It’s only February but… it’s time to renew my Philippine passport… again.
Even though it expires October 2019, I have to renew my passport — before I start my next contract. Seafarers are required to have their passports valid for at least one year from the beginning of their contract.
💡 A word of caution:
When you do a search on the Internet about “DFA passport renewal” you will get a lot of results with links to web pages that try to look like they’re official DFA pages. Such websites are not actually connected with the Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs — all they do is copy the instructions and information from the DFA website.
As of this writing, the real DFA websites are:
– https://dfa.gov.ph/ (their main website); and,
– https://www.passport.gov.ph/appointment (the DFA site for scheduling appointments for passport applications and renewals).
The URL to the DFA’s Passport Division is consular.dfa.gov.ph/passport.
I visited the DFA website in mid-February to schedule an appointment and the next available appointment was for end of March. Yikes! 😲
One of the perks of being an OFW or Seafarer is the option to avail of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Courtesy Lane, instead of queuing online for an appointment. 😃👍
NO APPOINTMENT IS NEEDED for the following:
1. SENIOR CITIZEN and one (1) travel companion
2. PERSON WITH DISABILITY (PWDs) and one (1) travel companion
3. SOLO PARENT and his/her minor children
4. PREGNANT WOMEN
5. MINORS SEVEN (7) YEARS OLD AND BELOW and his/her parents and minor siblings
6. OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (land-based, or seafarers)
You may avail of the OFW LANE or COURTESY LANE at DFA Aseana or at any DFA Consular Office to apply for your passport.
For a list of requirements to avail of this visit, please visit this link.
N.B.: Emphasis mine.
In order to get on the Courtesy Lane, aside from coming early and making it to the cutoff time, the requirement is to show proof of status.
Overseas Filipino Workers (Land and Sea based) with valid proof of status, such as:
• Valid iDOLE card
• Valid Employment contract
• Valid Work Visa
• Seaman's book stamped at international border less than 365 days from date of application
Notice that it didn’t say I needed to have more than one of the above items. Anyway, my Seaman’s Book (a.k.a. SIRB) shows it was stamped at an international border within the last 365 days. So, clearly, I qualify.
Upon getting to the DFA at SM Megamall however, they were not satisfied with my SIRB and I was expected to produce a photocopy of my Contract or an OEC. I told the lady guard that according to their website, a Seaman’s Book was enough. Fortunately, even though she wouldn’t accept my lack of a Contract, she let me in and directed me to check with the staff at the first desk. But, they too expected a photocopy of a Contract in addition to the SIRB. Again, I referred them to their website. The lady in charge was peeved, “I know what’s on our website!”
😥 Sorry. Please don’t be upset. We’re just going by the information posted on your website.
I thought it was odd that they required and insisted that OFWs and Seafarers come with a Contract because, when you think about, don’t I need a new passport valid for at least a year before the Manning Agency and POEA will process my Contract? (I could be wrong here. But without correct official information spelled out for us dazed OFWs and Seafarers, that would be the easy conclusion to arrive at using our common sense.)
After some hesitation, mercifully, the lady in charge allowed me to get on the Courtesy Lane. 🙃
💡 Lesson learned: Don’t bring just the “minimum” that is required. Bring extras — i.e. photocopies and documents that may help get you on the Courtesy Lane… in case the staff you deal with are in a picky mood.
I should mention that I overheard the guard require the same thing of an OFW who arrived later than I. Unlike me, that poor lady did’t get through the front door at all.
YOU have been warned. Don’t make the same mistake. (Technically, neither I nor that OFW lady made any mistake. We simply went by the information found on the DFA website.)
💡 Important information on Cut-off Times:
For DFA SM Megamall (which opens 10AM), you should come early because they will stop accommodating people for the Courtesy Lane once they get 100 people.
For DFA SM Manila, they start the queue for their Courtesy Lane at 3PM and they stop at 50 people.
It was around 10:30 AM that I got to DFA SM Megamall and got in the queue for their Courtesy Lane. The lady guard gave me a little stub that shows my assigned time to be 2:00 PM. Good system. That meant we didn’t have to hang around and wait indefinitely. Zero chaos. 😃👍
So I had lunch and went strolling in the mall.
I returned to the DFA a little before 2:00 PM and everything after that was smooth sailing.
I was out of there before 3:00 PM.
Mission accomplished. 😃👍