I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult to prove that you’re not a criminal. For friends outside the Philippines, every time you have a new employer, you need to submit something called an “NBI Clearance.” NBI stands for National Bureau of Investigation. What you do is spend hours lining up, filling up a form, have someone verify in their computers that you are not a wanted criminal, and have your picture taken. Consider yourself blessed if you are issued a piece of paper on the same day. For some people (myself included), you have to come back after two weeks because you have a “hit.” You can have a “hit” if you are a criminal or you have the same name as a criminal and now, the guy from NBI tells me, when you are or were a government scholar. I fall under the last category.
Now, this has always been a painstaking process. In the past, I would have to wait in line for about three to four hours to get my clearance. And just when I thought it could not be worse, it does get worse!
Here is my experience.
Now for those of you who have not tried getting an NBI clearance recently, the news is that NBI now uses a biometric system. What does that mean? Wikipedia defines biometric this way: In computer science, in particular, biometrics is used as a form of identity access management and access control. Simply put, and this is according to me, it means two things — the good news is that you don’t have to get your fingers dirty with stamp ink and the bad news is because there is a new system, the wait is now longer and you have to be there earlier. No more walking in at 4:00pm and finding no line because everyone else lined up in the morning.
Thanks to this blog entry and tips from co-workers who recently suffered the ordeal of getting an NBI Clearance, I knew I had to be at the NBI Satellite office really early. A coworker said he was there at 4:00am and was #39 in line, which is very good because you get to finish early. I wanted the same experience so I was at Robinsons Galleria EDSA-side entrance at quarter to 4:00am. And what did I see? A LOT OF PEOPLE!
the line at around 6:00am
I guessed that there were at least a hundred people already there. I found the end of the line and claimed my spot. In less than 10 minutes, the line got a little out of control because there wasn’t any more space (when I got there, the end of the line was near the parking entrance and near the shrine) so the guards of Galleria intervened and tried to create some order. That meant I got to move nearer the entrance.
I was prepared. I had reading material, a fully-charged iPod touch, tuna sandwich and a small bottle of water. I thought I would keep myself occupied by playing games on my iPod. However, the guard in Galleria yelled “Ingatan niyo po ang gamit niyo dahil baka snatcher ang katabi niyo!” (in english, “Take care of your things because you just might be sitting next to a thief!” So I kept my bag attached to my body and definitely did not take out my iPod. I made good use of my time praying silently instead. At 7:00am, the start to give out numbers and let maybe the first 200 into the mall.
Remember I got there at 4:00am? At 7:00, I found out that I was Number…
Apparently, the first group in line got there at 2:00am. Can you believe that?
Inside the mall, we are again made to wait. But this time, it’s a little more comfortable because at least it’s a little cool because the basement’s aircon is on. The line also moves quite fast (relative to the three hour wait in the heat). From the basement stairs (near Netopia), you get to enter the room beside the NBI Satellite office. It ain’t pretty but at least you get to sit on chairs instead of the floor or the stairs. The security guard then calls people by batches of 10 to line up at the cashier. By around 9:00am, I am called to that line.
When you get there, then you will understand why the wait is so long. There is only one person in the cashier and one (sometimes two) person/s who encode your data from the form you filled out into their computers. There’s a screen that’s facing you so that you can ensure they don’t misspell your name or incorrectly encode your details. After this step, you go to the one person taking care of getting your fingerprints into the system via Biometric Machine. This person also takes care of taking your picture.
The part from the cashier to the taking of the picture takes around an hour and a half. But by then you’re so excited you actually see the process, instead of just staring into space, that you won’t mind too much the more-than-an-hour wait. I eventually finish at 10:30am but because my receipt gets stamped “HIT,” I will need to come back in two weeks to get my clearance (hopefully).
If you are going for your NBI Clearance soon, here are my tips:
1. Get there before 4:00am. I wouldn’t advice you to get there at 2:00am. Although you’ll be first in line, I don’t think it’s safe to be there that early especially if you are alone. You are bound to feel sleepy if you did not get some shut-eye the night before. So best to sleep early and wake up early enough to be there maybe 3:30. You’re bound to be part of the first 100.
2. Bring food and water but do not go overboard on the eating and drinking. Remember, you are in line for hours. If you eat or drink too much, you will probably need to go to the restroom and that means you need to leave our place in the line. I didn’t want to risk losing my place or have people cut the line so I did not go to the rest room for 6 1/2 hours. And I think it was a good decision because there would be times when the guards would change where the lines were formed.
3. Now, my third tip is make friends. Know who is in front of you and behind you. At least try to make conversation so that when you do need to go to the restroom, someone will save your place. It’s also such a bore not having anyone to talk to for that long, so be nice and smile.
4. Fill out the form properly. There were people who were asked to step out of the line to fill out their forms again. AND the NBI employees can get pretty mean. My heart broke whenever the cashier lady would loudly berate people who didn’t get to fill out their forms properly. Anyway, here’s a sample for you and some tips, too.
5. Bring a newspaper or anything wide enough to sit on. You will need to sit on the floor a lot. Also, be in comfortable clothes because you will sit and stand and sit again A LOT.
6. Bring TWO valid IDs. The ones that they will accept are Driver’s License, valid Passport, Voter’s ID, SSS ID, company ID, original birth certificate. There are some more IDs that are acceptable but these are what I remember. No need to bring your old personal copy of your last NBI Clearance. Because it’s a new system and a new supplier for their system, everyone is treated as a first time applicant.
7. BE PATIENT!
For a full list of where you can apply for NBI Clearance, please go to the NBI official website.
That’s about it. If you have questions, leave a comment and I’ll try my best to answer.