Since I already received my new passport I decided to write about the whole experience.
There was nothing wrong with my passport to begin with. I just had it renewed last year. The only reason I renewed it now is because I had to change my last name to his (cause that’s what people do when they marry, apparently). I didn’t do it right away because I didn’t have the necessary documents to do so. BTW, I’m talking about a Philippine passport, just so we’re clear.
I traveled to Japan just three months after getting married and three months wasn’t enough time for our NSO (National Statistics Office) Marriage Certificate to be issued yet. They said it would take six months for it to be processed and then after that six months is when we can request a copy of it. We had a quickie wedding so we didn’t have the luxury of time to iron out all the details. There is a way to speed up the process though, you’d have to expedite your papers so it wouldn’t take six months but three months.
Anyway, I had to wait for the six months before I requested a copy of our marriage certificate cause all we had was the local registration certificate which apparently wasn’t all that official. Even when applying for my visa to go here using the local certificate was a headache. Since I was already here in Japan, I just ordered a few copies of our marriage certificate (and birth certificates) online. It was as easy as 1,2,3. I mean really, you just have to go to www.ecensus.com.ph. On the site you’d be instructed to fill up the form, enter your credit card info and then just wait for the delivery. I was advised that the delivery would take six to eight weeks but I received everything in just two weeks time. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just four hours away from the Philippines or what but yeah it was fast. I paid 20 bucks per copy of my requested documents which is kinda reasonable considering that if you ask someone from back home to get everything for you, it’ll be such an errand. The long lines and the numerous authorization letters you’d have to provide.
Upon receiving my documents, which was delivered right to my door step by a non english speaking Japanese man, I just went online again but this time to the embassy website for Tokyo to set up an appointment. There are usually slots open for even the following week so it’s fairly easy. You download the form you print and fill out (but the same forms would be available in the embassy so don’t you worry) then select a date and time for your appointment. You’ll also be instructed to bring the necessary accompanying documents for your business in the Embassy. In my case, passport renewal for name change I was asked to bring my passport and a copy of my NSO marriage certificate. I also brought a copy of my birth certificate and his and our local registry just in case they ask for it. You’ll also be asked to bring a 500 letter envelope which you can purchase at the postal office which will be used when they deliver the passport to your address. Directions to the embassy is also present in their website but it’s a bit confusing. Especially if you never been to that part of Japan cause most of the directions you’ll get over the internet will tell you which train to take and where to get off and to walk a couple of blocks to get there. It gets confusing after getting off at the right station, cause they don’t provide clear landmarks but the thing about Filipinos is that we’re everywhere. When we didn’t know were to go, we just followed a bunch of Filipinos carrying folders.
The embassy isn’t in the main street so it’s very tricky to locate. There wasn’t even noticeable signs leading up to the embassy itself. True to Filipino nature, there were people hanging out in the streets offering help like photocopy services, pens, check if your documents are in order, notary services and those 500 letter envelopes which I purchased in the post office for 501 yen but they sell for 550. Very Filipino of them I know.
The embassy itself wasn’t what I expected it to be. You can’t really tell it’s the embassy from the outside. People keep telling me to set up an appointment so that I wouldn’t have to wait long but when I got there there were a lot of walk ins. The security guard would already inspect your documents before letting you in to make sure everything is in order, then he’ll ask whether you have an appointment. I don’t think it matters though cause you get into the same line as everyone else nonetheless. The guard was a bit unprofessional, he did his job but he lets people cut in line. I was there in line waiting for the woman in front of me to finish asking her questions and then when she was done this other woman comes up to the guard like they’re friends or something and asks her question. I’m pregnant and travelled two hours in the rain to get there so I wasn’t gonna let it go. I interrupted them and pointed out that I was there first and in line. To my surprise the guard took her side, I don’t care if the girl had a tight top on but she falls in line like everyone else. She didn’t even have an appointment.
When we got in there were people everywhere for such a small space. I already had everything printed and filled out so I just took my place in line. Given that the guard already checked everyone’s documents, well I’m assuming, you’d think that people won’t have a problem anymore while in line but yeah, that wasn’t the case. What’s more frustrating is that it was the simplest things. People kept filling out the maiden name of their mother wrong, some didn’t even know their mother’s maiden name, then some people kept checking yes if they have a foreign passport and when asked to specify they write Philippines. So I understand the frustration of the employees when they encounter people couldn’t comprehend wrong but they were pretty harsh to the people I was in line with. After you hand out your documents and application forms to the first window, you’ll now be asked to go to the next room to wait for processing and encoding where they’ll also take your picture for the new passport. I don’t know how it works cause I went ahead. There were people who were there before me yet my name was called first. I was done within 5 minutes. The turn around time for the passport itself though was two to four months cause they’ll all have to be printed out in the Philippines and there was already delays in passport release cause they were adding more security features, or so they say. You just have to be sure you correctly input your address in you letter envelope though, cause I had a friend of mine who renewed her passport before and she ended up having to go back to the embassy to pick up her passport cause they couldn’t find her address.
One feature I liked about the embassy is that you have the option of paying in dollars or yen. It was cheaper by a few bucks to pay in dollars so that’s what I did. It kinda backfired though cause I received a call a day after asking if I can send them another 10 dollar bill cause the bank wouldn’t accept the one I gave them just because it was an old dollar bill. Ofcourse I just complied cause I didn’t want 10 dollars to be the reason why my passport would be delayed.
True to their word, I received my passport 2 months and a few days over. It was fast service. All in all, renewing my passport here in Japan was a lot easier than if I did it back home. Although the character of the people are still the same as it was back home. Four starts for the whole Philippine Embassy Japan and five for the Ecensus site. 🙂