the precaution od buying a ticket on Cebu Pacific as mentioned in the preceding article, not knowing if I needed it, but not wanting to lose my chance to fly home. Sure enough, when I went to get my boarding passes in Denver for the flight back, I had to show the paid and confirmed Cebu Pacific ‘outbound’ flight “E ticket” before United would let me fly to the Philippines. Upon landing in Manila I got the normal 30 day “Visa waiver” stamp and was not required to show any onward travel proof … although the Immigration Office did ask how long I was staying.
- So In September 2012 the airline DID care about my onward travel and required proof. I was not “legal” to get a BB Stamp since I was traveling by myself and the airline followed the proper rules exactly. I knew the rules and bought the ticket on Cebu pacific in advance … I could have bought it right there in the Denver airport by going on Cebu Pacfic’s web site .. only takes about 5 minutes. What did I do with the “Show Ticket” that I needed to board in the USA traveling alone and one way? Read on …
- Finally, in October 2012, 19 days into my 30 day Tourist Visa waiver stay, the date I had purchased my Cebu pacific “show ticket for) I bought a RT ticket to Macau for my wife and a one way from Macau back to the Philippines for me and my wife and I flew to Macau. (Remember I was still on a Philippine Tourist Visa., I wanted to get back in the BB program). Upon check-in for our return flight 3 days later, the Cebu Pacific reservations counter personnel never asked about onward travel or Balikbayan status … they just hit ‘print’ for our boarding passes and sent us to the gate. Upon arrival in Clark, we requested Balikbayan Privilege from the Immigration Officer, who smiled, stamped and said “Have a nice year”. Again, easy-peasy.
- So in October 2012, the airline could not have cared less about the “onward Travel” requirement.
- In October 2013 my wife and I purchased RT tickets Manila, Guam, Manila and flew to that lovely, often ignored “piece” of the United States hidden in plain sight in the middle of the Pacific. While checking in for our return flight to Manila, the counter agent at Guam looked very puzzled and started shuffling our reservation papers and passports around in his hand. I asked if there was a problem and the gentleman said, “I’m unsure about your onward travel. I showed him the prior BB stamps in m passport, my wife’s passport and her Philippine Certificate of Citizenship and told him we’d be requesting the BB Stamp upon arrival. “Oh thanks”, he replied, “I just wasn’t seeing your situation right. Here are you boarding passes, have a great trip.”
- So in October, 2013, the airline did care enough to ask about an onward ticket, but handed over the boarding pass when I carefully walked them through the documentation and the process. Again, easy-peasy.
- In September, 2014 my wife and I purchased RT tickets from Clark AB to Macau. We had a great time in Macau, even enjoying and extra 14 hours there due to a typhoon passing through. On the return journey to Clark the airline never asked about onward travel, they could not have cared less. On arrival in Clark the Immigration officer stamped my passport with the requested BB stamp, gave us a big smile and said, “Welcome home.”
- So in September, 2014, the airline did not care enough to ask about an onward ticket. Again, easy-peasy.
- In September, 2015 my wife and I purchased round trip tickets, Manila – Denver Colorado – Manila. Going back to the US for shopping and to attend a wedding. We stayed for a month. In October 2015, when we checked in at the counter n Denver the agent issued our boarding passes and never said a word about onward travel. But we had to change planes in Seattle, and while waiting for our onward flight to Hong Kong and then Manila, the gate agent made an ominous-sounding call. She said “There are 34 passengers on this flight who do not have the words “Docs OK” on their boarding pass. If one of those passengers is you, please approach the podium.’ Well sure enough my wife and I did not have that notation on our passes, so we walked up to the counter and the agent said, “The problem with you two is you have no onward travel from the Philippines showing”. I told her, “Well my wife is a Philippine citizen, so she needs none, and I am going to avail of the Balikbayan Program as her husband..” Showed the agent our marriage certificate and my wife’s “Reacquired Philippine Citizenship” certificate and the friendly agent press said “OK, fine”, hit “print” on her keyboard, and out came new “Docs OK” boarding passes, and on our way we went. At Manila, as has always been the case, the Immigration Officer just looked at our marriage certificate, stamped my passport with a new BB Stamp (good until October 2016) and handed the passport to me. Another year’s worth of stay, done and dusted.
- So in October 2015, the airline cared enough to ask about onward travel. When I showed them we met the requirements for the BB Privilege, they gave us boarding passes and sent us on our way. At Manila, I of course were issued a BB stamp in my passport in the usual, less than one minute processing at the Immigration counter.
- In March, 2016, the airline at first refused me a boarding pass becuase I did not have onward travel. After a total time of about 10 minutes explaining to the airline ticket counter representatives and showing them my collection of yearly BB Stamps in my passport they said, “Oh, thanks for explaining about this BB program” and issued me a boarding pass. At the airport in Manila the Immigration officer smiled, welcomed us home, stamped the BB in my passport and kidded with my wife about why she kept bringing me back, LoL
So there you have Eight BB Privilege trips and seven completely unpredictable results.
Anyone notice any consistency here? Frankly, I do.
My results have been consistently inconsistent.
BUT I NEVER HAD TO PRODUCE AN ONWARD TRAVEL TICKET WHEN TRAVELING WITH MY WIFE AND OUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE!
Anyone else have anything to contribute on the subject of Onward Travel Requirement to Use the BalikBayan Privilege.