My passport is actually expiring on April 2013 but I’m travelling in November so I need to have my passport renewed. Otherwise, I will be in violation of the travel prescription to have a valid passport for at least 6 months on date of travel.
I tried the DFA’s online appointment system (http://passport.com.ph/set-appointment) but, for some reason, I couldn’t get over a particular hump (i.e. page) so I decided to set an appointment via the DFA hotline 737-1000. The customer service assistant (CSA or whatever they are called) who assisted me was so incredibly helpful – not to mention…patient. Even if you are not making an appointment online visit the DFA site — there are so many useful information there pertaining to almost every question you might have regarding your passport application.
Note: I find the appointment via phone more reliable than the online appointment. If you go online you risk inputting a lot of information that goes kaput when the site suddenly buckles. In which case, you have to start all over again. The CSA will throw a lot of questions and I suggest you be accurate with whatever info you dish out because the CSA fills out the passport renewal form with your answers.
Per the CSA, I have to bring some identification including but not limited to government issued IDs. Some acceptable documents are birth and marriage certificates printed on NSO paper.
Note: If you need NSO documents, and if you have time, go to the NSO or any of its satellite branches where a copy of a document will cost you a lot less than resorting to the NSO e-census services (https://www.ecensus.com.ph/Default.aspx). The e-census enables you to request for a document online, pay in an accredited bank and just wait for the delivery of the document. For all the convenience, a copy of a document costs P750. While going to the NSO personally is cheaper, the downside is the long and slow queue — which is almost always the case.
Prior to my appointment day, I printed the form sent by the DFA to my email address and made sure all supporting documents are in order. I have placed all original docs in one envelope and the photocopies in another so as not to get them mixed up.
Note: Follow the instructions that will be emailed by the DFA as to what to bring (e.g. digitized government IDs) and what to do (e.g. photocopy docs). Equally important yet often overlooked is to PRINT THE APPLICATION FORM IN LONG BOND PAPER! If you are bringing a car, there’s an open pay-parking near the DFA Aseana Office. I might say the parking is sufficient because it was hardly 75% occupied by the time I came out of the DFA at 10:30am. But, maybe I’m just lucky.
I went to the DFA earlier than the required appointment time and found a long line of people sharing the 8:30am appointment with me. We were initially stationed outside but were moved quickly inside the building to join other people with appointments. I’m talking maybe 200 or more people ahead of me for earlier appointments. The line moved fairly quickly and with an area that was well-lit, well-ventilated – waiting was pretty comfortable. There was a crew who keeps the line in check so the waiting is also pretty orderly.
There were 10 (probably more) processing officers who will check the acceptability of applicants’ documents. That would have been a breeze too if not for applicants who bring all sorts of documents – none of them are acceptable for passport applications though. And yes, they also have the tendency to argue with the processing officers. Can you imagine a school transcript being submitted in lieu of a birth certificate. Seriously people!!
Note: An 8:30am appointment doesn’t mean you will have an audience with a DFA officer at 8:30am. You are actually sharing the appointment time with a lot of people, probably a hundred. So, try to be at least first in line. But, take note that there will be hundreds of people already ahead of you who came for their 7:00am, 7:30am, 8:00am appointments. If you can, opt for the earliest appointment time.
Point for improvement for the DFA:
The crew should let the applicants wait until a processing window frees up and direct the applicant next in line to that window. The current practice is to direct applicants to processing windows immediately; hence, creating a queue of at least 4 or 5 people per processing window. It would appear to me that there is no scientific explanation as to how the crew determines which applicant goes to which window. Here is where it goes crazy, if you happen to be unfortunately directed to a window where the people before you are nuisances rather than applicants, then your queuing time would be longer (and irritating) than necessary. Consequently, the applicants originally following you in the conga line and who maybe queuing at other processing windows will likely be able to proceed to the next step – payment – way ahead of you. Ain’t that sad? I was a victim of this inefficient process and it sucked.
Going back …
After the processing officer validated my documents, I was given a document to present to the cashier for payment. Regular processing would be P950.00 (at least 15 days) while rush processing would be P1,200.00 (10 days). An additional P120.00 for delivery by any of the DFA’s accredited suppliers (e.g. Air 21 and LBC) or you can come back for your passport – if have time.
There were 3 cashiers at the 2nd floor who managed their lines efficiently. Hence, the queues remained short. So, that was painless too. I next got a number from a guy stationed near the cashiers to get my turn at the photo booth – great 1332, they were currently servicing 1099. I decided to look for the DFA delivery while I waited for the 200 people finish their shoots and some quick documentation thing. The first 100 of that moved achingly slow with just a few photo booths open but the next 100 moved so quickly – yes, other photobooth operators finally arrived. The numbers at the monitor were changing by the second. My waiting, about an hour, was no hassle at all given the aircon and ample seats. I passed the time people watching.
Note: After getting your number for your turn at the photo booth, and provided your turn is not up and coming, I suggest you pay for the delivery service first. That is if, you decide to have your new passport delivered. Also, check and re-check the accuracy of input during the documentation thing at the photo booth.
Then you go home and wait for your passport to be released/delivered.