SF consulate adjusts to service demands amid pandemic
SAN FRANCISCO – The Philippine consulate here is experiencing a large number of applicants for passport and dual citizenship despite the “by appointment only” protocol in effect during the pandemic. It is also unveiling changes in order to improve delivery of services.
According to staff under new Consul General Neil Ferrer, the consulate keeps adjusting to follow state and city health orders in delivering services such as dual citizenship, passport application, extension and renewal, travel documents, among others. Yet, the number of applicants for such services is nearly back to normal.
A new user-friendly, updated and more secure website and appointment system has been installed while a new telephone system is being set up. The previous site was run by a private company, while the new one is being maintained solely by the Consulate, making it easier and faster for the Consulate to make design adjustments without incurring additional financial cost.
In the new appointment system to be launched in June, the applicants’ personal information they must provide when securing an appointment online will automatically be inputted into the passport database system to facilitating the process.
Under the new system, passport applicants must still report personally to the Consulate, but only for biometrics-taking and a review and confirmation of their entries. More applicants can be accommodated than is currently possible under the existing system.
Likewise, a new dual citizenship processing system is being rolled-out in June, in which documentary requirements can be uploaded by applicants, enabling consulate staff to pre-process applications.
The consulate also announced the resumption of consular outreach services soon, beginning with a June 3-5 June outreach to Colorado. Before the pandemic, the consulate conducted 10 consular outreach missions per year. It plans to conduct about the same number this year. Outreach will include the most sought after passport and dual citizenship services.
Consul Ferrer said applications for dual citizenship increased when balikbayans were temporarily not allowed entry to the Philippines. Applications for passport extension and travel documents also increase when applicants with emergency cases are not able to wait for their new passports to be issued.
“One thing that the pandemic probably has taught Filipinos, especially those who still maintain ties with the Philippines, is the need to always be travel-ready, i.e., by ensuring that they are able to show proof of their Filipino citizenship, through possession of a Philippine passport, Dual Citizenship documents, passport validity extension or Travel Document,” Ferrer explained.
Ferrer also thanked the Filipino American community for helping the Philippines’ get Covid vaccines.
“The Philippines (Embassy) is coordinating closely with Moderna to ensure that everything is in order for the initial delivery of close to 250,000 doses of the company’s vaccine. The first shipment is expected to arrive in June. The bulk of the 20 million doses ordered will be delivered in several batches in Q3 and Q4 2021. The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC continues to engage Moderna and the U.S. government for the possible earlier delivery of a portion of the Philippine order,” Ferrer announced.