Expat Life in Dubai

Day 118 of 363 blog post challenge: The joys of being an OFW.

May 2, 2012

You’d think that going back to your home country would be an easy task for everyone, not for us Filipinos – well at least for those who are working abroad. This is why I hate going back to the Philippines, apart from having to deal with obnoxious and self-centered EXTENDED family members who thinks you’re SUPPOSED to give them something from abroad, there is a need for all of us to go thru the painstaking task of securing an Overseas Employment Certificate and renewing our OWWA membership every two years.

What is an Overseas Employment Certificate?

An Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), is a requirement under POEA Rules and Regulaitons to help ensure that Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) are properly documented and protected.

Used OEC, whether regular or multiple, is a requirement to be submitted to the Department of Tourism to avail travel tax reduction for OFW dependents.

There is no exemptions for us, not even if you opt to pay for the travel tax at the airport so you don’t have to go thru the hassle of securing an OEC, that’s just not possible. YOU. MUST. GET. IT. The amount of this OEC is USD5.50.

What is OWWA?

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), is the lead government agency tasked to protect and promote the welfare and well-being of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their dependents.

What kind of protection to the well-being of an Overseas Filipino Workers do they provide exactly? Well, it’s supposed to have a life insurance, disability and death benefits, burial benefits, scholarships for family members etc. etc. If you want to know more about it, do click here. Personally though, I think it’s a load of bull. I have read a lot of cases here in Dubai of Filipinos who need to have those assistance and on the newspaper article itself, they are asking for financial help from other Filipino workers. So what now? Our good government can’t provide for them because they don’t have the budget for it? Well, I tell you what this morning alone there were about 300 people waiting outside the consulate under the heat of the mid-day Dubai sun to get an OWWA certificate. So just for this morning, they already had around AED30,000. So yes, they do have the money but they’re just not using it properly. It’s not really a big surprise for any of us though.

So I went to the consulate at around 0730hrs and when I arrived, I was given the number 120 and the consulate does not even open yet until 0800hrs. I’ve no idea what time the other 119 applicants arrived but I had hoped I was one of them. We were asked to wait outside the villa for about an hour until they called our numbers to go inside one of the villas to fill out 3 forms (Pag-ibig, OEC and OWWA) and wait some more. After about 3 hours of waiting, we were then asked to transfer once again to the adjacent villa to pay for everything but of course, we’ll have to wait some more. The payment for the PAG-IBIG membership was a bit quick, only 45 minutes but the OWWA and OEC part was a hassle. I noticed that there were 3 windows but only one was working and the girl behind the counter was taking all the time in the world to process one payment. In between payments, she will stop for about 10 minutes to rummage thru the papers in front of her before calling the next number. I was THISCLOSE to walking up to her counter, throwing a chair to the glass which separates her from us and just give her one big slap on her face to wake her up. There is no sense of urgency even if the room is getting filled by people who are waiting dressed in their uniforms which clearly states that they still need to go to work afterwards. No, the agent has all the time in the world and does not give a crap to anyone. To make the very long wait short, I spent 5 hours and 30 minutes at the consulate to get these papers:

Imagine, 5 hours! And it’s not even the height of the peak season yet. I don’t really want to know how it would be like during December (Christmas season) or March (Graduation season).

Well, if I’ll be optimistic and let this be an experience to which I could learn a lesson from, it would be the following:

1. Go to the consulate early. Like 0600 early if you want to get the first 10 numbers.
2. If it’s the summer season in Dubai and you’ve arrived there at around 0900hrs, forget it. Just go home and forget all about it. That is, if you don’t want to suffer a heat stroke while waiting outside of the villa under the heat of Dubai’s mighty sun.
3. Shorts and slippers are not allowed inside the consulate, so you better be dressed properly. I don’t really know why they have this rule, it’s not like their employees were properly dressed earlier anyway.
4. OWWA certificate is valid for 2 years, make sure you know until when yours is valid so you don’t have to pay for it again. It’s AED100 by the way.
5. OEC is something you’ll have to get everytime you go back home so you don’t have much choice really but to pay for the AED10.
6. Bring a book with you or an iPad or a laptop or a DVD player, anything to pass your time.
7. Don’t drink water prior to going to the consulate, they don’t let you use the toilet.
8. Don’t eat too much, they don’t let you use the toilet for ANY reasons.
9. The Consulate has two separate buildings, one is for the passport formalities/document notarization and the other is for OEC/OWWA. For the love of all things that matter to you, MAKE.SURE.THAT.YOU.ARE.IN.THE.CORRECT.PLACE. Ask around.
10. Take a day off because for sure as hell you won’t have the energy to go to work after you’ve waited for that long specially if you were not so lucky as I was this morning. It wasn’t so hot yet when I arrived but it was freaking humid when I went outside the confines of the air conditioned room. I can only give a sorry glance to all the people waiting outside.

Disclaimer: Number 7 and 8 aren’t exactly true, although I overheard one applicant asking one of the Consulate employees where the toilet was and the employee gave her a blank face and walked away. Maybe she was offended when someone asked her for the toilet, I don’t really know.

Waiting for our numbers to be called............

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