SCARY Tale: How I was able to visit HK & Macau legally with a 4-month valid Philippine passport after signing an Affidavit of Risk Awareness

Inside Hong Kong International Airport
One of the dumbest things I have ever done in my life is not realizing that my passport is less than six months valid. Double the shame the fact that I am a travel blogger. They say I should know better... duh! I have said this so many times, I have been mega uber busy lately. According to  IATA, the passport expiry rule  says it should be 6 months in order to be granted entry or exit to most countries. IATA means International Air Transport Association. It is the biggest group of airlines that represent, lead and govern the entire airline industry. Last time I got hold of my passport was October 2015 in my trip to Cambodia & Malaysia. When I returned home, I kept it in my drawer and not even once I tried to check it.The night before my trip to Hong Kong, I tried to check - in online via Cathay Pacific Airways website because I hate falling in the long queue to manually check - in at the airport. All of a sudden, there was an error message saying:

"Looks like your travel document is due to expire within six months of your departure. For details on passport validity requirements for travel to your destinations, please visit the IATA Travel Centre (www.iatatravelcentre.com) For details on passport validity requirements for travel to your destinations, please visit the IATA Travel Centre (www.iatatravelcentre.com)"



Right there and then I knew there's something wrong going on. The first thing I did is ask the owner of the travel agency where I bought my tour package for Hong Kong & Macau. She did her best to calm me down and not to worry about this. She explained that technically my passport is still valid during my whole travel dates which is true. This is a matter of universal logic versus rule about passport expiring in 6 months time. However she didn't assured me that I would have no problem passing through the 3 Immigration officers: Philippines, HK and Macau I will face.






The fact that I have less than 6 months left on my passport, scared me so much especially because I am travelling alone. The travel agency owner still told me to go to the airport, be honest and if needed be ready to explain. Well I have spent quite a big amount already for this trip: Php 7, 400 for my flight & mom (she didn't made it so I only able to use the half which is Php 3, 700) plus Php 7, 300 worth of tour package so a total of Php 15, 000+. I also quickly asked two of my friends on Facebook who are owners of travel agencies here in the Philippines. One said to still try and another one said no.

It was already 12 midnight when I slept and I can't hide the fact that I am worried. I am a risk - taker so I was hundred percent sure to take the risk. I woke up as early as 4 am to prepare. By 7 am I'm already in the airport and falling in line to check in manually. Should there be unexpected things to happen, I have few hours to maybe work it out or I would know the verdict as early as possible. The Cathay Pacific staff's first question is " Ma'am are you aware that your passport is only good for 4 months? I replied yes and at the same showed a printed paper of my Passport Renewal appointment from DFA this coming June 2nd.  I did this the night before I learned my passport is going to expire.

He never showed any facial expression of disappointment or anything I may get worried. In about 10 minutes or I was given a boarding pass. I felt quite a relief but I know this is just the start. When I got into the Immigration, this woman asked the same question, if I'm aware of my passport going to expire and if I knew that this can be a basis that I may not be granted entry to my destination which is Hong Kong. She said she needs to let me sign an Affidavit of Risk Awareness document. This means if the HK Immigration officer decides to not to grant me entry, the Philippine Immigration isn't liable for this action. They call it A - to  - A or airport - to airport.

I was about to cry but I try not to show my emotions and kept on asking questions. I was asking the percentage of probability of getting deported, but her answers are very safe. She always say it depends. Honesty, if she said yes, I will definitely just go home. She is the authority so I was depending to her what's my next move. She said sometimes they're strict, sometimes not. If worst case happens, she said the airlines will pay a big fine, not me because in the first place, they allowed me to check in. Well this sounds good but my next question is, will my passport have a record that I got denied an entry? She said she is unsure. All throughout our conversation, I never thought of being offloaded.

She finally stamped my passport and I gave back the paper I signed that I am not holding if they deny me entry. The man who is checking boarding pass and passport just before we pass through the lane that scans our baggage looked nice. I asked him of my case, he also gave me a vague answer. He doesn't know but he contradicted the answer of the Philippine immigration officer. He said should I be denied entry meaning I will be sent back home on same day, my passport will have a bad record.





