The Struggle of Getting My First Passport

Hard as it may be to believe, I have never had a passport before.

One good thing that comes with the advancement of technology and the improvement of the online services and the internet in general, is that more and more things can get done virtually, including some parts of applying for a passport.

Almost exactly a month ago, I picked up my passport from the Alimall branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Cubao. I could’t resist but take a photo after I finally claimed it. It was definitely a yay moment. The process of getting it was a different story though.

Initially, my family and I scheduled a family appointment online to fulfil the personal appearance and submit the requirements for application. I took a leave from work in order to make time for making the appearance.

The employees at the application window, as far as my experience goes, are either reserved and efficient, to the point that they’re practically robotic, or stone cold in the I’m-doing-my-job-so-don’t-make-it-any-more-difficult kind of way. That’s something not to look forward to, but something to prepare for.

My family and I must have had some mistake or miscalculation in terms of preparing the requirements, because when we were trying to submit everything, only one of us had complete and acceptable requirements in order to move on to processing.

​One good thing established in the system is that if you were able to set a proper appointment online –which, by the way, takes quite a while because you have to enter so much information and then print it out and bring it on the day among other requirements — is that when you lack a document or other requirement, the DFA branch still counts your application and appointment for an extra month after your appearance. So if this happens to you like it did to us, you have one month to obtain and fix what other documents you may need in order to get your passport processed.

Once your application and requirements are accepted, you will proceed to payment and then to processing. The latter is where you’re details such as your name and birthday will be projected on a screen where you can check if everything is correct (since getting another passport printed due to an error will cost you the price on another one). You also get your photo taken here.​After this, you wait around 3 weeks for regular processing (non-express) and then you return to the same branch of your application to claim your passport in the releasing section.

TIPS:

Come on time. If not, come early to your scheduled appointment.

If you can get your hands on government IDs such as a drivers’ license and a postal ID, do so as soon as you can. Having valid government IDs as such will surely come in handy for future use anyways, so better have them prepared already.

When going to an appointment, getting IDs, documents, and other requirements, be ready for long lines and humidity. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable circumstance.

Prepare extra cash not just for the cost of having your passport printed, but allot some money for getting requirements and official documents processed. Getting IDs can also cost money. The postal ID alone is P504.

Try and come prepared with all the documents and IDs you can have with you. It’s better to have extra documents instead of missing ones. Also, when you head to the DFA branch with a range of documents, not knowing which you should photocopy, I would advise just photocopy everything. They do have an “emergency” photocopier there just in case, but it’s P5 per page and it usually takes a while since a lot of people use it.

Read and re-read instructions online. In my case, we might have overlooked some of the reminders which resulted in a delay of processing. Also, make sure you do your own research: ask around and read online testaments if you can. I found out that there have been instances that the instructions online on government sites or government-linked sites were not updated. Getting as informed as you can could save you a wasted trip.

PhilHealth IDs are government IDs, yes. However, the DFA does not accept this as a valid government ID for passport application.

When getting your photo taken at the processing section, try and ask the employee to inform you when your picture will be taken. I wasn’t exactly ready when my photo was taken. Your passport is valid for 5 years in the least and you have to live with that photo for at least that long. Better to be satisfied with it than cringing every time you see it or use your passport.

 

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