In the days before the government was computerized, getting clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation, or NBI, was a very tedious process.
One needed to line up for fingerprinting, which typically took a whole day to do because of the long lines.
After this is done, one would have to come back for the actual clearance document. This would sometimes take days or weeks if one didn't know anyone inside the bureau.
As I moved on to different positions, the need to provide an NBI clearance diminished and it felt great. No more long lines, no more long travels, no more big problems.
But then the application for a new job required it and having to line up again was one of the reasons I considered withdrawing my application.
NBI Clearance in 2008
The last time I got my NBI clearance was back in 2008, which I needed for a consulting job for a client abroad.
The NBI was computerized already by then and I had heard good stories of how quick things were with the new system in place.
When I applied for my clearance back then, I went to the Pasig branch of the NBI. Their office is located in a building near the Pasig City hall.
When I got there at eight in the morning, the line stretched around the block, with the number easily topping a hundred.
I was shocked, but had no choice so I stood in line for the next two and a half hours or so since there was only one computer being used.
When it was finally my turn, I got my picture taken and had myself fingerprinted on their system only to find out that there is someone else with the same name as mine.
This meant that I had to go to the main NBI office downtown to have them fix the problem before getting my clearance.
So I took another day off from work to go downtown via the MRT.
When I got there, the line was just as long, but it moved a bit faster as there were more computers devoted to serving clients.
When it was my turn, I was told I had gotten a "Hit," meaning that I either had a case filed against me or that someone with the same name was in the system. I was then told to come back after a couple of weeks.
I asked them why it took so long since everything was computerized and shouldn't take more than three days. It turns out that their system went down and they needed to finish the ones before me, thus the delay.
Well, when I went back, it turned out that the issue was because of another person sharing my name. I was happy it was resolved and got my NBI clearance in a little over an hour.
NBI Clearance in 2011
I am happy to see that the NBI has set up offices in other areas over the years. Like other agencies, they have set up offices in popular places such as malls.
The one I decided to go to was the NBI office in the basement of Megamall in Pasig City.
So with my 2008 in hand, I headed out to Megamall, arriving at the basement at 10:05 in the morning, five minutes after the ten o'clock opening.
When I arrived, I was shocked to see that there was a line already. And since the NBI office is conveniently beside a flight of stairs, the line I saw went up.
Not looking how far the line stretched, I climbed the stairs to get to the end of the line. Had I looked up, I could have taken the elevator or escalator since the line went all the way up to the fifth floor.
I guess it's not so bad, as I did end up getting exercise by climbing the stairs from the basement all the way to the top, where I finally got in line.
At this point, I was quite worried it would take me the whole day just to renew my NBI clearance.
Thankfully, an NBI representative was going around to attach bar code stickers to everyone in line. Starting from the top, he worked his way down to the basement.
Not only did he answer any questions, he gave advice to first timers by telling them to proceed to the branch in near the Mandaluyong City Hall.
It turns out that only renewals are being handled by the Megamall branch. And in order for people to renew their clearance, an older copy needs to be presented.
So people without any record yet, need to be processed as a first-timer. And those without a copy of a previous clearance will need to go over to another branch better equipped for checking records out.
It took a little under an hour and a half to get from my initial point on the fifth floor to having my new clearance in hand.
The line did more move quickly, which was a big surprise to me. I had expected to stay the whole day since the number of people stretched over six floors.
Don't be discouraged if the line is several blocks of floors long as the entire process can be over in as little as an hour and a half.
If you will be applying in a mall, I suggest brining a light snack and some water. You may want to also bring something to entertain you, like a cell phone with a game. A pocketbook is fine but you will encounter some disturbances as the line begins to move.
If you are applying outside a mall, I suggest bringing an umbrella, in addition to snacks and some water.
You'll have to deal with the harsh sun and a possible summer shower when lining up. I also suggest wearing comfortable shoes. That way, your feet won't be painful. Not to mention, it won't feel bad if they get wet when it rains.
Have the bar code sticker attached to the previous clearance document
In Megamall, there were people who would conveniently go through the line assisting customers. This way people didn't have to leave the line.
Other branches may require a separate line just for this, so it would be helpful if you ask first. Better yet, if you have someone with you, they can do the asking while you line up yourself.
The long line leads to the cashier, where it costs P115 to have your NBI clearance renewed.
A receipt is handwritten by a cashier and handed to you after payment. I would suggest brining the exact amount as change may be a bit difficult in the afternoons.
Once this is done, you will then proceed to another line to handle picture taking and printing.
In Megamall, there are three computers reserved for picture taking and printing of the clearance documents.
Only the face is taken, making a dress code unnecessary. But I would still suggest that guys wear a collared t-shirt. It can't hurt to be neat, just in case.
Shorts are fine, but I would suggest not wearing slippers. You might get your toes stepped on as people slowly make their way down the stairs during movement.
Girls have a bit more flexibility, but I would suggest not wearing something too revealing. Even though it won't be included in the black and white photograph, standing in line for an hour dressed differently may be annoying after an hour or so.
And like the guys, I would suggest that girls not wear any slippers of open-toed shoes. During the time I lined up, more than a few girls had their toes stepped on as the line moved down the stairs.
There is a short line for this and it takes under five minutes, at the most.
If you received a "Hit" with your renewal, you will not get your NBI clearance document from this branch.
The person releasing the clearance will inform you about it. He'll provide the branch where you can have the issue resolved and where the document can be picked up.
If there are no problems, a guy will fingerprint your document. So be prepared for dirty nails as he takes your right thumb and presses it down on an ink pad before rolling it on your clearance form.
You can bring a small tissue dabbed in alcohol or pay P3 for one at the desk.
The tissue was dripping in liquid, which makes the ones I have at home dry by comparison.
I opted to pay P3 as it did a very good job of removing the ink. Besides, the price was very reasonable, considering the amount of ink my fingers had.
And with that, you're done.
This last part is not part of the process, but it is worth doing anyway.
If you factor in travel time, processing time, the cost of travel, the cost of processing, and the cost of food, it can take around half a day to get your NBI clearance.
In order to avoid having to do this again, I suggest photocopying it immediately so it will be the copy you submit instead of the original one.
And since each NBI clearance has a validity of one year, compared to six months years ago, you can continue using it for job applications over that period of time.
Just bring the original copy so people can verify that what you will be submitting is exactly the same one as the original.
Good luck and I hope you don't get any hits.
But if you do get a hit and you don't have any outstanding legal cases, don't worry about it. You probably just have a similar name with someone else and will just need a couple more days to get it fixed.