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DFA makes passport processing easier

After releasing thousands of appointment slots to the public, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is making it easier for passport applicants with further improvements in the appointment system.

One the new reforms is a redesign of the appointment system that now allows applicants to see, at first glance, which dates have available slots.

“Now, you don’t need to click on every date only to find out 60 clicks after that the next available appointment date is in two months’ time,” said DFA Office of Consular Affairs Executive Director Angelica Escalona.

“If you will look at our appointment website, the dates in color red are those that are fully booked. Those that are green are those that have available slots.”

The appointment system also now has a feedback mechanism that ensures that applicants are told if there is a problem with their application, and what they need to do to resolve the problem.

“Before, when you applied for a passport you were told to pick it up on a scheduled date. If for some reason there was a problem with your application, like discrepancies in the information or documents that you submitted, you wouldn’t know until that day when you are supposed to pick up the passport. There’s no feedback mechanism,” Escalona explained.

Under the newly instituted feedback mechanism, the executive drector said, the applicant is sent an e-mail that gives him or her the relevant feedback. The e-mail is sent within 48 hours the application is evaluated.

“This way, the applicant will know how to go about things,” she noted.

The appointment system also prompts users that if they senior citizens, persons with disabilities, pregnant, solo parents, children seven years old and below, and overseas Filipino workers, they don’t need to secure an appointment; they can just walk in, present they identification card and use the courtesy lane when renewing or applying for passports.

Escalona explained that despite the declaration in the DFA website about the use of courtesy lane, many who are entitled to it still go through the appointment system. The prompt in the appointment system is meant to address this situation.

Another notable move is DFA’s hard stance against fixers who have been barred from DFA’s premises and blocked from its appointment system. Helping the agency go after these unscrupulous individuals is the National Bureau of Investigation’s Cybercrime Division which was tapped by the DFA to go after these fixers.

In Aseana, DFA’s main office for passport processing, applicants who have queries or need assistance can easily ask from the roving staff deployed there for easy access by applicants.

According to Escalona, applicants who wait at the Aseana office can also get a reprieve from the daytime heat as there are now tents and electric fans in place there. They can also have cold drinking water from the water stations.

“There are even candies there, if they want to eat something,” the executive director added.

“We want to give the people the service they deserve without the hassle they may have gotten used to in the past.

We’ve just started. More changes are coming for the convenience, comfort and security of our people not just in Aseana but in all satellite and consular offices and foreign posts”, Escalona said.