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Monday, October 28, 2013

Renewal and Amendment of Passport Denial

One of the reasons (if not the BIG reason) why I finally decided to change my citizenship from Filipino to American .......

The incident I am sharing below happened about 4 years ago. I could not write about this then without bursting into tears, and without suffering from breathing difficulty. However, reading the pain from a fellow blogging friend's post on "Denial of Passage", I feel somehow, it is about time to put into writing the similar pain I had experienced before. I am not sure if I would be able to finish this post without feeling a heavy heart again. I thought I am free already from the pain brought about by my experience at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles 4 years ago, but somehow, as I type this, the pain slowly comes back.

Though I migrated to USA 2003 with a H1B visa sponsored by my employer, had my green card 2004 ( with my maiden name ), and was eligible for citizenship 2007, but I never had plans of changing my citizenship from Filipino to American.

Until....... this incident......

Four years ago, my Philippine passport was about to expire. Popular advise to me was to apply for US citizenship because I was already eligible then. However, it was not easy for me to give up my Filipino Citizenship. Instead of following popular advise, I decided to keep my Philippine citizenship, and abide all its laws. I went to the Philippine consulate website to check the requirements for Philippine passport renewal, which are listed below.
 Requirements to Renew Philippine Passport ( lifted from  Philippine Consulate Website )

I prepared all the requirements above, and the additional requirements they posted in their website should a woman want to change to her married name.

 When I had all the listed documents above with me, I happily left San Diego for a day trip to Los Angeles, all with positive thoughts. Never would I knew I was in for a very disheartening incident in my life, in the hands of fellow Filipinos, working in Philippine Consulate, who I saw then as "angels sent by the government to provide support to Filipinos working in a foreign land."

------------------

Filipino Consul: "You are applying for passport amendment, but your green card still has your maiden name."
Me: "I had my green card before marriage. It will cost me about $400 to change the name on my green card. I already talked to US Immigration Office ( USCIS) and they told me I could keep my green card as is, change it to my married name on renewal, that way I only pay once for both renewal and change. They said I still could travel out of the country despite I will have my married name in the passport, and maiden name in my green card. However, all my other documents  such as SS and ID's already bear my married name."
Filipino consul: "What is the citizenship of your husband?"
Me: " He is a naturalized American."
Filipino Consul: " Can we see his Naturalization Certificate?"
Me: " I do not have it with me right now. BUT, I have the original copy of our marriage certificate and his American Passport."
Filipino Consul: "I am sorry, but I can not grant your request. We must see your husband's naturalization certificate."
Me: " Sir, I live in San Diego which is 120 miles away from Los Angeles. Coming here is not easy. If that is the case, I do not need passport amendment. Can I just please apply for renewal of passport? I will stay with my maiden name for now, that way, both my passport and green card will have the same name."
Filipino Consul: "I am sorry, you can not use your maiden name anymore because you already are married.  All we ask is the naturalization certificate of your husband, for all we know, HE IS AN ILLEGAL alien in this country."

-------THAT HIT ME, THE WAY HE SAID IT WAS VERY OFFENSIVE AND HE LOOKED WITH SUCH A DOWNGRADING SCORN. ------

Me: " My husband is not an illegal in this country sir. But even if, I do not see that as a hindrance to my right to renewing my Philippine passport. "
----TEARS WERE ALREADY STARTING TO RUN DOWN MY FACE-----
Filipino Consul: " Just bring your husband's naturalization certificate here!" - saying that very loud.
Me: " You do not need to yell, I could hear you very well!"
Filipino Consul: "Because you do not listen."
Me: "I do,  but I am not really understanding you. You are asking for a requirement that doesn't have to do with my Filipino citizenship and rights. That is why it is not listed in the Philippine Consulate's website. It is I applying for Philippine passport, not my husband. I am a legal Filipino citizen. I do not see where is the connection of spouse's American citizenship coming in and how would that deny me my Philippine passport renewal. But you are now telling me I can't keep my last name in my passport because I am already married! I believe to change to married name is a woman's choice, not obliged by Philippine law, that's why we have to apply for a change of name legally if we want to. We don't have to do anything if we want to keep our name. Just because I got my green card from employment prior to marriage, you are now doubting my husband's legal status here in US? Is his American passport not enough? His citizenship in USA shouldn't affect my right to Philippine passport renewal."
Filipino Consul: "We have the right to ask for ANY REQUIREMENTS."
Me: " It does not make sense to me. Can I at least talk to the head of this office?"
---I left his window in tears, and went to another window that entertains other issues. I talked to the lady in the window if I could see the head of the Philippine Consulate Office. She was very friendly, so at that time, I was at least thankful there was one friendly soul in that office.-----

I waited about an hour to talk to the head of the Consul Office as I was told he had prior appointments. When he came to see me, he did not at all ask me what the problem was. Instead, he started defending the actions of his subordinate.

