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HK Immigration rejects 100 green contracts submitted late

28 February 2017

The new contract is blue in color.

By The SUN staff

About 100 green foreign domestic helper contracts were rejected by Hong Kong Immigration for missing its Jan 27 deadline for submission.

After this date, only the new blue contracts with the provision on window cleaning restriction for foreign domestic workers were accepted for processing.

Assistant Labour Attache Henry Tianero said that the rejected contracts had to be cancelled from the records by the Consulate, and the affected workers had to get the new blue forms and pay fees all over again.

To process a new contract, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) charges $80 for verification, and the Consulate, $200 for authentication.

But in all these cases, Tianero said the green contracts were released by POLO way ahead of Jan. 27, and the workers concerned were advised to immediately submit them to Immigration.
His statement came as a migrant workers’ group lambasted POLO for the fiasco.

“It is a double whammy for OFWs due mainly to the lack of information and foresight of the Philippine Consulate General through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office,” said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of Unifil-Migrante-HK, in a press statement on Feb 16.

The accusation was labeled as unfair by Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre, who said the affected workers must have delayed going to Immigration after their contracts were processed and released by POLO.

“Maybe their employer went away and the worker did not submit the contract to Immigration immediately,” said Labatt de la Torre.

In some cases, he said the workers delayed going to Immigration because they had obtained an appointment date later than the Jan. 27 deadline.

“They were specifically told to forget about their appointment and go straight to Immigration, either as walk-in applicants, or to use the drop box to make sure they beat the deadline,” he said.

“At every step of the way, we alerted the workers about the need to ensure that their contracts got to Immigration before the deadline.”

At least one Filipino community leader found herself in this predicament. Her contract was released by POLO way ahead of Immigration’s Jan. 27 cut-off date, but despite warnings from several people, she insisted on waiting until her appointment date of Feb. 3.

When her contract was rejected by Immigration, she immediately rushed back to POLO and the Consulate in an attempt to get a waiver of the charges. Still, she had to get the new blue document, get her employer to sign, and go through the whole process of getting it approved by the Consulate before passing it on to Immigration.

Unifil’s leaders are, however, not convinced.

“They knew that Hong Kong’s Immigration Department will not be processing old contracts anymore after Jan 27 and yet they (POLO) processed old contracts they knew the applicant would submit to Immigration by the said date or even after,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

She called on the Consulate and POLO to waive the processing fees for workers who had to submit contracts twice, and refund the payment of those who had been charged a second time.

“Should OFWs be punished and penalized for the incompetence of government officials?”, she asked.
But Tianero said that since Jan. 3, the first working day of the year, POLO had been telling individual workers who were rehired or moving to new employers about the Immigration deadline for green contracts.

Contracts processed by agencies posed no such problems, he said, as the agencies had been duly informed about the transition.

POLO also gave workers written instructions that their documents would be released at the Consulate six working days after submission.

Despite all the warnings, OFWs continue to arrive at POLO with signed green contracts. On Feb. 26 alone, Tianero said three workers came to his office to get the old contract forms processed.

He said the workers were told they should replace them with the new blue version and to advise their employers that they needed to pay the reprocessing fees.

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