Hey, guys! This latest post is about my personal experience with a passport renewal at the DFA Office here in Cebu. I know we all have bad notions regarding government agencies and how long it takes to process stuff, but let’s be honest, they do have to cater to a lot of people everyday, and we only look at things from our own perspective. We should help to build up, shape and improve the process, instead of just complaining and tearing stuff down with our superbly negative comments.
Anyway, I don’t really remember when I first applied for my passport, since I was a minor then and I just had to accompany my parents and make a personal appearance. A little wait and a picture for the camera, and voila, there was my passport. This was back when the DFA was located in the heart of Cebu City.
Now, the DFA Office in Cebu has transferred to Mandaue City. It’s located at the 4th floor of Pacific Mall (Formerly known as Super Metro) and specifically at the United Nations Avenue corner of Briones Street in Mandaue City. This was a good thing for me as it was much nearer to where I live.
The DFA in Manila has an appointment system so that people don’t have to wake up and line so early in the morning, but unfortunately, we don’t have that here yet. So, reading from personal blogs and friends comments on Facebook, they told me that I’d need to be there by 4 AM and some even said to be there by 3 AM.
This was kind of crazy, but if that’s how it is currently, so the only option is to line up early or have your passport application sorted out by a fixer. Which is illegal and could get you imprisoned. There are also travel agencies that line up for you, but you’ll have to pay an extra buck for this. I asked my friend who owns a travel agency, and you could end up spending an extra PHP 1,000-1,500 just for that express lane. Another option is if you’re a minor, senior or a person with disability, then you don’t have to line up and get a priority number, as there is a courtesy lane especially meant for these people.
There are also different requirements needed if you’re a first time applicant or if you’re just there to renew your passport. You pay the same amount, but the requirements such as your supporting documents and ID’s are different. I’ll try to post some pictures at the end with the information on some of this.
The first thing I did was research on the DFA website on the requirements. Good thing I had the necessary ID that was government issued, which was my driver’s license, and another one such as a school alumni ID. I also needed around 2-3 supporting documents, which was in the form of my TOR, CTC and Birth Certificate.
I also read blog posts from other people regarding their experience with the DFA, and it was also very helpful. Just do a quick Google search, they should be in the first page, and read all about it. I really wanted to prepare myself before heading over there so I wouldn’t waste any time.
I made a check-list of all of the stuff I’d need on the day, such as the requirements, and the snacks, water, reading materials, and the like. I’m not saying you should do this, but it really is helpful to have a checklist to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything. It would really suck if you were already at the DFA and you forgot to bring your driver’s license. Now, since I’m making this massive post, I took a picture of some requirements, reminders and the list of acceptable IDs and supporting documents, depending on whether it’s a first time application or a renewal. Check it out below.
After gathering all the requirements, I went to photocopy all of them. Better safe than sorry. If you also have the green passport, you should photocopy the first and last page, as this is also a requirement. If you do it before you head to the DFA, you’ll save a few minutes than if you went to photocopy your stuff inside the office on the day itself.
So, that was all the preparation I made the day before. I followed the advice of my friends to go there at around 3 AM to make sure that I’d be one of the first few in line. It really did sound crazy, but I read that the earlier you line up, the earlier you finish. No point arguing with that.
Set 3 alarms on my cellphone, to go off at 2:15, 2:20 and 2:30 respectively. Turned off the first two and finally woke up at 2:30 AM. Took a quick bath, brought out the car, and headed to Pacific Mall. There was ample parking space outside for both cars and motorcycles. I got there at 3:07 AM. There are already people lining up. On my count, I was around the 50th person there. I was really glad that I went early. Now, the camp-out!
I came prepared. Stocked my cellphone with 3 movies (all in 1080p, no doubt!) to kill time with, since I didn’t have a friend who tagged along. Got to talk to my neighbors in the line about the requirements and stuff, and it was helpful as they also offered some advice and they were knowledgeable with the line mechanics and stuff. More people started to line-up, and they had to sit on the side of the street of the mall.
