• OFWs complain of excessive visa fees

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    Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for Kuwait are complaining about excessive visa and medical fees imposed starting early this year by the Kuwait Embassy in Manila, which, the workers said, are highly prejudicial and an added burden to them.

    The OFWs’ representative agency, the Philippine Licensed Agencies Accredited to Kuwait (Philaak), “has appealed to the State of Kuwait to recall, stop and/or immediately suspend two nuisances that are highly prejudicial and costly for our countrymen whose only desire is to be able to work in Kuwait for a better future for their family.”

    In a letter sent to the current Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines, Waleed Ahmad Al-Kandari, the Philaak board of directors requested immediate and permanent relief that will benefit OFWs applying for jobs in Kuwait.

    The Philaak said it sought the suspension of the exorbitant visa fee of P3,457 per applicant, which is not refunded should the visa stamping be denied by the Embassy of Kuwait.

    The association cited the Mawared visa stamping services, which require Kuwait-bound OFWs to personally appear at the company’s office in Taguig City to file their passports for visa stamping and pick them up.

    Philaak said that previously, the embassy did not require the personal appearance of OFWs in applying for visa stamping. Instead, a local courier company charges a minimal fee of P387 for door-to-door delivery of a duly stamped visa.

    According to Philaak, the Mawared visa stamping services are an added expense and a time-consuming process for OFWs, especially those based in the provinces. Worse, it said, Mawared’s fee is exorbitant at P3,457, up nearly 1,000 percent from the previous courier fee of P387 with no added value to the OFWs.

    The group also complained of unreasonable medical fees of P7,000 charged by a private medical firm, Winston, to each applicant. This compares with the medical examination fee allowed by the Department of Health at only P2,580.

    Philaak also said the Winston system for medical services appears to be similar to the “Gamca” system (Gulf Approved Medical Centers Association), which the Supreme Court has ruled as invalid.

    BENJIE L. VERGARA

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