Thursday, August 30, 2012

Passport Application Woes

I hate hate hate going to the Philippine Embassy here in Singapore. For one, I always end up taking a taxi because it's so far away (Nassim Road) and for another I always feel like I'm in limbo because it takes forever to process a simple application. There are so many steps and there's no other way around it. You just lose time. And that's when the process works, can you imagine what happens when they make a mistake? Well, let me tell you what happens then. What happens is you have to take 8 trips to the embassy just to renew a passport. Here's the long story:

I needed to renew my green passport and finally get the red machine-readable one. I could have done it in Manila because I was there second half of last year but chose to do it when I got back to Singapore thinking it would be more convenient and the process would be more advanced.Well, I was wrong. At least the DFA has Pilipinas Teleserv which helps process your applications online and sets your appointment for you. Here at the Philippine Embassy in Singapore, they tell you in the website that you can email them the e-application and they'll respond and give you an appointment. Well, I tried that route and lost two weeks waiting for a response. And good luck to those trying to call the hotline, not once have I been able to talk to an actual person on the phone. Anyway, so I had to do it the traditional way, and so my passport journey began.

Trip 1: Went to Embassy with filled-up application form, photocopies of IC and passport. Got queue number. Waited in line for about an hour. Showed documents and set an appointment.

Trip 2: Showed up in time for appointment but only one among a number of people in a given hourly slot so therefore have to wait my turn again. Go through biometric processing, photo capture process. Paid in cash. Got my ticket for next appointment to pick up passport (Meanwhile, DFA can courier your passport to you for a fee). It will take a month to process.

Prior to my scheduled passsport pick-up date, I get an SMS notification from the embassy saying there's been a delay and my passport pick-up will then be rescheduled to another date.

Trip 3: I arrive on the rescheduled passport pick-up date. Got queue number. Waited my turn. Then was told my passport still hasn't arrived. I ask when it was expected and was told maybe in a day or two, why don't you give us your number, we'll call you. Well I was a bit worried already since I might not get my new passport in time to go home for my father's wedding. So I asked if I could get a passport extension instead. I could but that would require some other forms. I decide to come back another day.

Trip 4: I arrive at embassy two days later . Got queue number. Waited my turn. Then checked whether passport arrived, which of course it hasn't. So I went on another queue to apply for passport extension. Got 1 year extension.

Went home for my father's wedding. This was in April.

When I got back to Singapore I actually just started a new job so I didn't have time to go back and forth to the embassy. I thought well, it states in the pick up form that you just need to claim it within 6 months so I have plenty of time.

Trip 5: My husband goes on leave. I ask him to go to the embassy to pick up my passport. This was around June or July. I write him an authorization letter. He goes off with my letter and the pick up form. Again they tell him it's still not there. At first I think he's joking. 'Did you really go to the embassy?' To me it's impossible they still don't have my passport. My sister asks if it's just my passport that still hasn't arrived. They can't possibly have months and months of passport backlog. Don't have the time to go there. Figure maybe it's just really really late.

Trip 6: My husband goes on leave again. Again I ask him to go to the embassy. I'm thinking, it's almost 6 months surely that's enough time to process a passport? Again, not there. But this time my husband goes ballistic and starts pestering people about it. He is sent home with a promise that someone will finally look into it and give him a definitive answer. A half hour later someone calls him back. Apparently all this time, my photo capture was incorrect and my passport was never processed. And no one bothered to check or ask me to come back for photo recapture. Anyway, the embassy person is apologetic and asks me to come to the embassy in the afternoon for photo recapture.  He says it's going to take 5 minutes, which of course still means maybe 30-45 minutes for the whole process.

Anyway, I go. There's no choice. Even with this re-application I won't get my passport until October 11.

Trip 7: Photo recapture. This time around the embassy person gets my number. I just hope nothing goes wrong with this application.

There's of course going to be one last trip to pick up the passport in October, so that makes 8 trips in all, just for a simple passport renewal.

Oh, and I'm still not sure my husband isn't blacklisted yet from the embassy, after kicking up a fuss, although  I feel at this point, it's warranted and it did finally get us the answers we wanted. So thank you hubby, you're the hero in this story.

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