US man given lifetime ban from entering Philippines for writing profanity on immigration form
The Philippines has banned an American for life for writing offensive words on his digital immigration form, and for being rude to immigration officers.
Mr Anthony Joseph Laurence “keyed in a made-up address in the Philippines, did not include his full name, and input profane words in his entry”, said Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco in a statement.
Mr Tansingco did not specify what profanity Mr Laurence wrote on the form, but said the 34-year-old American “overstepped his boundaries”.
Mr Laurence was flying to Manila from Bangkok.
The Philippines has done away with printed travel forms and instead requires that travellers fill out an e-travel card at least 72 hours before their arrival to and departure from the country.
Mr Laurence also showed “disdain” for an immigration officer when he was told he needed to fill out a travel form online before he could be allowed into the Philippines.
He threw his phone and passport at the officer.
“Such behaviour is not only disrespectful but also undermines the efficiency of the system,” said Mr Tansingco.
Mr Laurence, who said he is a property investor, disputes the Philippine government’s account of how he behaved.
He told CNN Philippines that he grew frustrated when he could not get the app needed for him to key in his travel records to work despite trying three times, and that he was turned away when he asked an immigration officer for help.
In a separate interview with Business Insider, he admitted entering “an expletive” on the immigration form. But he claimed to have apologised for it.
“I entered an expletive into the form that wasn’t directed at anyone,” he said.
“I made a mistake in not properly filling out the form, but I do not believe that this mistake warrants a person of permanent ban, permanent blacklisting,” he said.
He also denied throwing his passport and phone at an immigration officer.
“That was a lie. I turned my phone around so that he could see the QR code,” he said.
Mr Laurence said he has lived in Cebu, a city about 550km south-east of Manila where he owns a property, for two years.
He said has been in and out of the Philippines six or seven times.
Some 44 tourists were banned from entering the Philippines so far in 2023 for abusing immigration officers, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In 2019, over eight million tourists visited the Philippines. Out of that, 180 foreigners, including 10 Americans, were banned from entering the country for disrespecting and being abusive towards immigration officers.