The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is a government agency in the Philippines that provides social and economic benefits to Filipino migrant workers and their families. It was founded in 1977 to help address the needs of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). At its inception, OWWA has helped millions of OFWs and their families by providing a wide range of services, including health insurance, education scholarships, financial assistance, and legal aid. In addition, OWWA also operates overseas welfare centers where OFWs can seek help in case of emergency.
Since its establishment, OWWA has been at the forefront of providing assistance to OFWs in times of crisis. OWWA’s services are not only limited to assisting OFWs in times of crisis. The agency also provides a wide range of social and economic benefits to OFWs and their families. Additionally, OWWA also operates overseas welfare centers overseas where OFWs can seek help in case of emergency.
In a 2015 United Nations report released by Statista.com, the Philippines ranked eighth in the top 10 countries with the highest number of migrants sent, with over 5.3 million Filipinos. The number soared to 6.1 million in five years when a similar report was released in 2020. And while the numbers continue to rise through the years, the Philippine government is yet to continue what it has promised them through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is an attached agency and service arm of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and a member institution that is vested with the special function of developing, implementing, and evaluating welfare programs and services that respond to the needs of aspiring, outgoing, and returning OFWs as well as their families. These services are scattered throughout the OFWs’ pre-departure, on-site, and arrival activities, and are funded with the help of contributions from its members which are collated to a trust fund.
Founded in 1977, OWWA now has its regional presence nationwide as well as in 31 posts in over 27 countries all over the world. OWWA is managed by a Board of Trustees and serves a two-fold mandate: the delivery of welfare services and benefits, and ensuring capital buildup and fund viability.
Below is a sample photo of the OWWA agency logo. Please be guided.
Benefits of OWWA Members
Being a member of OWWA entitles OFWs to a wide range of benefits, from eligibility and access to the agency’s programs to priority in other services. These benefits cover the pre-departure, on-site, and upon return to country activities of OFWs.
- Orientation and training seminars
- Assistance in employment application
- Assistance in employee/employer concerns
Upon return to Country
- Reintegration programs
- Livelihood training and assistance
- Other benefits
Programs and Services
Majority of OWWA’s programs and services cater to its OFW members and their qualified dependents, but there are also a number of programs that are also being offered to inactive or non-members.
Social Benefit Programs
- A one-time disability and dismemberment benefit of PhP 50,000 for partial or temporary disability, and PhP 100,000 for permanent disability of an OFW
- A death benefit of PhP 100,000 for an OFW member’s natural death, or PhP 200,000 in the event of an accidental death.
- In addition to the OFW’s death benefit, a one-time burial benefit of PhP 20,000 for the legal heir/s or the OFW’s dependent/s.
- Supplemental Medical Assistance (MedPlus) for OFWs who are PhilHealth members and are diagnosed with dreaded and chronic illnesses, where a financial assistance equivalent to PhilHealth’s case rate system of the chronic illness but not to exceed PhP 50,000, is given per member.
- Welfare Assistance Programs that cover a wide range of functions and are open to both active and inactive OWWA OFW members that may not be qualified in other Social Benefits of OWWA:
- Bereavement Assistance – for families of deceased OWWA OFW members
- Calamity Assistance – for OWWA OFW members and their families that may have been affected by natural or man-made disasters
- Medical Assistance – for OWWA OFW members who have sustained injuries due to crime or accidents, or those who are suffering from illnesses that are not covered by MedPlus Program
- Relief Assistance – for OWWA OFW members who have been displaced, terminated or laid off due to economic, political, or public health crises outside their control.
Scholarships, Education and Training Programs
- Pre-departure Education Programs that aim to orient and equip first-time and outgoing OFWs about their employment abroad as well as language training, and cultural, financial, and legal affairs orientation.
- Pre-departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) – a one-day, country-specific orientation seminar that is required for all first-time OFWs.
- Comprehensive Pre-departure Education Program (CPDEP) – a four-to-six-day compulsory orientation seminar for first-time domestic workers.
- Training Programs specifically for Filipino seafarers
- Seafarers Upgrading Program – a job-related training and upgrade assistance worth up to PhP 7,500 per seafaring member.