Head of Consulate Office: " I was informed by Mr. _______, the one you talked earlier about the situation. All we ask is the naturalization certificate of your husband."
Me: "Sir, can you explain to me the relationship of my husband's naturalization certificate to my application for passport renewal? I am no longer applying for change of name, just applying to renew my passport."
Head of Consulate Office: "We have the right to look for documents we feel necessary."

----I WAS STARTING TO GET FRUSTRATED WITH THIS RESPONSE: "RIGHT TO ASK FOR ANY DOCUMENTS", BUT NOT EXPLAINING AT ALL WHY IT IS NECESSARY! I HAVE FILIPINO CITIZENSHIP, NOT SOMEONE APPLYING FOR FILIPINO CITIZENSHIP.-----

Me:"Granted that it is a true requirement, can your office at least please change or update the information in your website? That spouse's citizenship papers must be brought for presentation of documents as well, even for just a mere passport renewal? In that way the office won't be  wasting time, effort, and energy of other married women applicants coming here? I hope you see my point sir. I came from San Diego to be turned down. But if these information are in your website, then, I would have not  spent money, time, effort and energy here for NOTHING. I would come out here one happy applicant!"
Head of Consulate Office: " Our website is 100% accurate! BUT, WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO TURN DOWN AN APPLICANT UPON FAILURE TO SUBMIT A DOCUMENT WE ASK!"

---I WAS SURPRISED! HE WAS THE HEAD, BUT JUST AS DISRESPECTFUL AND UNPROFESSIONAL AS THE OTHER ONE. -----

Me: "But the document you are asking for was not listed in the website, sir. And you have not explained to me the necessity to check a spouse's American Citizenship for the Philippine passport renewal of a legal and law abiding citizen of the Philippines."
Head of Consulate Office: "BUT WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK FOR ANY DOCUMENTS."
Me: "So, could you please at least update your website, probably adding that you may ask for any other documents such as: spouse naturalization certificate, spouse birth certificate, in addition to the documents in the list?"
Head of Consulate Office: " We do not have to, it's our right!"
Me: "So, it's your right to deny my right to Philippine passport just because I may have married an illegal? That was the other guy said."
Head of Consulate Office: " We are not denying you a Philippine passport, you can come back here with your husband's naturalization certificate if he is LEGAL citizen of this country!"
Me: "If he is LEGAL in this country? So, it means, if in case my hubby is not a legal US citizen, I can not? I was not aware before that my spouse's US citizenship status could affect my Philippine passport application? Could you please let me know which Philippine law is that, which I have missed?"
Head of Consulate Office: "Mam, it is our right to ask for any documents we feel necessary!"

-----that was it! I knew I will not win an argument with them who do not see any REASON! Perhaps, by the way I was responding, they really thought that my husband is illegal in US, thus, they felt so entitled to treat a countrymen that badly.

I left the office in tears. I called my friend who works in LA and aired out my frustrations right away. Since she was at work, I could not hold her long, so I went to the nearest church, where I could cry my heart out loud. My tears were not so much from my disappointment of not getting a Filipino passport. I know, I could get it eventually if I will follow them. Or, I could get an American passport if I apply for American Citizenship because I was at that time already eligible. I just was wanting to keep my Filipino citizenship.

The tears and painful cries were more from my disbelief of how assigned "Filipino guardians" as consuls treat their people in a foreign land. They were tears of disappointment for a system, a system that to me was CLEARLY in the wrong. And disappointment, for NO ONE, NO ONE IN THE US has talked to me in such a way with some "belittling voice", BUT FELLOW FILIPINOS in the PHILIPPINE CONSULATE'S office, which I thought then was suppose to be a haven, a refuge, for Filipinos. But no, except for that lady who helped me get an appointment with the head of office, the ones I encountered somehow did not make any sense at all. -----

I came home that day with a very heavy heart. I could not share the story to my husband without crying, for I was embarrassed to admit to him, that of all people in US, the ones who gave me irrational and belittling treatment are fellow countrymen in the Philippine consul.

With swollen face from crying, I drafted a letter to the Secretary of Tourism then, not asking for apology or anything, but just simply sharing my experience at the consulate office, and how they could update the information in their website to be more helpful to other Filipinos, especially those who live far from Los Angeles. Sadly, I did not even get a response, perhaps, such case did not merit attention. But I am glad to see that their website now adds the "spouse's proof of citizenship" requirement for passport amendment. But STILL, there is no requirement about "spouse's" when simply applying for renewal, which was what I applied for after my application for amendment was rejected because I did not have my husband's naturalization certificate that time ( though I have my husband's American passport ).

Family and some friends suggested to me to re-apply again, bringing my husband's naturalization certificate. Hubby even volunteered to go with me if I want to keep my Filipino citizenship. But it's very hard for me to go back to Los Angeles Philippine Consulate Office without feeling the pain and without anyone from the higher government addressing the letter I sent to the office and to the Department of Tourism 4 years ago. 