Watched Warm Bodies, which admittedly, I liked a lot. I wasn’t expecting too much, but it turned out to be real good! Maybe that, or I was just really sleepy! 2 hours passed. Switched batteries. The guard handed us application forms at around 5 AM. I filled it up, and went back to waiting. It was relatively easy to fill up. You can see the form in the picture below. Then I started watching Premium Rush.
Now, at around 6:30 AM, the line was moving. We submitted our application form and we were given a priority number in exchange for a valid ID. We were also told to come back at 10 AM. I got number 56. Not too shabby, I guess.
Had breakfast at Jollibee, and went back home for a nap. Felt much better, and headed back at around 9:45 AM. By this time, the mall was already open, and I headed to the 4th floor. No more waiting outside! The DFA Office space was actually very big, and it was airconditioned. There were also food stalls, and lots of chairs and benches. Really much better than the situation outside.
So basically, this was the outside waiting area. There is actually another area for entrance, and they call you by batches of 50. 1-50 and 51-100, so on and so forth. This was the reason of having a priority number. I didn’t take too many pictures of the inside anymore due to low battery status. But basically, the inside interior has a photocopy section, a notarial section, an information section, and the actual tellers to process the passport. It’s also airconditioned inside and there are seats inside. Good stuff.
After they called 1-50, I got in line for 51-100. Basically, after this long line, it was hassle free from there. I finished everything in about less than 2 hours. You go to different tellers in a step by step process, all until you reach the end. Each teller has a queue as well, so waiting time really can vary. But they advertise that the actual processing time of all the tellers is just around 24 minutes.
The first step is the processing area. This is where you submit your documents (IDs and supporting documents) for evaluation. They’ll ask you your parents’ middle names when they were single, so keep note of that! They’re going to require some photocopies or original documents from you. One thing I found weird is that if you were a first time applicant, you’d need to submit your original NSO Birth Certificate. But if it’s just for renewal, you’d only need the photocopy. She signs your application form, staples all the documents together, and forwards you to the next step.
The second step is the cashier area. You need to pay PHP 950.00 for a standard passport processing which is about 25 working days. You could also opt for the express processing which would be done in 15 working days, but you’d need to pay PHP 1,200.00. You can also opt to have LBC deliver it to your home. Prices and fees are shown below. Whatever you pay for, you just have to line-up and the teller will call you to pay the required amount before bringing you over to the next area.
The third step is the enrolment area. This is where you submit your documents from the first step, and your receipt of payment from the second step. After some waiting, you’ll be called to the teller. She’ll take a picture of you using their camera.
- No glasses or eye contacts of different color.
- Ears have to be visible.
- No teeth or gums showing.
- No necklaces or adornments around the neck.
After the picture, they’ll need you to affix your digital signature and your left and right thumb print. It’s all very quick. When the teller encodes your personal information, you’ll need to be vigilant, as you need to tell him/her if there is any wrong information or wrong spelling on any data fields that were inputted. It’s your obligation, as you need to sign a sort of waiver at the end, not holding the DFA liable for any incorrect information. Just double check and it’ll be fine! After a bit more waiting, and after you’ve signed that everything is in order, you are now done, and you’re told that you can claim your passport in the releasing area 25 working days from today. You just need to keep your receipt as shown in the picture below as proof of the processing. Hooray! You can now proceed to go home and rest!
That is actually the fourth step, which is the releasing area. You go back to the DFA office, and you don’t really need to line up and get a priority number anymore, as you’re just there for claiming. Unless you paid for LBC delivery, you’ll need to go back 25 working days from when you processed your passport. Note that there is still a hefty line for this, as lots of people also want to claim their passports. Shown below is the graph for the releasing of the passport, which I’ll have to do next month! Keep on reading to the next section for my time stamps and tips to get through the DFA Passport Application in a breeze!
Just for a more personal recording on how everything went down at the DFA, I kept recording my thoughts and their respective time stamps. Read below if you want to know my thoughts moment by moment.
2:30 AM – Had 3 alarms set on my cellphone at 2:15, 2:20 and 2:30 respectively. Guess which one I woke up to?
