Illegal Recruiters: How to Spot Them

Reports that 137 drivers stranded in Dubai have resorted to scavenging a dumpsite for scrap food, made headlines a couple of years ago. The drivers sought the help of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center in pursuing justice against their recruiter – CYM International Services, a licensed recruitment agency – which promised them 4,000 non-existent positions as bus drivers at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), and AED 5,200 (approximately PHP 67,000) monthly salary. Before their departure, they were forced to pay, up to PHP 150,000 in placement fees, which at the outset is already illegal.

The drivers said that they were given two visas each – a tourist visa to be shown to Dubai immigration, and a fake working visa to pass through Philippine immigration. They were told to tear the fake working visas upon arrival in Dubai. Read the full report at Ding Gagelonia’s blog.

The question now is this: How could a supposedly legitimate recruitment agency, duly licensed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) get away with these atrocious practices? My gut feel is that a good number of these “legitimate” placement agencies are employing the same practices as CYM – preying on the more gullible among us, exploiting our desperation in landing decent jobs. The POEA should do something to punish CYM and the other exploiters of potential overseas Filipino workers.

Even if CYM is a purportedly legitimate agency, its actions were at the least, exploitative and were consistent with the modus operandi of illegal recruiters. If only the drivers were familiar with the way illegal recruiters operate, they would not be in the difficult situation that they are right now. Sabi nga ng POEA: “Maging matalino. Huwag magpaloko!” Below are POEA guidelines on how to spot illegal recruiters.

Who is the Illegal Recruiter?

  1. Instantly asks for placement and other fees but does not give official receipts.
  2. Promises fast and early deployment.
  3. Immediately requires medical examinations even without a definite contract or employer.
  4. Conducts transactions with applicants in public places, such as restaurants, malls, etc. and not in licensed agency’s office.
  5. Conducts house-to-house recruitment.
  6. Does not give enough information regarding the job applied.
  7. Claims to have contact with direct employers abroad, and asserts that applicants do not need to go through POEA requirements.
  8. Promises quick deployment, but only through tourist or visit visas.
  9. Could not produce employment contract or visa.
  10. Claims to work for a legitimate agency, but could not show any ID.
  11. Claims to be connected with a travel agency or a training center.
  12. Persuades applicants to look for other applicants so that deployment would be quickened.
  13. Does not give enough or hides personal information, such as full name, address, etc.
  14. Promises to process documents through the POEA’s government to government hiring program (especially for applicants to Korea).
  15. Claims to have deployed one or more workers abroad using tourist or visit visas, and tries to entice you by using the same scheme.

Ten Commandments to Avoid Illegal Recruitment

  1. You should not apply in an agency not licensed by the POEA.
  2. You should not accept jobs without job orders. Ask the POEA.
  3. You should not deal with somebody who is not an authorized employee of a licensed agency.
  4. You should not transact business outside the registered address of the agency. If recruiting outside Metro Manila, ask for Special Recruitment Authority.
  5. You should not pay for a placement fee that is more than the equivalent of a month’s salary.
  6. You should not pay for a placement fee if you are not given a receipt and an employment contract.
  7. You should not readily believe advertisements or pamphlets advising you to contact certain P.O. Box addresses and urging you to pay a fee for the processing of your papers.
  8. You should not transact business with agents of training centers and travel agencies offering jobs abroad.
  9. You should not accept a tourist visa for your overseas employment.
  10. You should not deal with fixers.

Appropriate Amount of Placement Fees to be Paid by an Overseas Job Applicant

  • Land-based Workers: An amount not exceeding a month’s salary, excluding documentation fees.
  •  Documentation fees include payments for: Passport, NBI/police/barangay clearance, authentications, birth certificate, Medicare, PDOS, trade test (optional), vaccination (if required by destination abroad) and medical examination.
  •  Accordingly, the principal or employer should pay for the visa, airfare, POEA processing and OWWA membership expenses.
  •  Seafarers: No placement, documentation or processing fee, whatsoever.
  •  Remember: All charges should only be paid after the selected worker has signed an Approved Employment Contract. All payments should be issued official receipts.
  • Unless otherwise allowed by the POEA, only the above-mentioned fees are permitted to be charged to the selected workers. All companies and employers that are not charging anything to workers are advised to continue this practice.

OFW Checklist before Departure

  1. I went through the legal channels and prompt processes of our government.
  2. I have a working or employment visa/entry permit/No Objection Certificate (NOC) and not a tourist or visit visa.
  3. I have an Employment Contract or a contract that is going through a process and is approved by the POEA.
  4. I have a PDOS certificate, which proves that I have attended a pre-departure orientation seminar, so that I would have complete information regarding the country of my destination.
  5. I have an e-Receipt or OEC, which would serve as my exit clearance and my exemption from paying the PHP 1620 travel tax and the PHP 550 airport terminal fee on the day of my departure.
  6. I have an e-Card as my permanent OFW identification card and which I could also use as an international ATM card, debit card and discount card.
  7. I have ready benefits from OWWA and PhilHealth as a member and my family members are also covered as beneficiaries.

If you have questions: Call the POEA 24-hour hotlines: (02)722-1144 / 722-1155 Visit the POEA website: Or email them at: Tandaan: “Maging matalino. Huwag magpaloko!”

Know how to spot the illegal recruiters!


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