3 years after that incident, I finally let go of my mixed feelings of wanting to keep my citizenship vs hurts and pain from the Philippine Consular Office. In letting go, I let GOD set peace in my heart, freed myself from the pains of what happened. I finally decided, that I will not let my expired Philippine passport deny me from traveling back to my home country. If Philippine representatives denied me of my right to travel back to the Philippines by denying me a passport, I could claim that right, through the nation that has been very welcoming, friendly, helpful and professional to me FROM THE VERY START. With peacefulness in my heart, I welcomed the change I resisted for years. I changed my citizenship from Filipino to American. Last year, I went home with an American Passport, not a Philippine passport.

I may be a naturalized American citizen now, I may have experienced maltreatment from some government representatives of my birth country ( Philippines), but I did not turn my back away from my country. I still send help there over other countries. I still choose to help kids there to go to school, over other impoverished kids in other countries. I still hope, and pray for some positive change in our country, which I believe, a change that should start in everyone's heart, not in government alone. 

18 comments:

  1. The system sucks. Sad to hear about your experience. Of all people pa, our kababayan pa ang mag maltreat sa iyo. To hell with those people.

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  2. Sorry to hear about your experienced,Betchai. I'l be honest with you am so thankful with all the documents i've processed and submitted in any country. I never experienced this kind of treatment, in Asia or Western Country. I change my last name I called the Chicago Embassy and make sure every thing I presented are correct and got all the names I talked in the phone so they can't deny me once am there. SO thankful the processed and the changed of my last name was smooth and got my passport in 5-8 weeks which they mail it to me. My husband always checked my requirements and we both talked or consult with the people who is knowledgeable about the processed before my husband presented all the requirements in Embassy or visa office.

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    Replies
    1. Mhie, thankfully, everywhere was smooth as well for me ( in US side, from tourist visa to H1B to green card, all name changes, and eventually to US citizenship) except in Philippine Consulate coz all I wanted was to keep my Filipino citizenship then. I had all needed legal requirements. And that was more disheartening, kasi you encountered mistreatment right in the hands of Philippine's corrupt system.

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  3. This is sick. This is not the first time I heard something like this. So I know how you feel. My former student was discriminated too when she was there because of gender preference. And that made her apply for US Citizenship and vowed that she will never ever live in the Phils again. Just like you, she was forced to US Citizenship. Those Filipinos in the Philippine Consulate should know better. Without us Filipino migrants or overseas workers alike are the ones who gave them their job. They should be thankful that they are serving us. They are no better than us but they are mere servants.

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  4. That's the problem with some of our fellow PInoys ate. I had similar experience like that in the Philippine embassy and at the CFO naman before I came here, they were the ones giving me grief and asking me to come back and forth even though I was 7 months pregnant then. I called my husband one time when I was at the CFO because they were giving me a hard time, hubby was at Guam then. He was upset that I was crying on the phone so he called the office and talked to the head. He told them that he would send his lawyer there in his behalf if there is a problem with me. THey changed how they tret me after hubby's phone call. They released my certificate ads I complied all the requirements they were asking.

    It is very frustrating that it is our kapwa pinoy who are giving us hard time. That is one thing that my husband always tells me, to bring necessary documents even though they are not asking for it. Because you never know what's going to happen. I feel for you and hopefully, you won't go through that again.

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  5. Oh Betchai, :( hugs for you... i'm so sorry that you experienced being with those disrespectful, unprofessional idiots when renewing your Phil passport. I feel you, i remembered when I renewed my passport good thing my husband is with me, the old man who took my papers are very rude too, i don't know what's with man employee...they are just disgrace, but the women are so nice and polite... I don't understand and I don't blame you for not going back to that consulate... thank you for sharing and bravely share us what you've experienced. :(

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  6. I am so sorry to hear about your experience, sis. It must be terrible to be shouted at and belittled in public. Don't worry.. just be patient and show them how classy we Filipinos could be under pressure!

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  7. This is a bad experience! Can they just be helpful instead? Can they even realize that it is the Filipinos living in the U.S. that gave them a job and they're supposed to help their fellow Filipinos which it turned out the opposite! This is our problem: If we experience discrimination against other races, we want them to apologize but if those in Philippine Consulate discriminates their fellow Filipinos, they think that they're this "Almighty", they have the right to do this, and that. They're abusing their power and it's not right to do that from the start. They should be out of that consulate and fly back home in the Philippines. People like them doesn't deserve a job like that. They should be thrown out somewhere that they'll not be recognized and be treated like others.

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  8. That's a very terrible experience from people whom we suppose to find support. If I'm in your situation I will also burst because of disappointment. You did the right choice of acquiring American Citizenship. It's one way to get rid of the hassle of dealing with them. I hope too that the system will improve soon.

