Passport renewal in the pandemic

We had big plans for 2020. I was starting a new job. We were going to transfer Lucas to a new school. There was some possibility of travel.

And then the pandemic happened, and everything just fell apart.

One of the things we weren’t able to work on in 2020 was renewing our passports. There just didn’t seem to be any point. But some months ago I saw that some people were able to renew their passports, so I thought, we might as well give it a shot.

Booking an appointment

This was the first struggle. Scheduling a passport renewal appointment through the Department of Foreign Affairs website has always been a struggle. The website is buggy or there’s a dearth of available slots. Well, it seems to have gotten worse during the pandemic.

It was in May when we booked our appointments, and the earliest schedule we could get was in September. In July or August, we got an email from DFA, saying we could reschedule our appointments because they opened more slots. But we were worried we wouldn’t all get slots on the same day or even in the same place, so we opted to keep our original appointments.

Documents and requirements

As with all government processes and offices, there’s a long cumbersome form to fill up on the website. In addition to that, you have to print all the emails you get when your appointment is confirmed, including the receipt indicating your payment.

About two weeks before the appointment, we also ordered NSO documents: birth certificates for me, Lucas and Oneal, and our marriage certificate. We ordered three original copies, and made photocopies. We also brought photocopies of our old passports and other IDs.

Ali Mall

Our appointment was for 10:00 AM. Of course we arrived early. Unfortunately, the mall was still closed and they wouldn’t let anybody in until opening hours at 10:00 AM! We thought we would at least able able to park, but even that wasn’t happening.

Ali Mall is home to satellite offices for several government offices. Every day, people go there to get NBI clearance, passport renewal and I’m not sure what else. So every day there are long lines of people waiting to enter the mall.

This day was no different.

Thank you, DFA staff!

To their credit, the DFA staff are very helpful. We were lined up, and a guard saw me carrying Lucas. He told us to go to another guard to ask for the courtesy lane. That was such a relief, because we were allowed in before the other applicants, and the guards were very attentive, telling us where to go and where to line up.

I wasn’t able to Tweet this, but I did see one family with a senior, so it’s good to know that, in the Ali Mall satellite office at least, senior citizens are given priority.

A fairly painless procedure

For all the accompanying stress, the process is actually pretty simple. Someone checks all your documents, then someone verifies all your information and confirms your identity. They take your picture, and you’re done. Honestly, it should take 15 minutes!

I firmly believe the staff do their best to make it easy and painless, but there’s only so much they can do amid all the bureaucracy.

Passport delivery

The next hurdle was delivery. We had seen online that many people didn’t know how to get their passports. Apparently one of the courier companies no longer had a contract with DFA, and the passports they were supposed to deliver were in limbo. Some people were being advised to pick up their passports at DFA, despite having paid for a courier service.

To be honest, this was the biggest surprise. Our passport renewal appointment was on September 22. Our passports were delivered on October 10, less than two weeks after our appointment!

Have you been trying to renew your passport? How’d it go?

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