Getting a passport from the DFA: an ordeal

Here are some slogans I cooked up for the DFA while waiting to pick up my passport this afternoon.

DFA: Making people wait for two hours to pick up their passport is our idea of great customer service
DFA: We give you a passport pickup date then tell you to come back a few days after your schedule
DFA: It really takes more than a month to process your passport
DFA: Two weeks to process your passport–that’s the meaning of ‘express priority’!

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When my parents and I had our passports renewed in 2006, all we had to do was fill up an application form and bring that and our ID pictures to the DFA. This was back when the DFA still accepted walk-ins. It was a long and tedious process, featuring that accursed snaking line of chairs, and it really wasn’t perfect, but at least you could freely apply whenever you wanted and be sure to get your passport a few weeks later.

So when the DFA announced a few years ago that people could now set an appointment to apply for passports online, people were naturally atwitter about that, especially since the DFA promised a speedier process altogether. In my experience, however, that wasn’t the case. I set an appointment in the middle of March and got a date instantly–May 24, 2011, more than two months later. I guess it was too much to hope that the ‘faster processing’ claim applies to every single step of the application process.

On May 24, 2011 itself, I did experience the faster processing bit of their claims–I arrived at 7:00 a.m., got in at 7:15 a.m. to submit my application and pay the fee, and was out of the DFA by 8:30 after biometrics–but that’s where it stops. When I went to pick up my passport today, I expected to be just in and out of there in minutes. What happened was that I arrived at 3:20 p.m. and was told to proceed to the line of chairs underneath a tent, where we were made to wait for 20 minutes. The guard soon directed us inside so we can wait in the lobby, where there were more chairs. Curiously, people who were ahead in the line were supposed to sit in the back row and those in the back of the line occupied the front row of seats; we were told to squeeze together more closely so more people can sit down, so there were basically two people to a chair. The wait in the lobby may have taken more than 40 minutes, during which a box was passed around so we can put our receipts in it. After that, we were directed to go to the area where we’re to wait for our name to be called, another period of waiting that lasted at least 30 minutes for me. And I suppose I’m lucky, because there were people there who waited hours as well only to find out that their passports aren’t ready yet, “balik na lang po kayo sa July 7 (just come back on July 7).”

It took a total of three months to finally get my passport. I don’t know, DFA, I think I much preferred your old process. It also mystifies me how the ‘technical difficulties that cause a delay in the processing of passport applications’ you’ve been having since late March, when my parents had their passports renewed, remain unresolved today. Really, the word ‘online’ and a fancy new building aren’t enough to correct or even hide a flawed, poorly thought-out system.

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And here’s me with my unsolicited recommendations.

1. Applications for new passports, renewals, and passports for emergencies each have to have their own appointment systems.
2. Have a separate window, counter, or area for passport pickups.
3. If you must make people picking up their passports wait in line, then get their receipts right away so the staff could already check if the passports are ready, which can spare people a lot of time and headache.
4. Satellite processing centers: They might be a good idea.
5. Have a tracking system that won’t require people to register only three days before their pickup schedule and won’t say that “Reply on (sic) your query will depend on the availability of your passport.” TELL people if their passports are or aren’t ready, and send them alternative dates.
6. Please please please refrain from taking overly tight shots for the passport picture. It makes people look like huge lumps.

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Awesome, I just e-mailed epassport@dfa.gov.ph with an inquiry and the message I received?

Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 550 550 No Such User Here” (state 14).

June 29, 2011 by Lynn
Categories: Grr - 1 comment

One comment

  1. Pingback: Some things still haven’t changed | The Daily Heckler

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