I recently watched in the news that there was a huge batch of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) that was vaccinated prior to their deployment. It’s good to know that these same people who were involuntarily repatriated last year may now resume their overseas jobs even if Covid-19 still remains a serious threat to all of us.
As modern-day heroes, the OFWs opt to work overseas for a variety of reasons—lucrative offers and opportunities, change of working environment, to be with relatives residing abroad, and yes, for a life-long dream or an adventure in a foreign land. Whatever the reason may be, their decision to work overseas is always for the benefit of their families.
Just like here at the Social Security System (SSS), we also endeavor to extend social security protection to our Filipino workers, whether they are based here or overseas, including their beneficiaries. The SSS provides short- and long-term benefits to members as long as they qualify to receive various benefits and loan privileges—these may be in the form of sickness, maternity, disability, unemployment, retirement, funeral and death as well as member loan programs like salary and calamity loan, among others.
This is why it is important to update or start one’s SSS membership before leaving the country despite earning in a different foreign currency abroad. Think of your monthly contributions as savings for social security protection and as an investment in your future.
SSS started its coverage for OFWs in 1995, initially for voluntary membership. However, effective March 2019, SSS coverage is now compulsory for all sea- and land-based OFWs, provided they are not yet over 60 years of age, as defined under Republic Act (RA) 8042, also known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, and its 2010 amendment, provided under RA 10022.
An OFW refers to a person who is to be engaged, is engaged, has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a state of which he/she is not a citizen, or on-board a vessel navigating the foreign seas other than a government ship used for military or non-commercial purposes, or on an installation located off-shore or on the high-seas. A person “to be engaged in a remunerated activity” refers to an applicant worker who has been promised or assured employment overseas.
A prospective member should initially secure a Social Security Number (SSN). The good thing here is that this can now be done via online by visiting SSS’ official web site www.sss.gov.ph. One can start accessing the SS Number Issuance facility, which involves a 2-phase registration. Registrants are required to encode their personal data (complete name, date of birth and e-mail), beneficiaries and other contact information prior to the issuance of an SSN.
Registrants are also required to present their birth certificate issued by the Local Civil Registrar or the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to any local SSS branches in the Philippines or foreign representative offices or submit these online.
In the absence of a birth certificate, any of these documents may serve as alternative:
- Baptismal certificate or its equivalent
- Driver’s license
- Professional Regulation Commission card Seaman’s Book (Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book).
Meanwhile, those who already have an SSS number need only to make their payment as an OFW.
Do keep in mind, however, that the assigned SS number is unique only to the member for use in all subsequent SSS transactions.
I would also like to point out that the effectivity date of coverage of the OFW varies for every member classification. For sea-based workers, it takes effect on the first day of employment. On the other hand, coverage for land-based workers takes effect on the applicable month and year of the first contribution payment, similar to voluntary land-based OFWs for permanent migrants.
At present, the minimum Monthly Salary Credit (MSC) for land-based OFWs is at P8,000, equivalent to a contribution rate of P1,040 month, provided that those who are receiving monthly earnings lower than the required minimum contributions will also pay the corresponding amount.
As a special privilege, OFWs may pay their contributions from January to September anytime within the year, whereas the last quarter covering October to December may be paid until the last day of the month of the following year.
Our OFWs can make payments locally, overseas, and even online through the following channels:
- SSS web site: PayMaya.
- SSS Mobile App: BPIDebit/Credit Cards, PayMaya.
- Mobile app payments: CIS Bayad Center Inc./GCash, I-Remit, Inc.
- Local Banks: Asia United Bank, Bank of Commerce, Bank One Savings Corp., East West Rural Bank, Partner Rural Bank, Philippine Business Bank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., Rural Bank of Lanuza, Union Bank of the Philippines/UnionBank Online, United Coconut Planters Bank.
- Overseas Banks: Asia United Bank, Bank of Commerce, Philippine National Bank.
- Bank’s web site/Mobile app: Security Bank Corp.-Digibanker/Security Bank Online, Union Bank of the Philippines-UnionBank Online.
- Bank’s Auto-Debit Arrangement: BPI, Country Builders Bank, Inc., First Consolidated Bank, Metrobank, Philippine National Bank, PS Bank.
- Local non-bank collecting partners: CIS Bayad Center Inc./GCash, ECPay, SM Mart Inc., PayMaya.
- Overseas non-bank collecting partners: Cashpinas, I-Remit, Inc., Pinoy Express Hatid Padala Services, Inc., Ventaja International Corp., LMI Express Delivery Inc.
In appreciation and recognition of the growing numbers of OFWs worldwide, SSS has established foreign offices as early as 1998. In Asia, we have offices in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan (Taipei and Kaohsiung), Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, and Singapore.
In the Middle East, they may visit our representative offices in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Khobar), United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Israel.
In North America, SSS offices are in Canada (Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver), and the USA (Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco).
In Europe, our OFWs can transact in Italy (Rome and Milan), Spain, and in the United Kingdom (London). These are strategically housed in Philippine embassies, consulates, or overseas labor
Even if the OFWs will decide to stay in their host country or return to the Philippines when they retire, it’s still a great investment to be an SSS member until they reach 60 years old.
There is an age-old adage that goes: “You will never really know what tomorrow will bring.” But what is more important is that no matter where you want to retire, you can be sure you can receive your pension from your SSS contributions after so many years of hard work and sacrifices.
Have a productive week ahead.
Aurora C. Ignacio is SSS president and chief executive officer.
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