Getting a United States Passport in Manila, Philippines isn’t difficult. It’s not a simple as getting one in the United States, of course, or I’d have nothing to write about. A renewal is easier to get than a new passport and if you’re an American living in the Philippines, a renewal is what you should be trying to get. The only reason you’d need a new passport is if you let your current one expire and it’s been more than five years since it expired. Even then, getting a new passport isn’t that difficult. You just have a couple of more things to do.
According to the instructions page to Renew the 10-Year validity Adult Passport, you need to fill out the DS-82 Application for a U.S. Passport and mail it to the Citizenship and Passport Unit at the United States Embassy. The unit will make an appointment for when you need to go in and pay the fee and arrange for it to be mailed to you.
All of this is pretty simple stuff until you get to the “mail” part of it. First of all, receiving mail on time (or even at all) isn’t something I trust in any part of the Philippines. Using the courier service the embassy contracted is probably the best way to make sure documents get from point A to point B in a reasonable time. If not, registered mail is a lot better than regular mail.
Filling out the PDF form is easy, but you have to print it and send it. You can’t send it any other way. If you don’t have a printer, you’ll have to print it to a file and go somewhere (like an Internet café) to have it printed.
My old passport expired in 2011 and it wasn’t until 2012 that I decided to get a renewal. I rarely looked at it and if I hadn’t been planning a trip for later that year, I may have let it go for a couple of more years. I wasn’t in a hurry, with more than six months to get it done.
I sent my passport application, along with the other required documents, by registered mail. Thirteen days later, I received an e-mail message from the embassy with the instructions for going there to pay the fee. Two days later, I made the trip.
I was given a choice. I could have a courier deliver the new passport to me (at extra cost, of course), have it sent to me by regular mail or return to pick it up. The clerk told me I wouldn’t receive any notification when it was ready to be picked up, so I needed to call in two to three weeks to check on it. I chose to pick it up. I didn’t plan to call for three or four weeks.
Despite what they told me, I received an e-mail message a week later, telling me my passport was ready to be picked up. I intended to go the following week. Four days later, I received a phone call from the passport office repeating what the e-mail message said. I asked about it and I was told it wasn’t normal procedure – the officer in charge wanted to make sure all the expats got taken care of as quickly as possible.
Three days later, I went to Manila to pick up the passport and that’s the end of the story. I don’t have to worry about getting another renewal until after 2022.
I could have used a courier in 2012 and I’m sure that’s what I’ll do the next time around. Traveling to and from Manila wasn’t terribly expensive — I’m pretty sure I spent less than a hundred dollars (in pesos) during both trips, minus the passport fee. It gave me an excuse to get out of the house and eat fast food for a change.
When I looked at the instruction page again, today, I noticed the fee is $110 in cash (dollars or the peso equivalent). If I remember correctly, it was only $60 when I went in 2012. It makes me wonder what I’ll have to pay after 2022.