Philippine labor

‘Illegitimate’ work recruitment via student visa increasing – DMW

Michelle Abad

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‘Illegitimate’ work recruitment via student visa increasing – DMW

DMW CHIEF. Then-officer-in-charge Hans Cacdac speaks in a press briefing at the Department of Migrant Workers on July 19, 2023.

Rappler

DMW Undersecretary Hans Cacdac says that while there are still 'honest-to-goodness' student visa applications, some recruitment agencies offer student visa facilitation for Filipinos really looking for work, and charge huge placement fees

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has observed increasing reports of recruitment agencies looking to deploy Filipino workers by having them apply for student visas as a path to eventual work.

‘Illegitimate’ work recruitment via student visa increasing – DMW

“I think it’s safe to say that there are increasing reports of this modus. When I say modus, I mean to say the illegitimate forms of those arrangements,” said DMW Undersecretary Hans Cacdac in a press briefing on Wednesday, July 19.

Cacdac highlighted the “illegitimate” forms, noting that there were still “honest-to-goodness” student visa arrangements. The difference is the recruitment agencies’ marketing of work or permanent residency, but applicants are advised to apply for student visas.

The undersecretary said that there have been closures of certain immigration consultancy agencies employing the “modus.”

“Of course, we are mindful of the situation of the students. In fairness, some or most of them are honest-to-goodness student visa applications, but there are some who are lured in in a very wrong way. They would say there is work here but the track is student [visa] and you need to pay,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Cacdac said the “number one indicator” of the modus is if one approaches an agency looking for work, but is given a student visa arrangement. “So there’s something wrong there, ‘di ba? Wala ka naman planong mag-aral talaga, pero ‘yan ang sinabing kaparaanan para magtrabaho, and worse, tatagain ka ng malaking halaga.”

(So there’s something wrong there, right? You don’t have any plan to study, but that’s the path given to you to work, and worse, you are charged a large fee.)

Cacdac said the department is in close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs in monitoring such cases. “If you are a victim of these types of arrangements, please come forward and tell us. We will advise you and act accordingly,” he said.

On July 12, a group of Filipinos who fell victim to the alleged illegal recruitment scheme filed a case with the DMW and the National Bureau of Investigation against the chief executive officer of a company that reportedly asked applicants for more than P100,000 in placement fees.

Prisca Nina Mabatid, former Cebu City councilor and CEO of Pinoy Care Visa Center (PCVC)-Opportunities Abroad, was at the receiving end of the complaint, according to overseas Filipino worker (OFW) rights group Migrante International, which assisted the complainants. The victims alleged that Mabatid’s company instructed them to apply for student visas to Canada. They promised a three-month processing time, and that they could get jobs to help them pay for tuition and living expenses.

According to a release from Migrante, the victims learned of the recruitment through social media posts of the Public Employment Service Office in their respective areas. These offices, which are established in every local government unit, coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment.

Senator Raffy Tulfo, Senate migrant workers committee chair, has also endorsed PCVC in the past. However, in a June 2022 post from Tulfo’s Facebook page, there is no mention of student visa processing.

A June 18 article from Hong Kong-based The Sun reported that police interviewed Mabatid, who was in Hong Kong as a tourist conducting a recruitment seminar for OFWs.

According to the report, Mabatid told police that she did not know tourists were not allowed to carry out business in Hong Kong, as she had conducted similar activities in the Middle East, and was not stopped.

Mabatid reportedly agreed to return applicants’ money. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.