Filipinos warned against fake travel documents

Attested letter of guarantee needs to be personally applied for at the consulate, official says

Migrante International UAE members say the Affidavit of Support and Guarantee breeds corruption. It was introduced in 2002 to curb human trafficking.

Dubai: The Philippine Consulate-General in Dubai has issued an advisory, warning its countrymen from buying fake consular documents illegally issued by travel agencies and sold to visit- or tourist-visa applicants from the Philippines.

The advisory warned against buying “all-in-one tourist or visit visa packages” that promise a visit visa, ticket, and the Affidavit of Support and Guarantee (AOS), an attested letter issued to holders of visit visas signifying that they have the support of their family during their stay in the UAE.

The AOS is presented to Philippine immigration officials before they fly to the UAE. It is not required by UAE authorities upon entry to the country.

The document was introduced in 2002 in a bid to curb human trafficking. But it has been removed and reinstated several times since then due to allegations of falsification and uselessness.

“We issued the advisory because of the increase in complaints we have received regarding fake affidavits of support processed by travel agencies here. We reiterate that all AOS need to be acquired through personal appearance at the Philippine missions because it is a legal document,” Consul Ryan Pondoc told Gulf News.

“If you did not appear at the consulate for the document, chances are the document you got is fake.”

Pondoc said some travel agencies are forging the signatures of the three consuls tasked with signing the document. Even the attestation is fake. Pondoc, however, said they have yet to trace where these fake documents are coming from.

Pondoc said the risks of being offloaded at Philippine Immigration counters are high once officials detect falsified documents.

Dubai resident Mercy Balgos sponsored her niece’s trip to Dubai earlier this year. She bought an all-in-one package from a travel agency in Bur Dubai for Dh2,220.

On the day of her niece’s flight, immigration officials offloaded her niece because they found out that the AOS was fake.

“I was shocked to hear that it was fake. I asked my niece to send me the copy and later on compared it with the original signature at the consulate and immediately spotted the error,” Balgos, who has been in the UAE for 24 years, told Gulf News.

Balgos said she then personally went to the consulate to apply for the AOS and got one. Her niece was able to fly to Dubai after showing the needed documents.

“My advice is for our compatriots to personally get the AOS so they don’t lose money. I spent more than Dh3,000 on tickets and only managed to get Dh2,000 back,” Balgos said.

Pondoc said Philippine immigration officials have the consuls’ specimen signatures so they can easily spot fake attested documents.

But whether it is fake or genuine is not the issue here, Nhel Morona, of the migrant rights group, said.

“The Philippine government is making the process very complicated when the host country, the UAE government, does not even require any of these documents. Our Constitution ensures our right to travel freely, The Philippine government is clearly violating this right,” Morona, Migrante Middle East UAE Coordinator, told Gulf News.

“This is a form of state exaction that we have been campaigning to be abolished since 2010,” he added.

To have the document attested costs Dh100. To expedite the process, applicants pay Dh140 but this is only for “emergency or urgent cases”, officials say. All the payments are sent to the national treasury, Pondoc clarified.