I am half-way giving up and half-way pursuing but I chose to be positive. I wouldn't know unless I board this plane. Of course there is a consequence but this is the only way to find out. It is still 3 hours to go before my flight. Since no one in this airport was able to give me an answer I can hold on, I went online. The boarding gate assigned to our flight has a very weak signal. I have to walk for 3 boarding gates away just to find a decent signal. I googled which countries require 6 months of passport validity I found this information from the website of Discover Hong Kong, the tourism office of this country under Immigration.




It says ONE MONTH. No way! I pinched myself just to make sure I am dreaming or I am checking the official website of HK Tourism Board. Yes I am! But still I feel this isn't enough. I gotta hear it from somebody else. I keep on googling about forums of people who encountered the same dilemma but theirs are too long to read. I'm not in the right mind to digest everything. All I want is an assurance. I felt I needed to pee so I went on and looked for the toilet. While I was walking in the second floor, I saw the separate boarding gate to those who are flying business class via Cathay Pacific. I decided to drop by and asked the girl in the frontline. Without checking anything she confirmed, passport holders of at least 1 month valid can still be granted entry in Hongkong.

I did not stopped there. While waiting for the plane to arrive, I also sent inquiries to the official Facebook pages of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong SAR. This is the answer I got:





Here is the answer I got from Discover Hong Kong:



It was already past one in the afternoon when we reached Hong Kong International airport. The temperature is about 19 degrees and I came from Manila which is at 34 degrees. I am sweating all over amidst the cool weather because I am so worried and  afraid of the possibility to be denied an entry. I was praying and confused how will I say it to the immigration officer.  Well, when I got there, I looked her straight in her eyes but she never asked me anything. I think it only took me 5 minutes then she let me pass. I walked very fast and about to shout in ecstasy that time. I know I couldn't do that so I just said to myself "Welcome to Hong Kong!". Same thing happens when I went to Macau the next day, I had no problem whatsoever.

Curious of how it's like flying Economy class via Cathay Pacific Air Hong Kong to Manila Roundtrip? Click here to read my review

Here's what I realized about what I just went through:

To travel agency operators: always make sure to ask your clients about their passport expiry dates to avoid this from happening. Imagine my 15k could have been wasted if this didn't turned the way I want it!

To Philippine Immigration officers: i know you guys are just doing your job but I think it doesn't hurt to know the nitty - gritty details of your tasks. You just made me so damn nervous and was about to go back out! Thanks to that girl whose answers are so SAFE, i chose to keep going. 

To myself: For heaven's sake, please take time to slow down and enjoy the day! 

Disclaimer: I am just sharing my personal experience of how I was able to visit HK & Macau legally with a 4-month valid Philippine passport. I don't want to let you do this too, no one knows next time you may get the same results. For your peace of mind and I would definitely recommend to make sure you research further the passport validity for international travels. I know there are other countries that are very strict about the passport validity of 6 months.

5 comments

  1. Definitely a scary start to your trip - I hope that it did not spoil things too much for you. Well done for staying calm and pushing through with your trip !

    How long will it take before the Philippines authorities issue you with a new passport ?

    Maria's #1 Fan in London

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    1. It was scary just from the start but the whole trip was fine.

      I am scheduled to renew on June 2nd so by July I am legally ok to travel abroad with a valid passport :)

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  2. Whoah! That was scary! I'm glad it ended well. Bigla akong napa-check sa passport ko since I'm going to Vietnam and Cambodia on September... Okay... Safe pa. 2017 pa ang expiry. Haha! xD


    xoxo,
    Gelleesh.com

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    Replies
    1. Good to know :) I have been only to Cambodia but Vietnam is also in my bucket list and THAILAND i am so looking forward to visit these two. Hope you come up with a blog post for these countries para may idea din ako when I get there

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    2. Good to know :) I have been only to Cambodia but Vietnam is also in my bucket list and THAILAND i am so looking forward to visit these two. Hope you come up with a blog post for these countries para may idea din ako when I get there

      Delete