PH consulates in US to adjust to surge in demand for services
The Philippine Embassy and Consulates General in the United States are taking steps to meet the surge in demand for dual citizenship, passport, and visa services amid prevailing uncertainties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depending on the local conditions and state restrictions in each Post, these steps may include increasing the number of appointment slots, operating on weekends, and assigning more personnel to process applications and answer phone, e-mail, and social media queries, among other measures.
The adjustments are being made in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs as pandemic-related restrictions and stringent health requirements, both in the Philippines and the United States, continue to put pressure on Posts’ consular operations.
The global nature of COVID-19 compelled many countries to enforce travel restrictions to protect their local populations from the disease. In March, the Philippine government temporarily banned the entry of foreign nationals and suspended the Balikbayan program and other visa-free entry privileges in the interest of public health and safety.
Prior to the pandemic, former Filipinos traveling on U.S. passports were able to enter and stay in the Philippines for a maximum of one year without a visa under the Balikbayan program. With the program’s suspension, thousands of former Filipinos have filed dual citizenship and passport applications with the Embassy and Consulates to be able to travel to the Philippines as Filipino citizens.
The increased demand, coupled with state and local health regulations limiting the number of people who can be physically accommodated in consulate premises, slowed down processing times and created backlogs that the Embassy and Consulates are working hard to address.
“We understand our clients’ frustration over the impact of the pandemic on our consular operations. We wish to assure them that we are aware of their concerns and we are doing everything we can to continue delivering critical services in the safest and most efficient way possible during these challenging times,” said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez.
Lockdowns, quarantine rules, and indications of rising COVID-19 infections across the United States this fall have also affected Posts’ operating hours and impeded the conduct of consular outreach missions. These factors continue to make it more difficult for the Embassy and Consulates to reach the majority of their clients who are spread throughout their areas of jurisdiction.
“For us in the frontlines, this is a delicate balancing act between the need to fulfill our public service mandate and to ensure the health and safety of our clients and personnel. We appeal to the public for your understanding, and please bear with us as we try to deal with this evolving situation,” the Ambassador further said.
“If you can put your travel plans on hold for the meantime, please do so. I know this might be hard as the Christmas season is upon us, but these measures and regulations have been put in place to keep all of us safe from the pandemic. Only with everyone’s cooperation will we be able to defeat this pandemic that has already claimed more than a million lives worldwide and changed the course of our future,” Ambassador Romualdez added.
For the latest announcements and detailed information on consular services, please check the websites below:
Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.: www.philippineembassy-usa.org
Philippine Consulate General in Agana, Guam: www.aganapcg.dfa.gov.ph
Philippine Consulate General Chicago: www.chicagopcg.com
Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu: www.honolulupcg.dfa.gov.ph
Philippine Consulate General in Houston: www.houstonpcg.dfa.gov.ph
Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles: www.philippineconsulatela.org
Philippine Consulate General in New York: www.newyorkpcg.org
Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco: www.philippinessanfrancisco.org