- Mariner’s Dugtong Aral (Bridging) Program – a scholarship grant for graduates of BS Mechanical Engineering or BS Electrical Engineering who would like to pursue a career in marine engineering through a BS Marine Engineering program
- Scholarships for qualified dependents of OWWA OFW members:
- Education for Development Scholarship Program (EDSP) – a scholarship grant worth up to PhP 60,000 per school year for qualified dependents of active OWWA OFW members who are pursuing a 4-year or 5-year baccalaureate program.
- OFW Dependent Scholarship Program (ODSP) – an educational assistance of up to PhP 20,000 per school year for qualified dependents of OWWA OFW members who are earning less than USD 600 or PhP 32,000 monthly
- Educational Livelihood Assistance Program (ELAP) – a scholarship grant that is usually offered to the eldest child dependent of an OWWA OFW member who had been active at the time of death, or a convicted OWWA OFW member who is facing death penalty.
The repatriation program is designed to assist and bring back OFWs who had been distressed abroad, or the human remains of deceased OFWs, in the event of emergencies brought about by political unrest or natural calamities. The repatriation program of OWWA entitles OFWs to:
- Airport assistance upon arrival in the country
- Temporary shelter at the OWWA Halfway Home
- Psychosocial counseling and stress debriefing
- Transport service to their respective hometowns
- Other benefits as deemed necessary for the OFW and their dependents
The reintegration programs of OWWA are aimed at assisting returning OFWs in their return to the Philippine labor force and livelihood. Reintegration covers programs for on-site and in-country activities of returning OFWs:
- On-site reintegration preparedness training:
- Values formation
- Financial literacy
- Entrepreneurial development
- Techno-skills and capacity building
- In-country reintegration process:
- Job referrals
- Business counseling
- Community organization
- Financial literacy
- Networking with support groups and institutions
- Social preparation as initiated by Regional Welfare Offices of OWWA
- Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay! Program – a livelihood support and assistance package worth up to PhP 20,000 as a starting or additional capital for a returning OWWA OFW member
- OFW – Enterprise Development and Loan Program (OFW – EDLP) – OWWA’s enterprise development intervention and loan program, in cooperation with Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), that allows a 7.5% interest per annum throughout the duration of loan for either working capital or fixed asset acquisition
- Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Pag-unlad ng Samahang OFWs (Tulong PUSO) – a one-time, project-based assistance program worth up to PhP 1,000,000 to assist the undertakings and support services of OFW-caused organizations with more than 50 members.
Becoming an OWWA member
All documented OFWs are OWWA members by default, so if you have applied for work via legal means, you may affirm your OFW membership in two ways:
- Physical application at OWWA Regional Welfare Offices, for OFWs residing in the Philippines, or via Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), for OFWs residing abroad.
- Online application via OWWA Mobile App on Google Play Store or App Store for iOS
OWWA membership is mandatory for all working Filipinos abroad, so even if you went abroad on a tourist visa and have found a job at some point, it is highly recommended that you apply for OWWA membership to help you secure your employment. The OWWA membership shall be valid for two (2) years upon approval of application.
To start, OFWs must be able to secure the following documentary requirements:
- OWWA OFW Information Sheet
- A copy of the passport’s data page
- A copy of Employment pass or work permit
- A copy of Employment Contract
- A membership fee worth USD 25 or their equivalent in foreign currency, depending on the country of destination.
Do note that these are the general requirements for membership, and may vary depending on the location of the OWWA office where you intend to apply or renew. You may schedule an appointment with an OWWA office to secure a fast application and contact them should you have any questions.
You may apply for OWWA membership either via Regional Welfare Offices (RWOs) or POLOs, or online
Applying to an OWWA Office
- Secure your documentary requirements and membership fee
- Book an appointment at https://appointment.owwa.gov.ph/ to schedule your application. This is required prior to visiting an OWWA office for any transaction.
- Once you have a confirmed appointment, go to your selected OWWA office to submit your application
- Pay the membership fee and wait for your Official Receipt.
- Validate your membership online via OWWA Mobile App.
Applying via Email/Online
- Secure your documentary requirements and membership fee
- Go to the official OWWA website of your country of destination and look for the email where you are to submit your requirements.
- Submit your application via email. Keep in mind to practice proper email etiquette prior to submission.
- Pay for your membership fee as instructed through online platforms and wait for your Official Receipt to be sent via separate email.
- Validate your membership online via OWWA Mobile App.