2:54 AM – All prepped and good to go. Here we go!
3:07 AM – I arrive at the DFA. Lots of parking spaces outside the mall. I see that there are like 45-50 people already lining up.
3:08 AM – In the line outside and I’m starting to feel the sleepiness kick in. Thinking of what movie to watch first. At least there’s a place to sit and it has ample lighting.
3:13 AM – Talking to my immediate neighbors in the line. Confirmed everything else I read online about the priority number and application form. Priority number is given by the guard at around 5 AM – 7 AM. Come back around 9 AM-10 AM.
3:16 AM – Burping the remnants of last night’s Lumpia. I hope I don’t need to go to the restroom during this entire ordeal.
3:17 AM – Finally decided to watch Warm Bodies. I don’t know. I need something light to watch. The guy next to me has Hot Choco. Smells good. But I know if I buy some, it’ll cause me to take some unwanted detours.
4:49 AM – Had to change batteries on my cellphone. Almost done with the movie. Really enjoying Warm Bodies. Just a feel good movie! About 45-50 people have showed up after me, bringing the total to about 100 of us.
5:06 AM – The movie is over. Ended up liking it much more than I thought I would. More people have shown up. The line is getting even longer.
5:15 AM – The guard is starting to hand out application forms and is telling us to fill it up in advance.
5:22 AM – Done filling it up. Easy for the most part, just basic information. Now for some more waiting.
5:29 AM – Don’t feel like watching another movie. Sun has risen and it’s shining bright.
6:26 AM – Decided to watch another movie since I really had nothing else to do. About 15 minutes into Premium Rush. Joseph Gordon Levitt! There are now about 150 of us lining up.
6:38 AM – The line is moving.
6:47 AM – Submitted my form. They gave me a priority number. Number 56. Not too shabby. Have to be back by 10 AM.
6:59 AM – Jollibee for breakfast. Thinking of heading home for a quick nap after.
7:11 AM – Heading home.
9:14 AM – After a nice nap, I’m heading back to the DFA. Time for round 2!
9:43 AM – The DFA office is on the 4th floor of Pacific Mall. Heading there now.
10:34 AM – Done watching Premium Rush. It was alright. While I was watching, the people with priority numbers 1-50 went inside already. Big waiting area with some food stalls. Airconditioned. Not too bad. More people waiting though.
10:48 AM – Guard calls out priority numbers 51-100 . Already inside. Processing is starting. There’s a priority lane for PWD, Senior Citizens and Minors.
11:00 AM – Done with the ID, supporting documents and appearance validation which is the first part. The teller just confirms if you are who you say you are. Remember your parents’ middle names! On to payment. 950 Pesos. If it’s a regular application or renewal, it’s 25 working days. Express application is 15 days processing, but it’s currently suspended as of late. August 7, 2013 is the claim date.
11:10 AM – Done paying at the next teller. I’m in line for encoding, which is going to take my Biometrics and stuff. Picture. Thumb prints. Remember that the smile has no teeth or gums showing. And that your ears should be visible. No contacts or glasses. No necklaces and stuff.
11:46 AM – Finally done! Have my official receipt and I’ll be back here to claim it in 25 working days. Pretty efficient once you’re inside . Just a little bit short of 2 hours. Well, until next time!
Before I end, here are some thoughts and tips that I’d like to share with you guys:
- Preparation is key. There are a lot of resources on the internet such as the DFA website and personal blog posts on the needed requirements and advice to help you get through this ordeal. All the requirements and valid documents are just listed on the site. You can also ask your friends who have went through this before. Come prepared and everything will go smoothly.
- Don’t be afraid to talk it up with your neighbors. They might have interesting tidbits and stuff that may help you along the way. Everyone is willing to help, and who knows, you might just make a new friend.
- There’s a photocopying station inside the office for your requirements, but I suggest you photocopy your IDs and supporting documents in advance so you can save a few minutes in the queue.
- Bring stuff to help you pass the time such as a book or some movies and games on your phone/tablet. Another option is to bring friends who you can talk to. But also be sure to be attentive when they’re calling out names and numbers. You don’t want to miss out and have to do it all over again.
