Thursday, February 28, 2008

Renewing Philippine Passport within the same day!

After 4 years of not being together, the Lord impressed upon my heart that it was time for my siblings to get together. Iniong was visiting Ria in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada since Christmas and was returning back to the Philippines in Feb 12. So Dear Husband and I scheduled to go there Feb 6-12 in the middle of winter. The airfare was not very attractive - $700+ for each of us! Pwede na kaming umuwi sa Pilipinas nun! After a lot of expenses on acquiring our new Austin house and equipping it, that amount seems to be more than what we were prepared to spend for airfare alone. Was it coincidence that NWA had a Miles and Cash promo at that time so we were able to secure our tickets for a total of 20K miles and $500 only - good deal!

I then researched the passport requirements for getting into Canada and coming back into the US for a Legal Permanent Resident. My mistake was to solely rely on what was written on the websites of the US Border and Customs Protection, Canada Border Services Agency and NWA also! All of them read as if only the Green Card is required and that the passport is optional. I tried to call CBSA also but was kept waiting for a long time and then only to be given the busy tone much, much later. Aaarrrggghhh!!!

Six days before the Canada trip, I reviewed the requirements again and made calls to the CBSA. I called them first and then Ria called them again because it seems thay have conflicting statements (or perhaps I did not like their response). The third time, I got the simple, convincing response of "You can't get into an international flight without a passport." Aaarrrggghhh!!!

Now why was I sweating this out? DH had an expired passport and I was hoping we do not need to renew it because the last time I had my passport renewed, it was such a hassle. Document needs to be notarized, there was extra fee for a notarized application, it took about 8 weeks (as I recall...and we only had 5 weeks even if I did it at that time that we bought our ticket), the possibility of losing the documents enroute, etc. etc. It did not help that I got on it only a few days before our trip! My fault!

When it became clear that DH needed a passport to travel with me to Canada, Plan B was to move our destination to the closest US airport to the border (Grand Forks, ND) and then Ody would make the 6 hour round-trip drive to come pick us up (yes... this is how much we love each other :)) Plan C was to to move our trip a couple of days later so that we have enough time to have his passport renewed. Turned out that our tickets were the most restricted kind! Cannot change the destination, cannot change even the flight schedules. Oh well, the price of getting our airfare cheap!

Then another miracle happened! The website of the Philippines Consulate General in Los Angeles states that it takes 5 days to process the renewal application and only on extremely special cases (that you had to justify) would they expedite processing. I made a call to them and learned that for out of state applicants, that they have a same-day release process! Morever, they allowed application by proxy - so that means that DH would not need to use a vacation credit and instead I have the exciting task of navigating through the big city of Los Angeles! Wow!!! Praise God!!!

So off I went to LA by Express Jet (They are great! See my other blog on this.) and got Thrifty rental car as usual. Since I arrived in ONT just in time for the Monday rush hour, Maggie2 (our cute Magellan RoadMate 1200 GPS) was such a big help in finding detours to avoid the traffic halfway to my destination. I was able to submit the application by 11am and then get the renewed passport by 2pm! God is good!!!


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