How To Secure An OEC For Direct Hire OFWs
Working abroad is a dream shared by many Filipinos for several reasons. Better career prospects and employment opportunities are the most shining examples as to why going across borders is a desirable choice to make. There are also a few ways one can go about working abroad.
If you intend to apply as a direct hire employee rather than through an agency, securing an Overseas Employment Certification (OEC) from the Philippine Overseas Labor and Employment Agency (POEA) is a strong requirement.
What is an OEC?
All those who aspire to be direct-hire OFWs are required by the immigration office to present their OECs. It functions primarily as your clearance pass so you can exit the country to pursue work abroad legally. This document not only serves as your ID for being an OFW but simultaneously vouches for the legitimacy of the company that has hired you for work. Therefore, this is top-priority documentation if you want to venture out for overseas employment.
What is a direct hire?
While the prospect of seeking employment outside the country might be very attractive in concept, the actual process of doing so is far more complicated than it seems. That’s where agencies come into play.
They conduct all the due diligence about a company and its open positions and you are rest assured that a company you will be working for has been pre-vetted for legitimacy and that your rights as an employee are actively engaged. You will also be guided on where you need to go to obtain the documentary requirements that will be used to process your overseas job application.
The major downside, however, is that POEA-licensed recruitment agencies tend to cost a lot of money. After all, there’s no such thing as a free meal. Placement fees are standard practice and will cost anywhere between one to two months’ worth of salary that the OFW earns. There are a lot of variances when you consider the broker’s fees and other fees that are unique in some countries.
When you apply as a direct-hire employee, you can forego all those hefty fees if you are willing to conduct thorough research yourself. Lucky for you we are going to discuss how you can apply for an OEC, which is the only type of direct hiring admissible to the POEA.
Prep work before applying for an OEC
Normally it is prohibited by the Philippine labor code for overseas employers to recruit Filipino workers directly. The standard process is for them to go through a POEA-accredited recruitment agency. This is to prevent OFWs from being exploited, abused, and have their labor rights violated.
There are, however, special types of employers that are exempted from the restriction on directly hiring OFWs. They are as follows:
- International organizations such as the ASEAN and the UN
- High-ranking government officials and heads of state such as a deputy minister
- Foreign diplomats
- Lower rank officials from the three above who are endorsed officially by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)
- Employers known for issuing authenticated contracts and are compliant with all POEA standards in recruiting skilled and professional workers
- Permanent residents of a host country who seek hiring family members or relatives, with exception to domestic workers
If your work prospect is from a company or a client who does not fall under the exemptions above, your employer and job application will have to be reviewed by the approving authorities. The current memorandum states that it could take at least a full week for the review of your submitted documents to be completed. Only then can you potentially obtain POEA clearance.
Phase 1: Securing clearance and exemption on direct hiring ban from the POEA
1.Valid Passport. This document is paramount primarily because this is required for anyone who wants safe passage to fly outside the country, either for work or travel. Your passport needs to be at least valid for the next 6 months. Though I would suggest that your passport is newly renewed or at least be good for another year. Either of which will increase your odds in getting approved for an OEC.
2. Newly issued Work Visa or Work Permit. All foreign nationals who seek admission to the Philippines for employment purposes are required to secure a work visa by the Bureau of Immigration. Meaning your employer needs to secure this document for you.
3. Valid employment Contract. A written agreement between the employer and the employee is standard. This document needs to be authenticated and will be thoroughly evaluated by the POEA. They will determine if the contract is complete or if it should be revised with your full rights as an employee in mind. It is recommended for your employer to format the document according to a sample work contract provided by the POEA. This helps speed up the process.
4. Company Profile. Alongside the work visa and employment contract, a company profile must be submitted by your employer to the Philippine embassy of your destination country, granted that country does not have a POLO.
5. Endorsement by the POLO or the Philippine Embassy. Your employer needs to send you a letter that they will have acquired from POLO or the Philippine Embassy of their country certifying exemption from the ban on direct hiring. You will need to submit this endorsement letter to POEA so that your overseas job application will be reviewed for processing.
6. Additional job application requirements. These documents will vouch that your qualifications and skills are sufficient for the work you will be performing abroad:
-Transcript of Records or Form 137
-PRC License or National Certificate 2 (NC2)
-Resume or CV
Make sure that you submit Certified True Copies of said documents, except for your resume or CV.
7. Notarized Statement. This document functions as your work affidavit – vouching legitimacy of your documents – and discusses how you came upon the job abroad you have applied for. This needs to be authenticated by the POEA together with the items mentioned on number 6.
Keep in mind that there are requirements unique to certain countries. Meaning you may be required to secure documents outside of what we have discussed above. For example, in Singapore, they are required to secure an in-principle approval or IPA immediately after securing a work visa/permit for the employee. Always check the nuanced application process of the country you plan to fly into for work.
An applicant may directly visit the nearest POEA to submit their documents for evaluation. Again, this process takes time, but rest assured your name will eventually appear on the POEA website, reflecting the status of your Direct Hire Clearance application. Otherwise, follow up after a week.
If you’re based in Manila, the POEA office will have you submit your documents via email to DirecthirePhase1Eval@poea.gov.ph. You can expect a reply from them about an appointment date and time for when you can stop by the POEA office with your documents in hand.
In any case, once you have finally acquired the Direct Hire Clearance from the POEA, a compliance letter will be issued for both the employee and the employer to sign. You might have to email this compliance letter to the employer yourself.
Phase 2: Securing an OEC for direct-hire applicants
- e-Register at the Online Services Portal of the POEA website. Create an account, upload your profile picture, and fill in the details required by the account creation page. You will also be asked to upload a picture of your passport’s bio page.
- Secure a valid medical certificate. Your medical examination must be conducted by a DOH-certified clinic for OFWs. If you already have a fit-to-work medical certificate attached to your work permit or visa, there is no need for you to undergo another medical exam.
- Attend the Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar (PEOS). This entitles you to a PEOS certification. This is a necessary step to understand the scope of being an OFW, the different types of POEA services, and how you can prevent falling victim to illegal recruitment. You can simply visit the PEOS website and login with your e-Registration details. Attend the PEOS remotely through your smartphone or computer and receive a download copy of your certificate afterwards.
- Attend the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS). This is akin to the PEOS but handled by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). This seminar walks you through the wide range of government services available to OFWs, a deep dive on employment contracts, travel procedures, tips when working abroad, etc. Attending the PDOS is free and is conducted by the OWWA from Mondays to Thursdays at the POEA head office. Both online and in-person options are available. No appointment needed. Walk in any of the times the PDOS is held.
- A certificate of insurance coverage will also be required for both agency and direct-hire applicants.
All the above are prerequisites to receiving POEA clearance, which entitles you to apply for an OEC.
As for OEC fees, they are as follows:
- POEA processing fee being the current equivalent of $100 USD
- OWWA membership fee being the current equivalent of $25 USD
- PHP100 monthly Pag-IBIG contribution
- PhilHealth contribution for a full year of PHP2,400. This is not required for the issuance of OEC, but is recommended. OFWs can voluntarily pay for the premiums as they see fit.
Visit your local POEA office to pay for these fees. Make sure to ask for your receipt.
Once all fees are paid, log in to the POEA e-Registration account, go to the POPS-Direct dashboard, and print a copy of your OEC.
Applying for work abroad as a direct-hire no doubt involves a painstaking process. Nevertheless, it’s a necessary step for the government to ensure the welfare of Filipinos working abroad.