Dubai: Filipino expats can now apply for renewing their e-passports without taking an appointment at the consulate, thanks to a new centre that will process the applications in Dubai.
However, they will have to pay an extra fee of Dh92 for the walk-in facility at the Philippines ePassport Renewal Centre (PaRC) that opened in Dubai on Thursday. The fee for renewing an e-passport will remain at Dh240 and passports continue to be printed from Manila.
Teodoro L. Locsin, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines, inaugurated the centre run by VFS Global in Wafi Mall.
“This marks a new and an important milestone for the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs,” said Locsin.
“It is the first passport processing centre outside our embassies or consulates. It is open for more days and longer hours to serve our overseas Filipinos who need to renew the passport.”
“Best of all, you don’t need an appointment to get one. You can come over during your spare time and no need to skip work,” he said to the applause of a small group of prominent community members who were present.
“All holders of Philippine electronic passports whose passport records do not require a change or an amendment can do their passport renewals here. It will be open seven days a week, 12 hours a day from 8am to 8pm without a lunch break,” Locsin announced.
The top official said the centre is intended to be the first of many worldwide. “We hope to open a similar facility in Abu Dhabi and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia next year.”
Beside the landmark MoU on cooperation in human trafficking with the UAE, he said, “making renewal of identity papers such as the passport easier, more accessible and more convenient to overseas Filipinos is a small but vital step in our fight against human trafficking.”
Locsin clarified that it was not a public-private-partnership agreement and there is no cost that the Philippine government has to bear for the initiative.
Earlier, Brigido Dulay, undersecretary, Consular and Civilian Security Concerns, Department of Foreign Affairs, and Chris Dix, head of Business Development, VFS Global signed the agreement for the service.
Dulay said the passport service provided at the Philippine Consulate will continue and the outsourced centre will be a new option for the community members to easily access the facility during and after work hours and cut down the time taken for travelling to the consulate.
The centre on level two of the mall will accept applications for e-passport renewals through a token system.
Currently, Filipino expats are told to renew their passports 10 months to one year before the expiry of the passport. They need to book an appointment online for submitting the application at the consulate. An appointment is usually available within a window of three to five working days.
Applicants can now walk in to the new centre after downloading and filling in the form from the consulate’s website or get the help of the staff at the consulate to fill it in.
The consulate accepts passport applications from 8am to 3.30pm with a one-hour lunch break in between.
The walk-in facility at the consulate is only available to minors, senior citizens, pregnant women, seafarers, persons of determination and those working as household service workers.
“With all our consular outreach, we are not able to fully able to meet the service requirements of our citizens,” Maria Alnee A. Gamble, director, Passport Division, Department of Foreign Affairs told Gulf News.
She said the Philippine consulate in Dubai processes around 400 passport applications daily and another 200 are handled by the embassy in Abu Dhabi.
“Hopefully this would be one of the ways that we can extend our reach and make the process of getting a passport more convenient. This will also take some load out of our officers.”
Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO, South Asia, Americas, Middle East and North Africa, VFS Global, stated that the counters in the centre will be manned by Filipinos.
Except for the collection of documents and biometrics and release of the new passport done by the centre, all back-end procedures will be handled by the Philippine authorities.
Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn M. Quintana and Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes were also present.
Community members present welcomed the initiative.
Josie Conlu said people would choose convenience over the Dh92 fee. “It is a good move to hire all Filipinos at the counters.”
Pevwarti L. Sursigis, principal of Far Eastern Private School, said:
“It’s a good option to visit this office as the timing is very flexible. Accessibility is a big problem for Filipinos visiting the consulate since it is quite far from the Metro. This mall is in the central area and Metro is just there.”
New ePassport Renewal Centre
Where: VFS office, level 2, Wafi Mall
Opening hours: 8am to 8pm, seven days a week
Services offered: Form filling, photograph, biometrics, collection and release of ePassport
Passport renewal fee: Dh240
Additional service fee: Dh92
Email id: Info.PHL_PPTdxb@vfsglobal.com