Monday, September 18, 2023

10 Things You Need to Know About OFW Medical Exams

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Medical exams are a standard requirement for employment, especially for overseas jobs. A visit to the laboratory to check for stool, blood, and urine sample plus other tests is one way to find out whether or not an applicant has a clean bill of health and can perform tasks as demanded by the job.

Why medical exams is a requirement for employment abroad

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A medical exam is a requirement for individuals who are seeking work opportunities abroad. The purpose of the exam is to make sure that the individual is fit to work, and does not have any serious medical illness that can disrupt normal work routine. It also serves as a safeguard for host countries against potentially contagious diseases, and help gauge the worker in working conditions such as in Saudi Arabia’s extreme hot weather.

Just like a police clearance to clear a job applicant from any criminal record and poses no security risk at work, a medical check-up also helps an applicant get medication. This is even if he or she is ruled ineligible for the job — in case abnormal findings are discovered from the test.

Diagnostic results from medical exams will be the basis for an applicant’s admission for employment abroad. The applicant will either receive a medical clearance followed by an approved work permit, a denied medical clearance, which may delay or cancel his work permit, or recommendations to address certain medical issues detected during the exam.

For example, if the applicant has oral health issues, he will be advised to undergo dental treatments before he will be granted a license to work overseas. In some cases, an applicant may be required to undergo certain procedures, such as biopsies, spinal taps, booster vaccinations, or even minor surgery to meet the medical requirements of the host country.

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Usually, a medical exam is among the last to be submitted by a job applicant, and most likely, those who reach this stage get the job. But by no means, is a physical and laboratory check the least important one.

So for those who are not yet familiar with medical exams, how they are being administered, and other things they need to know, note the following:

Who should undergo medical exams

A medical examination undertaken at an authorized medical clinic is a necessary step in applying for an overseas work permit. This generally applies to all overseas job applicants, although certain jobs may require additional tests.

Medical requirements vary from one county to another

Some countries screen for infectious (tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases) or chronic infections (HIV, heart ailment), and others screen for mental illnesses. Candidates with chronic renal failure, hepatitis failure, congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cancer, psychiatric disease, and a few other diseases are also unfit to work abroad.

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In the Philippines, applicants for jobs in the Middle East, particularly Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, often go to the Gulf Cooperation Council-Accredited Medical Clinics Association. GAMCA provides a list of illnesses that determine if an aspiring OFW is fit for work abroad.

medical exams held at accredited clinics.

What kind of medical tests are performed for overseas jobs?

Medical exams may vary but usually involves any of the following procedures.

    1. Review of medical history
    2. Routine physical exam
      • Height and weight measurement
      • Body mass index
      • Eye exam
      • Hearing test
      • Dental exam
      • Nose and sinus exam
      • Blood pressure test
      • Kidney function tests, such as blood urea nitrogen test or creatinine test
      • Liver function tests, such as total protein, total bilirubin, direct and indirect bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, albumin levels, and globulin levels, among others
      • Pulmonary function tests or spirometry
      • Pancreatic function tests
      • Lipid tests
      • Treadmill exercise test
      • Ultrasound and x-rays
      • ECG
      • Abdominal echo
      • Fecal and urine tests
      • Blood tests
      • Pregnancy test for women
    3. Psychological testingIn addition to the medical exams, some overseas employers may also require Filipino job applicants to undergo psychological testing before they are hired. Psychological testing is used to assess an applicant’s mental and emotional health and to determine their fitness for the job.

      The psychological testing process typically involves a series of tests and interviews conducted by a licensed psychologist or mental health professional. The tests may include personality tests, aptitude tests, and cognitive tests, among others. The purpose of the tests is to evaluate the applicant’s cognitive abilities, emotional stability, and personality traits, and to identify any mental health conditions that may affect their job performance or ability to adjust to a new environment.

      The results of the psychological testing are used by the employer to determine the applicant’s suitability for the job and to identify any support or accommodations they may need to perform their duties. The results are also used to identify any potential risks to the applicant’s mental health and well-being in the overseas work environment.

    4. Drug and alcohol testingDrug testing is a common requirement for overseas job applicants from the Philippines. The purpose of the drug test is to screen for the use of illegal drugs and other controlled substances that may impair an applicant’s ability to perform their job duties or pose a risk to the safety of others.

      The drug testing process typically involves a urine or blood test that is conducted by a licensed medical professional or certified drug testing facility. The test may screen for a range of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and opioids, among others. Some employers may also require additional tests, such as hair follicle testing or saliva testing, to detect the use of drugs over a longer period of time.

      The results of the drug test are used by the employer to determine the applicant’s suitability for the job and to ensure that they are not using illegal drugs or other controlled substances that may affect their job performance or pose a risk to the safety of others. In some cases, the employer may also use the results to determine whether the applicant requires any support or accommodations to perform their duties.

    5. Infectious disease screening
      Infectious disease screening is a requirement for many overseas job applicants from the Philippines, particularly those who will be working in healthcare or other industries where they may be at risk of exposure to infectious diseases. The purpose of the screening is to detect and prevent the spread of infectious diseases and protect the health and safety of both the applicant and those they will be working with.The screening process typically involves a physical examination and a series of tests to detect the presence of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, HIV, and other communicable diseases. These tests may include blood tests, urine tests, and chest x-rays, among others. In some cases, the employer may also require additional tests, such as serological testing for specific diseases or a skin test for tuberculosis.The results of the infectious disease screening are used by the employer to determine the applicant’s suitability for the job and to ensure that they do not pose a risk of transmitting infectious diseases to others. Depending on the nature of the job and the specific infectious diseases being screened for, the employer may require that the applicant receive treatment or take other preventive measures to reduce the risk of transmission.

