MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Labor and Employment has warned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against using commercial visas to go to Kuwait to work, saying the scheme places them at a very precarious and dangerous situation.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued the warning after receiving a report from Labor Attaché to Kuwait David Des Dicang, who said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait had been receiving employment- and immigration-related complaints from Filipino workers deployed to Kuwait on commercial visas.
A Kuwaiti commercial visit visa is only for the purpose of job assessment/interview, and not actual employment, and this has posed a difficulty for the POLO in addressing the complaints of workers deployed to Kuwait on this type of visa, Dicang said in his report to Baldoz.
“A worker on a commercial visa is supposed to travel back to his country of origin and return to Kuwait on a work visa. But in reality, companies in Kuwait getting workers on commercial visa convert the commercial visas into work visa since this is a faster and less cumbersome way to employ workers from the Philippines,” he said.
“Some Filipino workers on commercial visas are sometimes required to exit Kuwait to a third country, such as Bahrain, and return to Kuwait at the workers’ expense to process their work visas,” he added.
Dicang also explained in his report that the government would be in no position to verify the terms and conditions of a worker’s employment if he or she came to Kuwait in a commercial visa, which was converted to a work visa because in most cases, the worker was not provided a copy of an employment contract or did not have one.
He also said an OFW planning to go to Kuwait on a commercial visa to work cannot file employment-related complaints with the Ministry of Labor, or Shuon. As a last resort, a worker with an expired visa will have to pay hefty penalty fees, or karama, or else submit to detention and subsequent deportation.
“The POLO cannot also compel any agency to resolve the problems of a worker in case a company/sponsor does not cooperate and does not fulfill its obligations, since a worker on a commercial visa is deployed irregularly and not through a licensed recruitment agency,” Dicang explained.
In his report, Dicang cited the case of one Randy de Ocampo who had requested POLO assistance about his situation.
Ocampo complained that on June 30, 2012, he sent a copy of his passport via e-mail to a friend in Kuwait and after just three days, or on July 4, 2012, he received his commercial visa by courier under the sponsorship of Al-Wazan United Company for Trading and Contracting. On July 27, 2012, De Ocampo arrived in Kuwait on a one-month commercial visa.
Dicang said De Ocampo did not report to his sponsor because he could not make up his mind about working with the company as a masseur under its branch Philippine Spa.
“He said he realized that this was not the kind of employment he wanted for himself, he being a forestry graduate from the University of the Philippines. Soon, we received a report that De Ocampo’s visa had expired,” Dicang said.
In view of the above incident, Baldoz has instructed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to look into this matter in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Immigration, and other concerned government agencies.
Dicang said several Filipino workers working in various Kuwaiti companies have sought the POLO’s help in the past few months for problems, such as unissued residence/work visas, unpaid salaries, maltreatment or harassment, and other work-related issues.
“We have observed that workers on commercial visas have been approved and processed for companies in surprisingly large numbers,” he said.