Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Passport Renewal Experience

My passport got mutilated during Typhoon Ondoy. Good thing though that I managed to transfer it inside a bag which I threw in my closet. I wanted to get the bag from my closet but water was already up to my chest and I knew I had to go then. It wasn't worth the risk.

Replacing documents though is such a huge hassle. I called up my good friend, Mercy, and asked advise from her on how to go about replacing my passport. She told me to just go the the DFA site and set an appointment. I've been so busy so our Q&A went on for a couple of weeks. It didn't help that I heard rumors that everybody is required to change to old passports to e-passports lest you get turned away in other countries! Que horror! I didn't see any advise about it though on the DFA site. My friend also advised to get an e-passport.

So I went to the DFA site and requested for an appointment. I saw the reply a few days later in my spam box. They replied immediately but unfortunately the reply went in the spam box so I wasn't able to see it immediately. They were very accommodating when I requested for specific days.

Last night I asked my friend Mercy again about going to DFA. I've just been renewing my passport via mail the past few years and the last time I went my Mom accompanied me that's why I was apprehensive. My friend told me, "Mag-ingat ka sa fixers! Dumiretso ka lang sa loob dahil may appointment ka na."

I'm glad that she gave me that bit of advise because fixers were swarming outside of DFA. They had "Pasay City Mayor's Office" IDs on and you'd really think that they were legit. When I went down the car someone immediately escorted me across the street and said I should get a form inside one of the stalls. I said I already had an appointment. Another guy approached me and said in a loud voice, "Kumuha ka ng form dun sa stall kasi di ka papapasukin!" And then another one said, "Agency ba? Agency? Dito ka! Dito ka!" I felt really harassed and I ran to the guard who I felt was working for the DFA. I told him, "Manong, hinaharass na nila ako, may appointment ako." He immediately let me in the DFA premises.

I brought with me the following:
1. Print out of the appointment email.
2. Original passport
3. Photocopy of my passport
4. Affidavit of Mutilation (had my Dad do it for me)

I just got a form at the gym (just get it from the guard) and then went inside and went to Window 26 (you can go to W26-28). There are seats by the window where you can fill out the form. There are also photocopy machines inside. The staff was very nice even though I missed filling out some stuff on the form (I was dazed because of the fixers). She also provided a free affidavit of mutilation which I just filled-out.

After processing my papers at window 26 I went to the cashier just outside the door and then went to the second floor to have my photo and thumbprint taken (applicable only for e-passport). Went back to the gym to pay 2Go to just deliver my passport at home next week.

I finished everything in less than an hour. It was a great experience save for the awful fixers outside of DFA (I wonder when they'll finally get rid of that) and the fact that you aren't allowed to smile on your passport photo (you should see my license!).

When in doubt just visit the Department of Foreign Affairs website, they have extensive info on the site.