Cost of medical exams varies

The cost of medical exams for overseas job applicants from the Philippines can vary depending on several factors, including the type of exam required, the location where it is conducted, and the specific medical facility or clinic chosen to conduct the exam.

In the Philippines, the cost of a medical exam for overseas job applicants typically ranges from around PHP 1,500 to PHP 7,000, or roughly USD 30 to USD 140, although it can be higher or lower depending on the specific requirements of the employer and the type of exam needed.

It is important to note that the cost of medical exams may not be covered by the employer, and the applicant may be responsible for covering the cost of the exams themselves. Additionally, the cost of medical exams may be higher for applicants who require additional testing or screening due to underlying medical conditions or other factors.

Phase 1 vs Phase 2 medical exams

In order to obtain employment abroad, Filipinos must undergo two medical examinations: Phase 1 and Phase 2 medical examinations.

Phase 1 medical examinations are conducted in the Philippines prior to the worker’s departure for the country of destination. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) requires workers to undergo medical examinations prior to working abroad.

An examination includes a physical examination, blood tests, urinalysis, and chest x-rays to detect any underlying medical conditions that may pose a risk to public health and safety in the destination nation. In the case of overseas employment documents, a medical certificate is the result of the Phase 1 medical examination.

Phase 2 medical examinations are required by some destination countries after a worker has arrived in their country. An examination is usually conducted within two weeks of the worker’s arrival and is designed to detect any medical conditions that were missed during the Phase 1 examination or that have developed since the worker left the Philippines. Certain sectors, including healthcare, education, and food service, require Phase 2 exams for workers who may be in contact with vulnerable populations or who are at risk of contracting infectious diseases. Phase 2 examinations are usually covered by the employer.

Exam results undertaken by non-accredited clinics may be invalid and not accepted

Although candidates for jobs are often allowed to undergo medical exams in agencies other than suggested by employment agencies, dealing with those not accredited by government bodies such as POEA or DOH might render results invalid.

Medical exams can take up the whole day.

Devote one whole day for medical exams and defer other appointments to another day. At designated clinics, medical tests for OFW applicants are subject to several criteria, including fecal, blood, and urine, EENT (eye, ear, nose, throat), X-ray screening, and vision tests. Their vital signs, such as pulse, blood pressure, weight, and height, are also recorded. Psychological and physical examinations may vary depending on the clinic.

Laboratory and professional fees may vary depending on the type of tests required but cost at least P2,500 or above. Applicants often shoulder these fees. Since each appointment lasts for the whole day, an applicant is expected to bring samples of stool and urine.

Prior checkups may help get better results.

Sometimes an earlier appointment with a family physician or dentist to assess medical conditions may help get favorable results. That’s because a doctor’s advice based on test results may include dental, skin, or other forms of treatment, which is likely more expensive than outside the network of accredited medical professionals.

It is also possible to get a second or further check. For example, if the initial blood pressure reading is above the allowable level or blood sugar is elevated, another test can be requested. Before this is done, a dosage of medicine may be prescribed. Be aware of prior instructions such as pre-exam fasting and follow them. In such a case for fasting blood sugar (FBS), an applicant needs to fast eight hours before the medical exam procedure takes place.

Exam results are valid for three months.

The results of your medical exam are valid only for three months. Once you obtain the “fit to work” remark, ensure that you’ll be able to fly to your workplace before the validity of this remark expires.

Another round of tests is needed if you defer your job application by at least three months. Sometimes agencies partner with different medical laboratories and do not honor results from non-affiliated medical exam providers. Therefore, be prepared to do so in case you decide to switch to another agency for whatever reason.

Once you receive your medical certificate, be aware that it has a validity of only three months. Some agencies don’t honor the medical tests required by other agencies, so be prepared to retake the same criteria if you apply with another agency.

Significance of exam results to a job offer.

Health checks may come after qualifying interviews, proficiency tests, and submission of requirements, but it nonetheless impacts the employability of a job candidate. Once its results show signs of health conditions considered significant in carrying out the job or the overall well-being of a worker deployed abroad, the job offer may be withdrawn for such reasons. Worse, a worker who is already elsewhere may risk getting deported under the same circumstances.

‘Fit to Work’ classification for OFWs

The Fit to Work classification is a system used in many countries, including the Philippines, to assess an individual’s physical and medical fitness for work. The system is designed to help ensure that employees are healthy enough to perform their job duties safely and effectively.

In the Philippines, the Fit to Work classification system is based on three classes, A, B, and C, which are defined as follows:

  • Fit to Work Class A: This classification indicates that an individual is fully fit for work and has no significant medical conditions or physical limitations that would prevent them from performing their job duties.
  • Fit to Work Class B: This classification is used for individuals who have medical conditions or physical limitations that do not prevent them from working, but may require some modifications or accommodations in the workplace.
  • Fit to Work Class C: This classification is used for individuals who are temporarily or permanently unfit for work due to a medical condition or physical limitation.

Employers may require their employees to undergo Fit to Work assessments as part of their pre-employment medical screening or as a regular requirement for certain types of work. The classification can help employers to determine if an individual is capable of performing the essential functions of their job, and if any accommodations or modifications are necessary to ensure their safety and well-being in the workplace.


Whether you are applying for a job abroad or not, maintaining a healthy lifestyle (eating healthy with the right amount of food, exercising, and sleep) is a must. A healthy worker is a productive worker.

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