The Urban Roamer’s ePassport Guide

In case you haven’t heard (or if you were too busy/distracted with the reemergence of Cory magic at that time) the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs launched back in August 2009 the ePassport, a biometrics-based paper-electronic passport which is considered to be most advanced type of passport being adapted by many countries around the world. With advanced recognition features embedded in a thin electronic microchip located within the passport, it was specifically designed to be forgery-proof in the wake of terrorism threats in recent years.

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the Philippine ePassport; the symbol below the word “Pasaporte” is the international logo for the ePassport

While my old passport does not expire yet for another couple of years, looking at that green passport with those hand-written entries makes the bearer feel embarrassed especially if you look at the other travelers who bear at least machine-readable passports and worrying about how the immigration officer looking at your passport. While I was fortunate of being spared from much immigration scrutiny during my recent trip overseas using a green passport, my mind was made up on updating my password early in light of recent policies put forward by the International Civil Aviation Organization promoting the use of MRP’s (machine-readable passports) and ePassports. So you can imagine my excitement when news that ePassports are now available.

It is expected that the Philippine ePassport will be fully rolled out by next year. However, the ePassport is currently available on a “limited” scale; you would have to do an online appointment and must be a current passport holder to avail one. I suppose even with the full promotion of the ePassport in the future, online appointments will still be the way to go if you want to somehow avoid the long lines.

You will then receive an email from the DFA scheduler not only confirming your appointment, but also will provide the date and time for the appointment. If you wish to re-schedule your appointment, you can reply to them informing them your preferred time. Remember to print out a copy of that confirmation email, your old passport, and a filled out passport application form found also on the website. You don’t have to attach pictures or thumb marks. More to that later.

You then go to the DFA office and enter the gate along Arnaiz Avenue (formerly Libertad) and not the gate located along Roxas Blvd. The DFA grounds itself is huge; the Arnaiz gate is the one specially dedicated for passport applicants. Be wary though of fixers (regardless if they have “DFA” ID’s or not) and just go straight through the gate.

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the main DFA building along Roxas Blvd., but you don’t enter here for passport appointments…

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You won’t be going through a long line outside Gate 3, (where passport applications are received and released) but you will be asked to proceed to a window specially catering to ePassport applicants. Show them a copy of your email, old passport, and the form and you will be handed a receipt that you will show to the counter to pay for the ePassport processing. It’s P950 for regular processing of 15 working days and P1200 for 10 working days. I chose to pay for regular processing by the way.

You will be then directed to the processing area dedicated for ePassports which was located in the 2nd floor during the time I applied.

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While awaiting full rollout, the processing facilities for the ePassport are located in a room on the second floor. The processing time itself is fairly quick because of the short queue and relatively quick process itself. There you will be taken your picture, place your thumbmarks on a digital surface, and place your signature digitally. All these details will be embedded on the contactless chip that will be placed on your ePassport.

Once you’ve gone through these, all you have to wait for is the releasing of your new ePassport. I got mine around 2 weeks later, (remember I did choose the regular 15-working day process) which was earlier this week. Now I don’t know how the current Machine-Readable Passports look and feel, but the Philippine ePassport has a somewhat thicker cover and thick paper that was used. The looks of the pages themselvs are quite nice:

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And here’s the information page of the Philippine ePassport, (I had to black out some “sensitive” information, hehehe):

So there you have it folks. With the new Philippine ePassport, we can proudly say our country is now at par with other countries around the world who are offering this latest technology in identification. It will surely help travelers, overseas workers, and other Filipinos currently/planning to go abroad feel more secure with faster clearance in immigration and feel confident that you bear your identity without any risks of it being stolen or tampered.

The ePassport is highly recommended for safer travel abroad among roamers like you and me.

for further details and for ePassport application, go to www.dfa.gov.ph

© The Urban Roamer

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