BANGKOK, THAILAND – In 2015, the Philippine Embassy reported that there were 15,662 Filipinos in Thailand. This was accounted as follows: 1,025 are permanent migrants (they are married to Thais); temporary migrants, 13,266 are temporary migrants or those issued with work permits by the Thai Ministry of Labor, and the irregular or undocumented accounted to 1,371. However, the numbers could be higher because most Filipinos coming here to work entered as tourists. They have either friends or family members who encouraged them to work in the Kingdom.

As an ASEAN member, Filipinos can stay up to 28 days in Thailand as tourists. This opportunity favors the Filipinos who are looking for work as teachers or ajarn. Those who already found jobs usually get their visas at Royal Thai Embassy in Laos. They are assisted by their employers in securing a Non-B visa for workers while Non-O for the workers’ dependents.

Legal or Illegal

Many Filipino workers came to Thailand as tourists. They did not go to the usual processing at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA). Hence, they are not legal “OFWs” because they are not members of Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) and have not paid Philhealth, Pag-ibig and other fees. Upon their return in the Philippines, they can register at POEA as OFWs. Many workers have not been home for so many years, thus, they are yet to become “legal OFWs”.

In Thailand, after securing visa and work permit, they become legal workers and protected by the Thai Labor Laws.

Filipinos whose visas already expired cross the border countries like Lao, Cambodia, Myanmar or Malaysia to secure another 15-day extension or apply for another 3 -month tourist visa from the Thai immigration. This is called “visa-run”. Many OFWs who are not given proper documents opted to this option. However, the Thai Immigration recently implemented a stricter rule regarding the ‘visa run’, limiting the entry and exit of tourists particularly those who have multiple tourist visas in the borders of Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos.

‘Excellent work ethics of Filipinos’

Hard-work, excellent work ethics, determination and willingness to adapt to whatever kind of environment give the Filipinos advantage over other foreign workers. These characteristics of the Filipino teachers impressed many school directors from the banok-banok (village schools) to the top universities in Thailand. Thus, it is not surprising that in (a website for teaching jobs), many schools are looking specifically for Filipino teachers.

To most Filipinos, being an OFW is not a long term-job, but having the opportunity to work here even for a year is a big help to their families back home. A teaching contract is one year and renewable every year. Filipinos also know that citizenship is impossible for them no matter how long they have been in the Kingdom. Some Filipinos who are married to Thais are given permanent residency status.

Despite some misgivings as teachers, experiencing discrimination and visa problems, Filipino migrants still choose to stay in Thailand because of its relax working condition. Teaching hours range from 10-23 hours per week. Most teachers have tutorials after their regular classes. Aside from the convenience, safety is one of the reasons why many Filipinos are willing to be assigned even in the farthest municipalities in the Kingdom.

Photo: Troy Mina, a Filipino teacher in Thailand with his students in front of his Tutorial Center in Bangkok.