DFA ready to accommodate pre-pandemic level of visa applications

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 7, 2024, 11:33 pm

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is ready to process more than 1 million Philippine visas annually as pandemic restrictions continue to ease.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, DFA Office of Consular Affairs Visa Section Director Leilani Feliciano said the country was able to issue at least 1.62 million visas in 2019.

“We have issued 1.6 million Philippine visas to foreign tourists and travelers in 2019. It’s just that during the pandemic, everything has significantly declined,” she said. “We have the capacity to process and issue visas and go back to that pre-pandemic level.”

In 2020, visa issuances went down to 159,440 as governments across the world imposed travel restrictions due to the coronavirus disease 2019.

The following year, the figure further declined to 82,260 as travel throughout the year was virtually at a halt.

The total grew to 217,265 in 2023, with the Philippine Embassies and Consulates in China, India, and Dubai as some of the top visa-issuing posts of DFA.

Meanwhile, the DFA has yet to identify a specific date for the resumption of the e-Visa program in China after suspending it for improvement last year.

The department said the program is still undergoing a “period of reassessment,” specifically on the payment aspect.

‘Improved consular services’

On top of the visa figures, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo reported that the DFA continues to improve consular services within the country.

“As a tangible outcome of our commitment, appointments for various services, including passports and apostille, are set to return to pre-pandemic levels within the year,” he said.

At DFA-Aseana alone, the department manages a daily volume of 1,200 passport appointments and an additional 1,200 for apostille services.

Globally, from January to December 2023, the DFA opened a total of 4,180,677 passport appointment slots, increasing accessibility for Filipinos both domestically and abroad.

Moreover, the processing time for new passports have been reduced from seven to five days for expedited processing and from 12 days to 10 days for regular processing in the National Capital Region.

Similarly, processing times have decreased from 15 to 12 days for the rest of the country.

Manalo said the DFA would also open four new consular offices this year in Antique, Candon, Balanga, and Olongapo.

Full apostille services will also be extended to two consular offices in the Visayas and Mindanao.

‘Securing passport’

DFA Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Affairs Jesus Domingo, who was also present at the presser, assured that the DFA is exerting effort to make passport services easier while ensuring its issuance is done properly.

“With regards to passports, remember basically it's the way that our citizens can travel overseas, but at the same time as a state we have the duty to protect,” he said.

DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Adelio Angelito Cruz said the agency is also in touch with several security agencies and will sign a memorandum of agreement on “policing and ensuring the sanctity of the passport.”

Senator Ronald dela Rosa earlier raised concern over individuals who are "obviously not Filipinos" possessing passports and birth certificates issued by the DFA and the Philippine Statistics Authority, respectively. (PNA)