Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the epassport renewal experience: phase 2

i had high hopes when i went to the DFA today for my epassport renewal, since i've been reading so many good things about the efficiency of the process.

unfortunately, i didn't have as easy a time as everyone else. the passport renewal process started out well, actually. i got to the DFA, was bugged by some touts, who were actually successful in getting me to go to a stall, because they insisted i needed to put my fingerprints on my application form. well, as it turns out, they were mistaken, so i left the stall in a huff, while they all tried to apologize and pass the blame on each other. like everybody says, ignore anybody who tells you to go to the stalls beside the gate.

epassport applicants should enter through gate 3 and go straight to counter 28 (actually, counters 26-28 are all dedicated to epassport applicants) the line here wasn't long at all, and the people behind the counter worked really fast. this is where you submit your requirements, which are:
  • your old passport
  • a photocopy of the data page of your old passport
  • a photocopy of the last exit and entry stamp on your passport (this is not necessarily the last stamped page, so check to make sure you've photocopied the page with your last entry stamp)
  • a photocopy of the inside back cover of your old passport
  • filled-in application form (for epassport applicants, no need to affix a photo and put your fingerprints)
  • a printout of your epassport appointment email
after checking your information, they will issue a receipt that reflects the amount you will pay for your passport. regular processing costs Php 950, and will be done in 10 days, while express processing costs Php 1,200, and only takes 5 working days. also take note of the date your passport will be ready for pick-up. these dates are posted on the counter. take your receipt and documents and proceed to the cashier, which is outside the counters. no lines there, either. pay, get your receipt, and proceed to the second floor for picture-taking, and information encoding.

i arrived at the DFA at about 1250pm, and i was lining up to have my photo taken at 105pm. which meant the entire process downstairs took all of 15 minutes. i was counting on being out by 130 or 145pm at the latest, considering the speed at which they handled the first part of the process.

well, they quickly made up for this efficiency by making us epassport applicants wait for more than an hour to have our photos taken. when i got to the second floor, i was given a number, and told to take a seat. the waiting area snaked around the corner of the narrow hallway, and there were people seated, waiting impatiently for their turn. not all of us were epassport applicants, though. some of them, from what i heard, encountered some problems with their passport application, and they were being handled by another office.

as for us epassport applicants, we were being called four at a time. when i took a seat, the last number called was 17, and i was number 28. 11 people ahead of me wasn't so bad.

or so i thought. numbers 28-31 were called at around 2pm, and we were made to wait an additional 15 minutes to be accommodated in the room where they took our biometrics information and our photo. we soon found out what was causing the delay: it seems that with every batch of four numbers, someone from the inside, one of the people processing our information, would take "sponsored singit" applicants and accommodate them as well. no wonder this process was taking so long!

taking your photo and biometrics information and encoding your personal details probably took 5 minutes per person, which includes verification of details. they ask you to check the information they've entered, and sign to verify that the information was correct. you leave all your other documents here, and take your receipt for when you come back to pick up your passport.

but since i didn't want to go anywhere near the DFA anytime soon after this experience, i asked around for courier services who can deliver my passport to me instead. if you also want to avail of this service, just go to the basketball court (ask around), and all the courier companies are there. i opted for 2go-pilipinas teleserve, which charged P99 per delivery. you will have to leave your receipt with them, so that they can claim your passport on your behalf.

i was finally able to leave the DFA at 3pm, a bit lethargic from all that waiting. i even looked lethargic in my passport photo, something i have to live with for a few years until i have to go and renew my passport all over again. i'm just hoping i don't have to endure another 2 hours of this. please, DFA, try to figure out a better way to accommodate epassport renewals!

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