- During the encoding process of your name and of your parent’s name, it’s your job to make sure the encoder is typing the right information. Make sure everything is correct or you could pay a hefty fine to correct it later. Make sure you know your mom and dad’s middle name when they were single!
- All in all, the most important thing is to be patient. It’s actually just the initial line that takes a while, but the rest is a breeze.
It took about 9 hours, but I’m glad that I finished everything in half a day without requiring the services of a fixer or a travel agency. It just takes discipline, preparation, and most of all, patience. It actually felt fulfilling at the end of it all!
This is a massive post with a lot of information, and some of it could be inaccurate. This is my own personal experience and sort of guide to the next reader. If you find something wrong, please don’t hesitate to comment or message me and I’ll try to correct it for the benefit of all. If you have any questions, concerns, comments or opinions that you’d like to voice out, please feel free to do so.
Got my passport! Didn’t have to wake up early for that, just went to the DFA at around 10:00 AM and the guard will direct you to the hallway at the side, which links directly for claiming of passports. Took less than 5 minutes. You just have to present your receipt and authenticate with your signature. I must say, the new passport is very well made! It feels kind of hardbound, and the page with your information and your contact details looks shiny and presentable. Can’t wait to get stamps, signatures and approvals on this little guy! Reminding you guys again, it’s 25 working days before you can claim your passport, unless you want them to have it shipped for you through LBC. So it’s really up to you if you think it’s worth the extra PHP 100-120 to have it shipped to your house.
I don’t know how long this has been in place, but apparently, basing off of the comments, Pacific Mall now has a Mall Priority Number that they start distributing at 9 PM the night before. So you get your Priority Number the night before, go the next day and exchange it with the DFA Priority Number. This kind of saves time for you having to wake up super early by at least ensuring it the night before and giving you some peace of mind. Will have to get more information about this. If anyone has any additional information, please feel free to comment below or shoot an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d still prefer the appointment style by calling in advance, but this is also a bit better than waking up at 3 AM.
Some acquaintances and friends of mine have told me that the applicants now have to wait in the street instead of the waiting shed, which I think is very stupid. The waiting sheds at least had light and a place for you to sit down. I don’t understand why Pacific Mall isn’t letting people stay there, for their safety and security. Also, back from my original update, it seems like the getting of the priority number isn’t being done the day before anymore, they’re going back to first come first serve on the day, which is promoting people to line up as early as 3 AM again. Personally, my suggestion would be to adapt an appointment system, kind of like how Manila does it. But only time will tell if they will do so.
Also, to those who keep on commenting and asking questions if the documents they have will suffice, please don’t expect me to answer that. You can check the files and pictures I used as well as the requirements and verify yourself. A little research and reading goes a long way! But again, many thanks to everyone who shared their experiences and stories. Hopefully in the next few years, passport applications and renewals will be easier to accomplish.
My sister just got her passport renewed yesterday, but she had it coursed through with the help of a travel agency (boo!) so she had to pay a bit extra. A tip she gave me was instead of lining up real early (like at 3 AM), it might be worth a try to go late in the afternoon at around 3-4 PM. Sometimes, on busy days, there are no more priority numbers left in the afternoon, but when she went on a Wednesday afternoon, there were almost no people left and still some leftover priority numbers! The processing took around 30 minutes from start to finish because there were no people around! So maybe if you can spare the time, going on a late afternoon could help prove useful. If this method is indeed effective, please do share it in the comments section below!
So I got two useful inputs from the comments section below. Read the comments section below, as people have been sharing their experiences during their own personal passport renewal. One person told me that going late in the afternoon around 3:45-4:00 PM was effective, as there was virtually no one around and she was done in about 30 minutes. Another person told me that Saturdays are indeed reserved for travel agencies, but once the people from the travel agencies are done at about 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, you can go and process for yourself even without a travel agency. Thank you to everyone who has been providing input! It’s been really useful so far.
Well, hopefully this was helpful and a good read for you as well.
Until next time,