Getting passports is something our family has put off for far too long! Our previous travels have all been domestic except for a couple Disney Cruises, but thanks to current laws we were able to still use our birth certificates as proof of citizenship. But this year was different We found ourselves booking a last minute trip to London without a single passport in hand. Seriously, our trip was confirmed on January 18 and travel date was set for February 11. This is completely out of character for me.
A nervous wreck I took to Google and Pinterest to find everything I could on how to get a passport quickly! It was so disheartening to read horror stories out there than success stories and very few were about needing passports quickly. Hopefully if you are reading this and planning an international trip for your family and still need passports I can provide you with a silver lining!
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
We finalized the details of our trip on Thursday, January 18. I knew I still needed get passports, but all appointments for that Friday and Saturday were booked. I took the first available appointment on Monday, January 22. All 5 of us went up to the passport office, and the appointment went smoothly. We paid for the passports, expedited service, and overnight delivery. Even with all of this the passport clerk could only guarantee me delivery in 21 days. I was a bit freaked out as we were traveling in just 17 days, but the clerk assured me I would get them sooner. On Wednesday, January 24 I went online to check the status of the passports and found they were listed in the system as “PROCESSING” and had an estimated delivery date of February 14. This was my proof the passport applications had in fact been received, however I was surprised to see it said I had requested routine processing! Shocked and worried I called the passport office and was told ALL passports are initially accepted as routine processing and it takes a few days for them to be changed to expedited in the system. I’ll admit I was a bit scared since we had literally spent an additional $300 for expedited service, but I tried to remain calm. On Monday morning January 29, I logged back in to check the status of the passports. They had in fact been changed to expedited service however I was still being provided a delivery date of February 14. I may have a had a slight nervous breakdown at this moment and every possible thing that could go wrong was running through my head. I started googling “why passports get denied” and was second guessing if I filled out everything correctly. My husband (who is the calmest person in the world, thanks Marine Corps) told me to relax and everything would be fine. That same afternoon, I decided I needed to check the system again and to my GREAT SURPRISE I found that the passports were in the final stages of processing and was given a delivery date of February 1. (I may have cried!) But what was even better, was on January 30, the passports arrived by UPS on my front porch, only 9 short days after we applied!
FIRST THINGS FIRST
If you are traveling within 2-4 weeks from the time you apply for your passport, you will need to be ready to pay for expedited service. An adult passport book with expedited service is $180 and a child’s is $160, In addition to these fees you will have to pay a $25 application fee (for each application) and the $15 passport photo fee (for each photo.) If you are really cutting it close, or if you are like me and need that extra security that your passport will arrive in time, go ahead and pay for overnight shipping! It was an additional $24.50.
STEP BY STEP
Step 1 – GATHER YOUR INFORMATION. For each person in your family. you will need their original birth certificate or proof of citizenship/ naturalization and social security numbers. If the person is over the age of 16 you will also need a photo ID. If you have ever had a passport before, even if it is expired, you will need to have that in hand as well. (If you don’t know where your old passport is, that is okay, I’ll cover that is step 2.) Additional information you will need is parent’s names, dates of birth, and places of birth for everyone applying (not just minors) and an emergency contact.
Step 2 – FILL OUT FORM DS-11. I used this website and was able to complete the application online and then download it to my computer to be printed. Fill it out in its entirety. Everything requested in required in order to be approved for a passport.
A couple of things to be noted:
When it requests MOTHER’S NAME, make sure you provide her name at birth.
If you have ever had a passport before and it is expired and you can not find it, you must still say that you had a passport at one time. Simply mark the box that says “LOST PASSPORT” and then next to that write “EXPIRED.”
DO NOT SIGN THE FORM.
Step 3 – MAKE AN APPOINTMENT AT YOUR NEAREST PASSPORT OFFICE. I used this website to find a passport office closest to me. This site will also allow you to book an appointment online. Expect to spend at least 15 minutes per person in the office.
Step 4 – APPOINTMENT DAY/ PASSPORT PHOTOS – Everyone applying for passports will need to be present, even babies. When you arrive at your appointment make sure you have the following in your possession for each person you are applying for:
COMPLETED FORM DS-11 / ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE / PHOTO ID (if over age of 16) / PERSONAL CHECK / PASSPORT PHOTO (see below)
I highly suggest you allow the kind clerks at the passport office to take your photos if you are on a time crunch. I am a DIY-er and a budget-er and at first had fully prepared to take our own photos. I then read online that passports can be denied simply because of a shadow on your photo, and I knew I couldn’t risk that.
The passport agent will review your filled in application, make sure it matches with the birth certificate and photo ID, and also make sure you didn’t miss any necessary information. Don’t be alarmed when she keeps your original birth certificates, they will be returned. She will attach the photo taken, process the passport, and have you raise your right hand and swear the info you are providing is accurate. Once you write out your very hefty check you will be done! Start to finish time for our family of 5 was 1 hour.
Step 5 – FOLLOW UP – This website will allow you to check on the status of your passport. You will need to know the last name, date of birth, and last 4 digits of your social security numbers for each passport applied for. I suggest checking every couple of days as in my experience expedited passports seem to move through the system very quickly!
I hope this information was helpful to you and if you are in a time crunch maybe add a little bit of peace to a stressful situation!