Renewing your Passport During this Pandemic

My passport is expiring next year so while travelling is still difficult for the next few more months, I decided to renew it in time for a the possible re-opening of international tourism in hopefully – 2021.

I booked my appointment online in October 5 and picked DFA Ali Mall branch in Cubao, the same branch where I had my passport renewed in 2016. Slots are open as early as 2 weeks from the time that I was booking. I thought things will be easier in late November so I selected November 25.

Of course, nothing has change in the span of 7 weeks. But here are some tips in case you are also renewing your passport this 2020 or 2021.

  • Don’t be too early. Arriving 15-30 minutes before your appointment is good enough.

    My appointment was 11AM and I was there at around 10:15AM. Several people who were schedule for 10AM are still queuing at 10:45AM. They let us join the line at 10:55AM. Depending on the queue inside, only 3-5 people are allowed to enter at once.

  • Have your passport photocopied on an A4 bond paper, just the front page of your passport (the page containing your photo and personal details) is needed.

    I heard some branches also require a photocopy of the page of your emergency contact, I also prepared that but Ali Mall branch did not take it. Having this photocopies ready makes your transaction faster as you won’t have to fall in line in the photocopying area.

  • Print your appointment forms on an A4 bond paper. Make sure that you are printing two (2) copies of the electronic receipt, also in A4.

And here are the steps:

  1. The guard on duty will be distributing a health declaration form. You will have enough time to fill this out while falling in line. He/she will also be checking your documents to ensure that it’s complete.

  2. Upon entering, the Step 1 window is right next to the entrance. Present your documents for further checking. This is where you will be asked for the passport photocopy; she will direct you to the photocopy area if needed. Else, you’re ready for Step 2.

  3. Step 2 is just another round of verification. It will be quick and easy for as long as your documents and record have no discrepancies. I was done in a minute although I waited in line for around 10 minutes.

  4. Step 3, encoding, is the longest part. This is where your photo gets taken. Good luck if there are babies or toddlers before you; it would take some time before they could get a perfect shot. The waiting time is around 15-30 minutes.

    A piece of paper will be attached to your receipt. This contains the email address which you could contact for follow-ups. You will also be given a tentative date of the release of your passport.

  5. If you opt for a delivery, proceed to the courier window. I do not trust deliveries during this time so I preferred to pick it up myself.

    Overall, I was inside the DFA office for a good 45 minutes. I wasn’t as difficult as I thought. Social distancing is being observed although you’ll need to watch for people who still doesn’t understand the concept, and consciously keep your distance from them.

    Good luck on your passport renewal appointment. Just enjoy the experience!

New Authentication Process: Red Ribbon versus Apostille

Effective May 14, 2019, the DFA will be replacing the “red ribbon” process of authenticating a document with “apostille”. What is an apostille and when do you need it? Below is an excerpt from the DFA website:

“An Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document. It is issued by a country that is party to the Apostille Convention to be used in another country which is also a party to the Convention.

On 14 May 2019, the Philippines will officially become a party to the Apostille Convention. Authentication is still required for all Philippine documents to be used abroad, but this time with an Apostille instead of an Authentication Certificate (“red ribbon”) as proof of authentication.

After authentication (Apostillization) by the Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of Consular Affairs (DFA-OCA), as Competent Authority, there is no more need for authentication (legalization) by the Foreign Embassies or Consulates except for countries that have not acceded to the Convention and countries that objected to the Philippine accession.”

Here are some of the many questions that are expected to come out of the implementation of this new process which the DFA has already prepared an answer for. All succeeding graphics are from the DFA.

For more questions or inquiries, contact the DFA hotline at 556-0000, 651-9400 and 234-3488.

DFA Online Payment System: Where to Pay?

As of May 2019, the payment system of the DFA Passport Appointment process is actually not an “online” transaction. So much for an appointment that is created through the internet. Upon submitting your application, you will receive an email that contains an instruction on how and where to pay. There will also be a reference number that you will use to process the payment:

Related post: I did not receive an email for the appointment code of my DFA online passport application

So, while we wait for the DFA to actually upgrade their system to include credit card payment or at least via mobile banking apps, we’ll have to settle to what is available:

To pay in cash via Bayad Center outlets (USSC, 7-11, ECPay, SM, Robinsons, Pera Hub, True Money, Cebuana, etc.) or download Bayad Center Mobile App for both iOS and Android Devices.

I went around Quezon City looking for an actual Bayad Center branch not knowing that I can just tap on that machine inside a 7-Eleven branch! Yes, that’s what I did and it worked.

Once paid, you will receive the confirmation email in less than three (3) minutes. I made my payment on a holiday so the email is obviously auto-generated. It also includes an attachment which you will need to print prior to making an appearance to your selected DFA branch to complete your passport application.

DFA Online Passport Application: Blank Payment Facility Page

I’ve been trying to book a new passport appointment via the DFA website in the past two weeks. I tried three times using three different email addresses (Yahoo and Gmail), but everytime I click on the “Proceed to Payment” option, the page gives me this “Invalid Transaction Request” error:

The above error is showing up in Chrome. The error did not appear when I used Internet Explorer but the page remained blank despite refreshing it multiple times:

If you encountered this problem while processing your DFA passport application online, you may try doing any of the following as suggested by their Consular Information Center:

  • It may not work on your mobile phone or tablet so use a laptop or a desktop.
  • Copy the payment facility URL and paste it in a new tab or a different browser and try to open it from there.
  • Clear your browser’s cache and cookies and try again. You can use the same email address but you can only do so after two (2) hours. The system still recognizes an active application for the same email address if you attempt to re-book within the two-hour time frame. Nonetheless, a different email address can be used.
  • Make sure that you are not accessing their website from your workplace. Your internet connection in the office may be blocking their system which is the reason why the page is not loading correctly. This is what happened to me and it finally worked when I tried at home. If you are in an internet café, you may seek help from an attendant or move to another one.
  • From my experience, the payment facility was blank in Internet Explorer. I copied the URL and pasted it in Chrome and it worked!

Per the staff whom I spoke with when I called, you will NOT get an email notification from the DFA if you were not able to reach the payment facility page. They can only assist you in obtaining an appointment code if you made it through the payment page but did not receive the two emails mentioned below:

“Applicants should receive two (2) emails:1. Reference number for payment2. Appointment reference numberIf your appointment booking was successful and you were able to pay for your reserved appointment, the appointment code will be sent through your email. Appointment details may also be filtered in the spam/junk folder. If you did not receive your appointment details, you may contact the following number for more information: 556-0000.”