    The Philippine Consulate here was removed. And we need to fly to UK in order for us to apply for new passport. Imagine the trouble especially when we don't have UK Visa.

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  9. It breaks my heart reading your post Sis :-( I am glad that you are now a Naturalized American like me :-) I usually bring many documents with me every time I go to a NCIS :-) It took me awhile too to apply for my citizenship :-( giving up being Filipino is not easy and plan to apply for a dual citizenship someday :-)

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  10. OMG! That’s too much. They should have been reported to higher government offices. They’re very unprofessional in dealing with a woman. The way they handled your situation only showed their crab mentality mind set. They should be happy assisting you because you’re a fellow Filipino citizen.

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  11. Public service is not something those who are in it practicing. Heck, they think that they are above everyone else and forgets that public service is about serving the people! That goes for politicians as well ------ when pride goes up the heads of government people they think they have all the power to do anything! Power-tripping if you may.

    It is never a good thing when we encounter such service. I am not familiar with US laws or requirements but yes, it's better for you to get a citizenship where you are, in the long run it may benefit you too especially because immigration laws are changing and that...it's also to protect you and your family from discrimination.

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  12. Aw! Grabe naman to. It is indeed too much. I have read Ate Lainy's post too about her brother and it sucks that our fellow countrymen are turning out to be a stranger. This is heartbreaking! :(

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  13. Your husband's US passport is in itself proof of citizenship. USCIS even just ask either the passport or certificate when applying for immigration benefits. Sigh!

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  14. Oh Betchai, tears are running down my face as I type. I could feel the pain you felt and how you love your Filipino citizenship so much! I salute you for your caring heart in helping Filipino kids attain their dreams. It is just truly disheartening that some of our fellow countrymen are ill mannered. Whatever citizenship you have now I know that you have one of the most beautiful hearts I have ever met. Love you Liz Weathering aka my Wonderwoman ♡

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  15. I regret that I failed to read this when you gave me the heads up after publication, Ate Betchai. Good thing I was re-reading all my old posts and the comments and got the chance to read this for the first time while I was on the train on my way to work. I was fuming with rage that you had to go through this ordeal. I am so sorry to hear all these 'Te Betchai. If only I could just give you a hug right now.

    I felt the itch to fire away a comment but I had to wait till I am comfortably seated infront of a PC; I can't wait much longer though; I can't wait till I reach home later so I'll just have to do it at work.

    As a former government employee myself, I sometimes have to be tough to make sure that I observe certain protocols exercised by our Office especially when a client is required to present important documents. But being tough does not give me or any government employee for that matter the right to disrespect and demean Filipino clients.

    For doing their job, I commend the Philippine Consulate for they have to do what they must BUT I will NEVER, ever tolerate such indignity you went through in their hands. You were polite but they were downright suspicious without cause; you were respectful of the laws being implemented but they were just simply ill-mannered, irrational, inconsiderate and unreasonable. If I were in your shoe, I would have done the same thing with no regrets. What's even more painful and I must say with emphasis "shameful" is that you experienced such in the hands of your own kind.

    If there's anything showing outstanding in this post apart from the heartaches caused by them to you is your pure love and loyalty to being a Filipino. I salute you for that! How I wish you're able to get all the names concerned so that they are able to know through this blog that they have aggrieved you deeply.

    I hope the broken pieces in your heart is now in place. It's not easy but with a loving husband around, you'll be over it so soon before you even know it.

    Love and hugs to you, Ate BetchaI!

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  16. I just read this now because Lainy, at FB, just shared this. And, like what I expected-- here I am, my eyes getting misty as if I were you, Ms. Betchai. Whoa! For several times of being at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, I did see lots of fellow Filipinos there who cried and although I didn't know why, I am sure it has something to do with how the embassy staff treated them just because they lack something in the documents they were supposed to have. And what do I know? Maybe, they have similar cases like you! My heart pounding so loud and fast now as I imagine how cruel these fellow Filipinos handle their job. Thank God for our blogs, we get to express our sentiments because this is the only avenue left for us when we couldn't defend ourselves from their arguments because they are they and we are just we.

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  17. I think, most kabayans who seat in the govt offices abroad have the tendency to belittle fellow Pinoys. People at the consulate here in Dubai are like that too. Some are nice, some are downright awful but what can we do. I feel like changing my nationality too and move somewhere else but I still have that strong pull, that connection to keep it until the right opportunity comes.

    I feel sad to read your plight at the hands of our "supposed angels" in foreign soil. It's just disheartening to know and accept that, this is one of the reason that the Philippines will never prosper because of this behaviour. Usurpation of power, envy, greed...they might have felt all those things when they were questioned in their authority and jurisdiction. But have they been modest and respectful, maybe things would have been in your favor.

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