Monday, 16 May 2011

Getting your Philippines Passport: Top 5 tips for dealing with the DFA

So with a doctor organised and everything good on the health front it was time to sort out a passport for my Fiancée.
We had booked an appointment via the DFA’s phone service, and had confirmed that my Fiancée’s current ID would be acceptable. 
To our horror, when the appointment finally rolled around, her application was rejected! She apparently didn’t have the right ID at all. She was advised that she needed an SS ID (social security ID with biometrics).
After working out what an SS ID is we dutifully attended the closest SSS office and attempted to apply for an ID only to be told “sorry you have to work for an employer who makes SSS contributions….you can’t have an ID”
We were at a loss. The DFA had advised my fiancé that she specifically needed an SS ID, the SSS advised that she wasn’t eligible for the ID. Net result, no passport!
After many calls to the DFA we finally reached an operator who after initially insisting that SS ID was the only acceptable ID admitted that in event that an applicant isn’t eligible for an SS ID or other digitized government ID that a “Form 137” (school transcript) would suffice.
Awesome! We quickly made contact with the relevant parties to obtain a 137 transcript.
At the same time I discovered that anyone who needs to transact with the DFA (or other government departments) is eligible to obtain an BIR ID (digitized ID from the tax department).  A fact no one at the DFA seemed to be aware of.
So now armed with a birth certificate, baptismal document, 137 transcript, postal ID and a BIR ID card we re booked the passport appointment (again the time we got was months away!).
On attending the new appointment the first agent my Fiancée spoke with again refused to accept her application. The reason this time? Her ID was too “new”…what that means is anybodies guess, but my fiancé wasn’t going to accept that answer.
She politely requested to speak with a supervisor who after a quick glance at the ID on offer said “What the problem? This ID is fine!”
So, the application was accepted, fees paid…15 days to wait. Will actually collecting the passport be an easier…we’ll see I guess.
Anyway this brings me to my top 5 tips for getting your passport in the Philippines.
1)      Make sure you have some form of Digitized government ID (Drivers Licence, SS ID, BIR ID , PRC ID, Voters Card or Senior Citizens ID).  The BIR ID is available to anyone who needs to transact with the DFA.
2)      Book your appointment as soon as you can. Waiting times can be appalling; if you call today you may not get an appointment for 2 to 3 months.
3)      Don’t rely on the advice given by the DFA operative. In my experience many of them seem to know less then the applicants.
4)      Know the rules around the application process. Print them out and take a copy with you.
5)       Don’t be afraid to complain if you’re getting poor service. The DFA is supposed to be there to assist you in getting your passport, not to make it as difficult as possible.
Next, how to get your BIR ID
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