As any long time reader knows, if you are living here on a permanent visa (and some other types of visa holders as well), every year in either January or February you must report to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and pay your head tax. It’s not a big deal, only P310, but it is something you must do.
Last year, in January 2012, I went to the BI office in General Santos, since that is where I am registered at. I like to keep my registration in GenSan and go there every year for my check-in, because it is a smaller town and there are no crowds at the BI office. Here in Davao, even for a simple annual check in you might have to wait hours at the BI office while others ahead of you are taken care of. In GenSan I am usually in and out of the office in less than 5 minutes. Yes, I have to drive down there and back, which is about 2 hours each way, but there are a couple of reasons why I still like to do it in GenSan:
- I enjoy the drive or the bus ride down there. It gives me time to reflect.
- Usually I have other things I need to do in GenSan, friends there to visit, etc.
So, last year while I was at the BI in GenSan, I knew that my I-Card (Identification card for foreigner residents of the Philippines) was set to expire in May. I had a potential problem with this, I knew that my US Passport was expired! I asked the lady at the BI office about this and she told me that it was no problem, an expired Passport would not be a problem in renewing my I-Card. The I-Card must be renewed in Davao (other places too, but for this area of the country, Davao is the most convenient).
So, a few months later I went to the Davao BI to renew my I-Card, took care of everything, paid the fees and such, and everything was in order. A few days later the BI called me and told me that I could not renew my I-Card because my US Passport was expired! They said that GenSan BI had given me incorrect information, and I needed to renew my Passport immediately.
Next thing I went online to the US Embassy in Manila website to see what the process was. I had lived here for 12 years, but had yet to ever need to renew my passport. The instructions were pretty clear on their website. Basically, I had to:
- Fill out an application for passport renewal and send it to the Embassy in Manila.
- Go to Manila to pay my Passport application fee.
- Wait for my new passport to be sent to me.
Hold on! What about #2… go to Manila to pay? That’s just crazy! I can do it online or through the mail, but I still have to go to Manila to make the payment in person?
Upon further inspection of the instructions, I found that it would be acceptable for me to send in a person to make the payment for me. Luckily, I have a friend who lives just outside Manila and he offered to go pay the fee for me. What a life saver!
So, I filled out the PDF form that was downloadable on the US Embassy website, went and had some Passport Photos taken, and sent everything to the Embassy via their pre-arranged Embassy deliver service through Air21 (the FedEx representative in the Philippines). I was surprised that the shipping charge for my application to go to Manila and also the return service of sending my old and new passports back to me amounted to only around P200 total! That’ a bargain in my book.
Next, I had to wait for an e-mail from the Embassy which would tell me when somebody should come and pay. Unfortunately, in the e-mail they gave me some information which should have been spelled out earlier. The e-mail said that if I would be sending in a representative to make payment, I must supply them with a signed letter approving them to make the payment on my behalf. So a little quick thinking, and I decided to write the letter, scan it and e-mail it to my friend. Thankfully, this was acceptable to the Embassy staff, and everything went smoothly.
After getting the application to Embassy and the payment was made, all I had to do was sit back and wait for my new passport, and the return of my old one. I have to say, I was quite surprised when only 9 days after the fees were paid, I received my new (and old) passport via Air21. What quick service!
So, I found that the renewal of a US Passport is a very simple process. I let mine go for a few years after it expired, because I thought I needed to go to Manila to do the renewal. As it turned out, that is not necessary at all. If you need to renew your US passport, don’t fret, it’s quick and easy!