There is confusion out there about what is needed for a Filipino child visa holder to travel from Philippines to Australia, and many get into quite a worried state about this. Many also don’t quite get how the rules work and how the laws work in the Philippines. Do you need a DSWD travel clearance? What do you actually need? We’ll also explain briefly about the Philippines child protection laws under Republic Act No. 7610 (RA 7610), and what you should know about travel requirements for Filipino children.
Filipino children – do they need a DSWD travel clearance?
DSWD stands for Department of Social Welfare and Development. This is like “Family Services” in Australia. They make sure, in this case, that kids are not being trafficked off overseas or in the wrong hands.
So when is a DSWD travel clearance required?
- When there is a child under 18 traveling alone to a foreign country
- When there is a child under 18 traveling to a foreign country accompanied by someone other than his or her parents
What it means is that unless there is a court order to the contrary, a child can travel overseas with their mum and/or dad without a travel clearance being needed.
Travel clearances and fathers
But be aware that an Australian sponsor can’t go and pick up the child of his girlfriend or fiancée and bring them back to Australia. And as you will read below, there are laws here about adults being in the company of kids they are not related to, and you don’t want to put yourself under a cloud of suspicion.
And the same issue applies to your own biological children who are born out of wedlock! If you have children from a de facto relationship in the Philippines, then those children are not in your legal custody (explained below), you would need to get a DSWD Travel Clearance for them.
My advice? Travel with the mum. Save yourself the headaches.
Australian visa applications and traveling children
For a child to be included in an Australia visa application, they must meet Public Interest Criteria 4015.
- The law of the child’s HOME COUNTRY (ie. Philippines) allows them to leave the country under the circumstances of the visa.
- If anyone other than the mum has legal custodial rights over the child, then they give their consent.
Children born out of wedlock in Philippines are the sole custody of their mother. If the parents weren’t married, then the father has no say in whether they leave the country or not. And this is irrespective of whether he puts his name on the birth certificate (ie. acknowledges paternity) or not, or whether he lived in a de facto relationship and did all the right things. He can complain all he likes, but it will achieve nothing.
It also means that if the parents of the child are still married, even if he was the worst father in the world and hasn’t seen them or supported them for the last 11 years, we still need his permission before the children can leave the country. Unless the court gave full custody to the mother, we will need to gain his permission or they will remain in Philippines.
Child Protection Laws in Philippines
The Philippines for a long time was one of those countries where the pedophiles would head knowing that they could safely abuse kids and get away with it. Things have changed, and there are strict laws in place to keep kids out of harms way. And anyone visiting the Philippines needs to be aware of these laws or you could inadvertently get caught up in them by well-intentioned but possibly overzealous law enforcement. Thus my advice to not even try to travel with kids without their mum.
Basically, you can’t be in the company of a child whom you have no right or reason to be around. Inviting neighbor kids or street kids to watch TV with you, or to accompany you somewhere, you could find yourself arrested. Pedophiles have always come up with excuses and justification as to why the child was behind closed doors with them. Letting them play computer games. Giving them a feed. Giving them clothes or shoes. Taking them out on a boat for a treat. Giving them a bed for the night. Thus some fairly strict laws, thank goodness! Be aware of these laws and try to appreciate the reasons for them existing, and be careful not to accidentally do the wrong thing whether well-intentioned or not.