Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Need Philippine Passport?
You Need Six Weeks (and a "medium" smile, among other things)

Last June 2, the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles (as well as the Philippine Embassy and other Consulates General in the U.S.) started processing Machine Readable Passports (MRP). Its features are similar to the U.S. passport. The cost is the same - $50, but everything else is not.

"It has superior security features compared to the green passports, which virtually eliminates the possibility of identity theft and acts of fraud," says the consulate.

If you haven't heard about the changes in the 1st-time/renewal application process, here they are:
1. You need to apply in person. Yes, even if you are from Southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the far corners of Southern California. This is for "data verification, finger-printing and signature capture." (The consulate schedules a visit to cities so you can apply then; see info on consular outreach below).

2. It will now take 6 weeks to receive (pick-up or mail) the new passport so don't book that ticket till you have it in your hand. Have an emergency? Bring official documents (death certificate, etc.) that will prove your need. The consulate will do its best to accommodate you if you genuinely need to go quickly, says Deputy Consul General Dan Espiritu. The consulate can also grant a travel document, which is just for a one-way trip, but this is not supposed to replace a passport and is not granted willy-nilly.

Everyone else will have to wait for six weeks. Why that long? Because all applications are sent to the Philippines for processing.

3. Here's the link to the complete requirements, but pay special attention to the photo requirements because they are super-tight. Here are some:

Background – ROYAL BLUE
Size – 4.5 cm X 3.5 cm.
Pose – image of
applicant is 70 – 80% of the photograph
Straight frontal shot (no tilting of head)
“Medium” smile is allowed
Collared shirt / decent attire
Both ears visible

Now, the consulate cannot suggest this, but if I were you, I won't risk wasting money by getting these pics taken at outside places (like Walgreens, etc.) because they'll most likely be different from what's required.

Two friends of mine wasted $40 each because the ones they got outside didn't pass the stringent standards. There are two photo shops operating next-door to the consulate, and they are well-briefed on the standards. One charges $10, the other, $20.

A few weeks ago, I did a report in Balitang America about the frustrations voiced by some kababayans who found the new process tedious. I talked to a family who came all the way from Texas to apply; I also talked to a lolo who was just so frustrated by the lack of information. There were some very confused (hence, angry) applicants because, at that time, the consulate had two websites with conflicting info.

The applicants' concerns were heard and immediate actions were taken by consulate officials. Also, Public Affairs Officer Eric Sierra built a user-friendly and, more importantly, updated website: If you accidentally click on the outdated website, they provide a link to the new one.

As for the distance concern, the very busy but accomodating consulate does consular outreach & you can apply when they go to your city. This August 9, it will be held in Dallas, Texas from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm at the PNB Remittance Center, Inc., 940 E. Beltline Drive, Suite 130, Richardson, Dallas, TX 75081. PNB’s contact details are as follows: (972) 470-9910, (972) 470-9912, (281) 988-7001, and (800) 762-8788.

In doing the report, I got some tips that I'd like to pass on to you:
1. Bring a photocopy of your old passport.
2. Wear a dress or shirt with collar, if you're planning on getting your photos taken there.
3. Oh, and here's the link to the passport application form that you can print & fill up ahead of time.
4. Don't forget to review the step-by-step procedures. It's just 8 steps! Very easy to follow. This way you won't feel lost when you get to the consulate.
5. Don't bother calling the appointment number. I called that number myself to test it & didn't get a response. Just show up. And avoid coming on Monday mornings. That's when it's busiest.
6. BOTTOM LINE: Don't wait till the last minute to renew/apply for the new passport.


coyote02 said...

hi, thank you very much for your info...
can you please update the schedule of their visit in Texas?? I know there is one in August 9, how about the next schedule???
thank you...Godbless!!

Yong B. Chavez said...

Thanks, coyote02! See new entry for the update.


Anonymous said...

very resourceful blog! thank you very much! i'm getting my passport renewed in Texas on the 9th, which part of the recent passport must i photocopy?

Yong B. Chavez said...

Hi, anonymous :)

Here's what the consulate said about your query:

"...from green passport to MRP, the applicant should submit photocopy each of the ff: data page (the page with photo and name), the page with entry visa (or the green card) and the last page (with the signature of the approving officer)."


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the very helpful info!

Joseph of Dallas said...

Hi! I live in Dallas and I recently went to that outreach passport program here. 3 weeks after having submitted my application, I got a call from the consulate that my picture was rejected by Manila and that I need to mail a new set of pictures. Those pictures were taken by some Indians who were contracted by the PNB remit office to offer and charge for picture service. Can anyone suggest a place/shop in Dallas where I can get royal blue background photos that will have a greater chance of being accepted by DFA. It's very rare to even find a royal blue background here in Dallas. I would greatly appreciate your help on this. Thanks!

Yong B. Chavez said...

Hi Joseph,
I'm asking around for any suggestions as to where to get the fotos but so far, no one has given me a lead.

The initial response that I got from the consulate about your situation is that you should contact the PNB remittance center who contracted the photo service, but I could tell from your comment that you've already done that. The consulate is not affiliated with nor can they promote any photo company.

But I understand your frustration - that blue background thing & the other reqts can really be a headache for applicants. And I hope a reader can help you. I will post here any response I get. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi , i just missed the outreach here in Houston Texas, just wondering if they will going to have another one ,soon.If not then i guess i have to fly to LA to renew my passport, what is (October or November Eid Al-Fitr) ,I'm planning to go on thursday Oct 2,2008 I hope they're open, (trying to call the office no ones answering), & fly back the next day , just to renew my passport:)

Anonymous said...

Dear fellow kababayans,
I live in Charlotte, NC and need to renew my Philippine passport soon. I practically searched almost the entire city to find a place where I could get a picture with a royal blue background but I have no luck.
Do you have any suggestions? If you happen to live in Charlotte and know where to get that picture that will be accepted by the Philippine embassy, please e-mail me at
Thanks much!

Anonymous said...

I know I am about one year late.. but do you know when they will be back in texas to do an outreach program? Thank you very much for any information.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I have a working visa and I am from Mcallen, Texas (near the border) and I am planning to have my passport renewed this September in California.
My query is when I come back to Texas: I am actually planning to drive to Houston. Should I be concerned regarding a border patrol asking for my passport? What documents are the most useful to show?