It is always good to have a valid passport on hand. After all, you never know when you might need to travel abroad. Just this year, our passports expired and we needed to apply for new ones. It was the first time we would be getting machine readable passports so we needed to make a personal appearance at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Of the four members in my family, only my daughter, who is just seven years old, didn't need to make a personal appearance. We coursed our passport renewal through a travel agency. If you do it through a travel agency, you will spend more (about P1,600 per person) versus you handling it yourself (P750 per person) but you save a lot of time in terms of lining up and having to handle everything from submitting your documents, to scheduling your personal appearance, etc. So just ask yourself, how much is your time worth?
The travel agent will give you all the necessary application forms to fill out and will enumerate documents that you will need to submit. Requirements differ for first-time applicants and renewal applicants. In our case, we needed to give photocopies of our marriage certificate and our birth certificates; photocopies of particular pages of our passports; as well as our original passports too. You will also need to have passport photos (with you wearing a dark colored top/shirt with collar). No earrings in the photos too.
When you have submitted all your requirements, you will select a date for your personal appearance. The travel agent will then submit your documents to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) the day before. They will then advise you in the afternoon of the day before your selected date if your appointment schedule the following day is confirmed.
Assuming that the schedule is confirmed, you will be requested to be at Gate 2 of the DFA (across the Halina Building on Libertad Street -- the street is perpendicular to Roxas Boulevard and Gate 2 is about 100 meters from the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Libertad St.) at 9am to meet the Liaison Officer who will assist you throughout the process.
On the day of our appointment, due to lack of traffic, we were in the area about an hour early. This was not too bad as we were able to park easily. It also gave us enough time to grab a snack at Jollibee Libertad where we could use the clean bathroom (thank goodness for Jollibee!). Waiting near Gate 2 closer to 9am, it was quite chaotic in the area with numerous people milling around and anyone and everyone selling whatever it is that you might need -- from pens, to pictures, to forms.
We lined up to get in but were asked to turn back by a female guard as she demanded a copy of our official receipt for the payment of passport renewal fees. We didn't have the receipt with us (similar to other people in the line) so we were advised to call our Liaison officer so he could meet us upfront. We finally got in, after some time and according to the Liaison officer, the lady guard might have been new since they usually do not ask for the receipt anymore. Anyway, so if you are going for your appointment, it is best to bring a copy of your official receipt from the travel agent and identification cards for all (which we were asked to bring but which they did not look for at all).
Once you get in, you will be brought to a room where the line goes pretty quickly. We were actually in and out in 30 minutes. (If you do it yourself directly, you may need to spend the whole day at DFA, lining up as early as 6 am and then lining up several times to do the different steps that a travel agent and the Liaison officer would have done for you.) You will be asked to line up (while seated) and you will wait for your forms to be given to you (They will call out your names using a microphone.) Once you get your papers, you should check that there is no mistake with Items 1 to 6 on the forms. Once you have okayed the forms and the information has been put on your passport, if you notice a mistake after, you will need to pay again, appear again, to have your passport corrected.
For kids who do not need to make an appearance, make sure that there is an X in the space where their thumbmarks should be.
If all the information on the forms is correct, you will sign in front of a DFA officer (two signatures). Mothers will be asked to sign for minors while kids aged 8 and above will still make their own thumbmarks. There is a table after you are done with signing the forms where the staff will help you make the appropriate thumbmarks.
When you are done with all the steps, you submit the forms and log your names and the name of the travel agent on sheets of yellow pad paper. The Liaison Officer will then give you your old/cancelled passports.
It will take about 10 to 12 working days to get your new passports.
We received our passports already and they are now colored maroon (some say brown but they do not look brown to me) instead of the old green passports.
If you would like to get more information about renewing your passports, you may visit www.passport.com.ph or you may also contact me by e-mail so I may refer our travel agent to you. Happy traveling!
[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, May 17, 2009]
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