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Dr. Toman Barsbai as he presents the results of the Evaluation on the Enhanced Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars for Permanent Emigrants from the Philippines to the US


On an average day about 350 Filipinos migrate permanently to other countries sponsored by family members or as spouse or partner of a foreign national. In 2015, 92,998 Filipinos registered with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) as emigrants to countries like the United States of America, Canada, Japan, Australia, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Korea and Germany.

While their reason for migrating abroad was mainly to reunite with family members, which means having a permanent support network upon arrival, Filipino immigrants still experience considerable difficulties in seamlessly integrating in the destination countries due to important knowledge gaps. After all, they have to learn to navigate a completely different system. For many decades, the Philippine Government’s approach to address this challenge has been to provide pre-departure assistance to Filipino migrants. In the case of Filipinos granted with permanent resident visa abroad, registration with the CFO is mandatory before leaving the country. Pre-departure registration entails attending a country-specific orientation seminar that discusses travel-related matters, settlement concerns and available support networks abroad.


The principal idea of the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar or more commonly referred to as PDOS is to reduce the knowledge gaps of emigrants about various aspects of the destination country early on, helping them make more informed decisions and prepare them for the psycho-social challenges of living in a different country. By providing relevant information during the sessions, the PDOS aims to motivate the person to make certain adjustments or changes in their behavior that will eventually help migrants to live productively and happily in a new country.

Until recently, evidence on the effectiveness of the pre-departure orientation trainings taken by Filipino migrants has largely been anecdotal. In March 2013, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas and the Asian Institute of Management began a rigorous study, the first of its kind, to analyze and present the evidence on the effects of PDOS, and on what information or training modules matter to those who attend it. Using a randomized control trial, the project evaluates the effects of the orientation seminar on migration outcomes of Filipinos migrating permanently to the United States – the top destination country of Filipino emigrants. The project partners jointly developed new PDOS modules. To evaluate the new modules, they randomly assigned migrants to either the new or the old PDOS. The new PDOS is a complete overhaul and a significant extension of the old PDOS with new information beyond immediate needs and focuses more on matters of importance to new immigrants in the long-term such as employment, socio-economic integration and achieving security. A new handbook for Filipinos migrating to the United States was also developed to provide emigrants with the possibility to look up information when they actually need it. The project is supported by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).

Over a period of two and a half years since leaving the Philippines, the project team tracked the impact of the PDOS on those who attended the new PDOS in comparison to another group of migrants who attended the old PDOS (1,273 migrants in total). One result from the study is that the new PDOS helped migrants avoid travel-related problems such as missing a flight or problems with authorities. This finding is interesting as the new PDOS featured less travel-related content than the old PDOS. However, the handbook that migrants receive in the new PDOS provides more travel-related information. This evidence underscores the importance of having written material or reference as part of the pre-departure orientation.

The new PDOS also helps migrants to deal with issues related to formal settlement such as obtaining a social security number or opening a bank account more quickly. It also has a large negative effect on the size of social networks in the US. These results suggest that the new PDOS helps migrants to adjust to life in the US in the first months and, by providing relevant information, reduces the need to make new contacts. In addition, the new PDOS has no or only modest effects on other important dimensions including labor market outcomes, diaspora engagement, subjective wellbeing, or financial decision-making.

This among many other evidences from the study were presented in the Roundtable Discussion on Increasing the Benefits of International Migration: Lessons from Evaluating New Pre-Departure Trainings for Emigrants on October 23, 2017 at the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center in Makati. Together with CFO, lead investigators Dr. Toman Barsbai from the Kiel Institute of the World Economy and Dr. Andreas Steinmayr of the University of Munich discussed the important results of the project. The roundtable discussion also served as a platform for significant exchange of ideas from participants from government, private sectors, academe, multilateral institutions, migrant groups and civil society on how the findings can be used to further increase the development benefits of international migration to Filipino migrants themselves and in the long-term to their receiving and origin countries.

Link to presentations during the RTD:

Link to photos during the RTD:

For inquiries, please contact:


Officer-in-Charge, Migrant Integration and Education Division
Commission on Filipinos Overseas or


Policy, Planning and Research Division
Commission on Filipinos Overseas or

Commission on Filipinos Overseas