Verifying, monitoring and renewing your membership
- Install the OWWA Mobile App on Google Play Store, for Android users, or on App Store, for iOS users.
- Log in with your username and password. If you do not have an account, you may sign up using the information in your membership application.
- To validate your membership: click on the “Information” tab and you must be able to find your membership status is either active or inactive. Membership is valid for two years since approval of application or issuance of receipt.
- Inactive members may renew membership by clicking on “Profile” and paying the membership fee via Mobile Online Payment System (MOPS) of Landbank – BancNet.
Video: An Introduction to OWWA Benefits and Programs for OFW Members
An introduction video by The Pinoy OFW channle, where you can find information on the nature and scope of work of OWWA, may be watched here:
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions and answers people have about the OWWA agency. Please be guided accordingly.
1. What is OWWA?
The OWWA or Overseas Workers Welfare Administration is an attached agency and service arm of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), duly mandated to promote and protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers. It is also a membership institution that provides its programs and services to OFWs and their qualified dependents through the contributions collected from the members. It serves OFWs and their dependents throughout the country as well as in 31 posts across 27 countries worldwide.
2. What does OWWA do?
OWWA focuses on the welfare of OFWs and their families by developing, implementing and evaluating benefit programs and services that cater to the pre-departure, on-site and arrival activities of OFWs.
3. What does it mean to be an OWWA member?
Being an OWWA OFW member allows you and your dependents to enjoy a wide variety of benefit programs and services by OWWA. These programs range from scholarship and educational and livelihood programs, training programs, financial assistance, social and welfare assistance, and overseas employment assistance, among others. The OWWA member community is also a supportive community for first-time, outgoing, and returning OFWs.
4. Who are qualified to be OWWA members?
Any Filipino citizen who has worked or is planning to work abroad may apply for OWWA membership, provided that they can present proof of overseas employment. Also, all documented OFWs are automatically OWWA members; they would simply have to affirm their membership by applying through the nearest OWWA office or online.
5. Is the OWWA membership for free?
Unfortunately, OWWA membership is worth USD 25, roughly PhP 1,000 or PhP1,500, depending on the country of destination. However, this membership contribution is valid for two (2) years and is solely used to fund OWWA’s projects and services to OFWs. It might be overwhelming, but it is worth the benefit.
6. Do I need to wait to become an OWWA member?
No, there is no waitlist for OFW membership applications. However, because these applications go year round, it is recommended that you apply for membership as soon as you have a confirmed employment overseas, to ensure a speedy transaction.
7. How do I apply for membership?
OFWs may apply for OWWA membership by securing an appointment to their nearest OWWA office at https://appointment.owwa.gov.ph/ and submitting the documentary requirements upon a scheduled visit, or by checking the official website of the OWWA RWO or POLO of their country of destination and submitting their requirements via email. Membership shall take effect upon payment of the membership fee and claiming of the official receipt.
8. What is the difference between OWWA and DMW office?
OWWA is an attached agency that will be a separate entity to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW). OWWA focuses on the insurance for migrant workers while the DMW department is more on the overall support for migrant workers. They still go hand in hand, but OWWA is more specific to the benefits and insurance for OFWs.
9. What is the difference between OWWA and POLO office?
The POLO office will soon be merged with the DMW department. But just to tell the difference, the POLO is a labor office based in overseas countries and acts as a physical location for labor concerns of OFWs. OWWA focuses still on the benefits that OFWs can get if ever they have any benefits they can get out of these labor issues. So these two have different functions, but they both serve OFW migrant workers.
In conclusion, OWWA indeed serves as a manifestation of the Philippine government’s promise to Filipinos to uphold their rights, promote their welfare and protect their dignity.
And as we continue to tread the uncharted waters brought about by the global pandemic, OWWA stands its ground to realize its vision of globally competitive Filipinos capable of promoting our culture and building the nation, wherever they are.
That is why, more than ever, we enjoin all Filipinos working abroad to remain united and vigilant in promoting our welfare and protecting our rights. We also call on our kababayans to continue supporting OWWA’s programs and services by renewing their membership or by applying for one as soon as they have confirmed employment overseas. Lastly, we encourage everyone to visit the official website of OWWA at www.owwa.gov.ph for more information on membership requirements and benefits.