The last time I looked at my US Passport, I noticed it had expired. I believe it expired in 2011, but I don’t have it in front of me (it’s buried in a closet). This isn’t a huge issue as long as I renew it within five years of the expiration date. Getting it renewed, however, may become an issue simply because of how the passports are handled at the US Embassy in Manila, Philippines.
According to the instruction page to Renew the 10-Year validity Adult Passport, I need to fill out the DS-82 Application for a U.S. Passport and mail it to the Citizenship and Passport Unit at the US Embassy. An appointment will be made the unit for when I’ll need to come in and pay the fee and arrange for the new passport to be mailed to me.
All of this is pretty simple stuff until you get to the “mail” part of it. First of all, receiving mail in a timely manner (or even at all) isn’t something I trust in Olongapo City, if not the entire Philippines. I usually receive things sent to me from the US two to three months after they’re mailed. I can’t tell you where the bottleneck is, but there obviously is one when I receive two quarterly newsletters on the same day.
Second of all, the street I live on is not properly mapped by the bureau of land management in Olongapo City. The entire street has the same house number, for every house! All of the mail ends up getting delivered to the house at the bottom of the hill and we have to periodically go there and check to see if we have any mail. When you consider how important a US Passport is, leaving it to the mercy of mail and bad addressing is something I don’t like to think about.
There is supposedly a courier service, but it looks like they use a Manila phone number and it may be restricted to the metro Manila area.
I’m not in a hurry – not quite yet
It’s April and I’m planning on taking a trip to the US in November. This should give me ample time to do everything the hard way, right? That depends. The rainy (and typhoon) season is right around the corner and that will slow everything down, especially the mail.
I’ll update this article when I actually send everything out and pay the fee. I’ll then update it or follow it up with another article when I actually receive the new passport. I think it’s important for US citizens living in the Philippines, as I am, to know how long this process takes and the best way to get it done.
Update – May 5, 2012
I sent my expired passport, along with the 2″ x 2″ photos and the passport application to the embassy by registered mail a couple of days ago (I have the receipt, but there’s isn’t a date on it and I’ve been running around so much this week that I don’t remember which day it was). I am now awaiting the e-mail notification for the appointment to pay the fee at the embassy. I don’t know how long registered mail from Olongapo City to Manila takes, so it could be a couple of weeks.
Update – May 16, 2012
I received the e-mail from the embassy yesterday and I’m heading there tomorrow to pay the fee. Apparently, I can only pay between 9 and 10 am, Monday to Friday. Well, at least they gave me 90 days to do it.
Update – May 18, 2012
I paid the fee at the American Embassy in Manila yesterday. I found a copy of the passport application in my glove compartment and it was on May 3rd that I sent the mail as registered. It took until May 15th to receive the e-mail notification, so that’s like 10 working days to receive and process the application at the embassy.
I was given a choice. I could have a courier deliver the new passport to me (at extra cost, of course), have it mailed to me (regular mail) or return to pick it up. The clerk told me I would not receive any notification when it was ready to be picked up, so I needed to call (I was given a card) to check on it, in two to three weeks. Since local mail is unreliable at best, especially since my entire street has the same house number, and because driving to pick it up would probably be as cheap as having a courier deliver it, I’m choosing to pick it up. I won’t call until at least three weeks have passed (and probably closer to four).
Update – May 26, 2012
Despite what I was told, I received an e-mail message yesterday telling me my passport was ready to be picked up. Only a week has passed. So, #1, it doesn’t always take 2-3 weeks and #2, they do send a notice. Looks like I’ll be heading to Manila again next week.
Update – May 29, 2012
I received a phone call from the American Citizen Services passport office this morning, telling me the same thing the e-mail message told me. I thanked her and asked her why I received two notifications when I was told at the counter that I wouldn’t receive any. She said the officer was being nice and that this isn’t the normal procedure.
Update – June 1, 2012
I have my renewed US Passport in my possession. So… The period covered from the date I mailed the application (May 3, 2012) to the date I picked it up (June 1, 2012) was less than a month. It took less time than it did for me to receive my passport when I lived in the United States… go figure.