Thursday, May 25, 2023

Becoming OFW in Dubai: Visit as Tourist vs Apply in a Job Agency?

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For some Filipinos still hanging on to their jobs in the Philippines, it could have been impossible that they would never think of going abroad at one point in their lives, knowing that their friends, former colleagues, and relatives have already explored working overseas.

It is understandable as most of them don’t want to risk being far from their family, while others are afraid of what life abroad has to offer when they are already contented with their careers and being with their loved ones in the Philippines. It is truly a sacrifice making a new life abroad without your family and friends. You will start your life in a new locality that you need to adapt culturally, meeting strangers that will eventually become your friends.

Others have considered becoming an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) but still at lost whether to avail the local employment agencies due to the rampant job scams and fake accreditation from POEA. And even if you go through a legal recruitment firm, you are still wary of your future boss and company whether they are useful as promised when you signed the contract or a dud when you arrived in their location.

You will only know the real story once you have joined them, and you cannot do anything as you are tied up for a 3-year contract. There are cases where the supposed agreed salary from the job contract you have signed is not followed when you arrived at your destination.

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That is why you cannot blame other Pinoys for joining the OFW bandwagon through the shortcut way, getting a visit visa, and applying for a job when you get there. This is more risky if you are a newbie in a foreign land like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) without even a relative there. You need to be a healthy person to survive to deal with strangers, job scammers, and spending on your expenses while staying for a few months without a job. For those who are sponsored with relatives and friends, they are lucky to have support, but for those without someone to finance their stay, they are blindly tied up literally with the “kapit sa patalim” way.

That is why it is reasonable to see younger girls being with older Pinoys or other foreigners or with lesbians, younger men with older women (cougars), or supportive gays because of survival games. I even knew how a 21-year old Filipino develop a relationship with a 55-year old Pinay because of gratitude as she spent his visa extension expenses, including his stay and food in her shared room accommodation.

Let us scrutinize the pros and cons of going abroad using a Visit Visa or through a POEA Accredited Job Agencies.

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Follow the proper way, and you are a documented OFW, so whatever happens to you abroad, the consulate and embassy will be informed of your whereabouts. The Phil Govt. will help you if you are in trouble, will repatriate you if there is a problem in your location and will represent you in court if you have committed a crime.

The salary is pegged, and you cannot negotiate unless you are a topnotch executive that you can command your price with the employer. But even if you signed the agreed salary on the contract, some employers still reduce the amount when you joined them. I knew someone who was hired as a private nurse from the local agency in the Phils. And when she arrived in the Middle East, she becomes an all-around housemaid of the family apart from taking care of the old Arab woman.

Another case was a Pinoy who signed a contract to become a private butler for a sheik, and it turned out to be just an ordinary local Arab who employed him as a plain houseboy.

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Although they can always opt to go out of contract, it is a hassle when you are being deported back to Manila for the unfit job or overqualified post. You have to wait for that employer to sponsor your repatriation ticket, and you go home broke and frustrated.

You need to go through a lot of documentation process, pay for your Health Exam, apply for NBI, Police Clearance, authentication of your academic documents, and attend the Pre-Departure Seminar. I know someone who was hired directly online and was given a job offer and employment visa, so he hired a local agency to process the requirements to make it a like a locally employed staff, only to find out that he has to do it by himself. He needs to pay the local agency at least 10% of the salary in the contract. So he ended up paying P100,000.00 for the agency for using their name and paper, but he did all the things from clearances to medical exams and PDOs.


UAE is one of the Gulf countries that welcome tourist/visitors as they wanted to promote tourism. Although they are strict about tourists not allowed to work, they are lenient on the tourist applying for work provided that they change their visa from visit to employment. Bahrain and Qatar are also toying this idea.

So easy to go abroad using a visit visa that could be sponsored by your family members, relatives, or friends. Sometimes they can get away by pretending that their friend is their relative; all you need to present to the immigration officers in NAIA is how you are being related. If you have the same last name or middle name, then you are all good. If not, then act like a real tourist, get ready with hotel bookings, show money, credit cards, etc.

