Friday, April 9, 2010

Could getting the ePassport be any tedious?

OMG! Summer is so not the time to apply or renew for a passport!

Aside from the scorching heat, summer is the season where a lot of travelers and wannabes emerge as warriors at the DFA to have this very piece of travel ID at hand in order for most to finally fulfill their fantasies on their would-be dream destinations.

But in my case, I only felt it was time for me to renew my passport (which is, by the way, to expire a year later) since I have already attended the CFO seminar (more on this later) and I wanted to make sure that I have the amended name, as now happily married.  Aside from which, I am already waiting for my appointment letter for my IR1 visa, and I wanted to make sure that all documents are ready before my scheduled interview.

Much to my excitement of getting a passport, what I thought I could do for about a week at most, had turned into mere frustration because never would I have imagined the tediousness and the long wait that I had to bear. This was due to A LOT of obedient citizens doing the process correctly, as instructed, but having a consular office that could not keep up with these obedient citizens’ demand for a better and much more comfortable way of getting a passport (I can still feel the frustration).

ePassport Milestones

Day 1. Setting the appointment.
I knew I just had to do it online. I went online and did it. No problem.

Day 2. Received email notification.
The earliest possible date for my appointment would be 11 days after. Now that sucked! But hey, could I blame them for the bandwidth? So I tried to accomplish other IDs that need to be updated!

Day 13. Appointment day
I was set for the 2PM appointment. I was actually pleased to have this in the afternoon, only to find out that there was a very long queue on the front gates. This only means that MORE people are actually lined up inside. Man, it sucked! It also wasn’t the perfect day to forget to put sunblock on! 

It was already almost 3PM or maybe past 3 when I finally got INSIDE the building. Since I already had my appointment letter, I went inside and took a number. For others, they need to get their already printed application form before entering the building itself.

There are plenty of seats inside while waiting for your name to be called, but there were still a lot of people standing, due to the effects of “peak” season. An hour later (despite 20 counters already serving), my number was called, my requirements were checked, and was advised to go to the 2nd floor for the ePassport payment and picture taking.

I had to get another number to be served.
My application form, number and receipt in yellow

I was told that I could claim the passport on the 24th of March (7 business days after, see above pic). I waited for my turn and had my picture taken and finished by 5pm already. Imagine the exhaustion after the whole ordeal. 

 The wait here wasn't as bad as the first wait. But still, waiting really sucks

This is practically the last step! 
Though you are in a hurry, it's best to slow down here as all of your information needs to be encoded in the "microchip". Better safe than sorry.

Day 22. Claiming of passport
I was excited to get my passport that afternoon, only to find out that they WON’T be releasing March 24 passports that day! It was effin ridiculous for the security guard to refuse entry in the premises when in fact, there’s really no concrete reason for doing so. Thus, more and more people got upset and pissed, because no one could really comprehend the essence of making people wait under the scorching, unforgiving heat. 

After about 30 minutes, I finally tried my way through the exit gate, since the guard from exit was letting people enter (weird right?).

So in the releasing area (actually, it was another office), we were asked to line up for an explanation for not being able to get the passport. I mean, wtf do they mean that we had to line up? Couldn’t they have announced it anywhere and make people waste their time waiting for nothing? Since I was one of those willing to wait, I had to wait for another 3 hours until this person in charge told us that there was some sort of “mechanical error” on their end. I mean seriously, are we REALLY ready for this ePassport thing? Spare us too! Not everyone could afford a week off just to get the passport renewed (or updated, in my case). 

 Lining up to "hear" the explanation as to why the passport will not be released. But in all fairness, they prepared water for the tired applicants.

But as there was nothing else that they could do, I was asked to leave my cell number to be contacted once they have my passport ready. As for the others who URGENTLY needed the passport due to already confirmed flights that night or the following day, they were asked to stay and opt for a solution like the older passport (I think, but I wasn’t sure on this so don’t quote me). 

Day 24 Claiming of passport (part 2)

I received a missed call from a local number. I tried calling back, but all I got was a fax tone. I tried calling back several times, but to no avail. I was afraid that I might not get the chance to get my passport, so I kept waiting until 10am -- where a lady informed me that they already have my passport. I was instructed to proceed to AFIS at the 3rd floor to personally claim the passport, and look for another person (name will not be disclosed).

Expecting the same fate as my first encounter, I went straight ahead to the 3rd floor. I was practically walking back and forth before I finally found the AFIS office. The great news was, I got my passport in less than 5 minutes. I was so happy that I didn’t mind walking from DFA to the Mall of Asia!

Here's the product of my almost month-long undertaking:

wedding planning guide

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