If you go by visit visa, most likely, you will be harassed by Immigration officials because they look at all Pinoys who will go to UAE as a tourist who will apply for jobs. They will use the law for human trafficking to scare you. If you are confident, and you know how to answer their queries, maybe they will allow you. But the majority of Pinoys have been barred from travel on their first time with Immigration because they didn’t know what to answer and what to show to prove that they will go there as a tourist. Other corrupt immigration officers will ask the passenger for money ranging from 10thou to 50thou through an intermediary. Some passengers are ready to pay, but others are offloaded and crying as they head back home.

Jobs are so many to count if you are skilled and experienced. Jobs posting are everywhere, online, on FB groups, daily tabloids, signages, and post on the walls. If you are not choosy, then you can find one but with lower pay. If you have a budget to maximize your visa into three months, you will find the job that you are looking for with a better package. You can change the boss and company anytime when you see them in the first few days, and they turned out to be lousy employers. As long as you have not yet surrender your passport, you can always go and apply for a better company. They don’t process the employment visa in the first few days, not unless you give them your passport. For those who are jobless and bums in the Philippines, and got the chance to land in UAE via visit, jobs like office assistants/girls, gasoline boys/girls, cleaners, salesman are heaven-sent for them as these are readily available if they are not picky.

When your budget is limited and you want a job in the first month or two, you are pressured to accept any situations that come your way even if you feel that you are overqualified or offered a lesser package. You will end up taking a job for 2k-3k Dirhams (around P25k-37.5k) as sales staff, gasoline boy/girl, office boy/girl, cleaners, etc. This salary is not enough when your offer has no accommodation, food and transport allowance. Your net pay could go down to 500-700 Dirhams (P6k to 9k) if you spend for all living expenses. To have a decent life abroad, you need at least 5,000 Dirhams salary (P60k) because you will spend half of that to your accommodation, food, transport, and pure luxury. We are talking here of just a level entry staff, not a supervisor or managers, because they have their salary bracket in UAE that is around 10k to 20k (P120k to 250k).

I don’t suggest to my friends to come to UAE on visit visas if they don’t have a family member based in the country, because I don’t want to be blamed if they end up frustrated for not finding the job that fit them. I don’t want them to feel homesick if they are family-oriented people as there are too many Pinoys who have close family ties. Another worry is the family that may be broken as time goes by with all the temptations abroad. I was just lucky that I have a sister who is a nurse in UAE for more than 20 years now. Since the late 90’s, she was persuading me to try my luck in the Middle East, but I was adamant because I thought UAE is just another Saudi.

But I was proven wrong when I visited Dubai in 2004 during the economic and construction boom. I have family support, morally and financially, so I was able to pick the right job for me that was lasted for ten years. My first job lasted for one day and the second one was for two days, it is all because of the attitude of the bosses and the real situation of the company that matters when you enter into a job contract. My first boss was a local (Emirati) who want me to do all the jobs from clerical to secretarial to designer (cigarette brand).

I discovered anomalies in his files (bounced checks, lawsuit for copyright infringement of the cigarette brand), and I am the only one working on the office apart from the office boy. So I decided not to give my passport and not going back the following day. My second job lasted for two days as the Jordanian boss has this unpleasant attitude.

He doesn’t want her Pinay secretary to talk to me in Tagalog, we are not allowed to eat smelly Pinoy foods in the office and to top it all, he accused me of replacing his new camera with an old one, without asking first her secretary who knew that his son came to office earlier to get the new cam and replaced it with a mature cam. When he realized that he was wrong on accusing me, the apology that I was waiting never came as I received the call from the HR of my third company offering me for the job that I really want based on my 10 years experience in the Philippines, I knew that the second job is only suitable for that second day.

And the rest is history as I joined a prominent local company owned by the wealthiest Emirati in UAE. Until now, whenever friends are asking me on their dreams of going abroad, I always tell them to get better a job offer with local agencies where you can command your price in front of the employer during an interview. Finding a job in UAE on a visit visa is a combination of talent and luck. But if they have a relative willing to accommodate during their stay while looking for a job, then why not give a try. Your skill and experience are enough arms to get hired in the UAE, and you should know the real deal in salary package and cost of living before you ink a contract.

About the Author
Ekim Toperi, is a Global Nomad, a 10-year Dubai veteran, who has traveled to the Mediterranean and Russian Territory for a cultural and winter experiment. A civil engineer and a passionate Artist & Writer. A New Hero Awardee of BFFI, a Word-With-Friends Addict, a tennis enthusiast, and a freedom lover.

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