There are a couple of ways that travelers can use a service such as ours to get their passport done. There are many services that offer to do everything with you online where they give you the instructions and as long as you follow those instructions you will be fine. There are other services that offer walk in services where you can go into their office and an experienced service agent will walk you through the entire process, make sure your documents are good and then proceed to get everything done.
Our service specializes in the later as we love to deal with travelers in person rather than online. While we are willing to work with travelers who cannot come in person, the truth of the matter is that the chances of an application done online has a significantly higher probability of having a problem that will delay the process than if a person goes to an office directly. There are specific reasons for that and I will detail them in this blog. When we are dealing with an online request we make sure to run down the possibilities so that the traveler knows what they need to do and how to go about doing it. Often times this is not done by the service.
One of the most popular problems is the photo. When doing the documentation online many people are told to go to Fedex Office, CVS or Walgreen’s for the photos which is a fair way to get it done. However, many a Fedex Office, Walgreen’s or CVS employee is someone who is trained on doing a lot more than just passport photos. They don’t really know if the right lighting is there or if they have the right size. They instead depend on the machine they use to get it right. Sometimes the head placing is too far back or the lighting is woefully insufficient so while the machine they use may accept it, it does not mean the passport agency will. This is something an in person visit with a service will catch prior to sending out the documents will be able to correct BEFORE you send in your documents not after.
Another example can be seen in the condition of the documentation you have. Did you know that if your passport has water damage that it could be deemed by the State Department as damaged? If it is deemed damaged then an additional letter or even an entirely different process would be required? If this is not mentioned to the online service over the phone they will not be able to tell you about the potential for problems. So you send in your documentation only to be told after you have paid their super high fees that you are not getting your passport because you have to go through a totally different process. An in person visit with an experienced agent would catch that and advise the options before you send it out not after saving you time which is after all the goal.
Some people even have birth certificates that do not have the parentage or are a short version of the birth certificate. The traveler may not know this and may think it’s a perfectly normal birth certificate. When using the online service, if the person on the phone doesn’t ask this or know this they will not advise that this is a problem. You won’t be told that you will run into delays and will most likely have to get a new birth certificate until AFTER you have paid the fees. In some cases getting a new birth certificate may take weeks because it has to be ordered or is out of state. This means your trip may have to be postponed or changed but since the traveler was unaware the traveler purchased a ticket that now has to be changed bringing about change fees or outright losing the cost outright. Again, an in person visit with an experienced agent resolves this issue and saves time and money.
There are other issues as well such as forgetting to sign the application form or check or incorrectly writing the check. The most common one is forgetting an original document in the copier because you are making the required copies the online service asks for and instead sent a copy. Again, these issues aren’t discovered until after your documents have been sent out rather than before. These things normally do not happen with an in person visit.
Possibly the biggest difference with using a service online versus using a service in person can be seen with in the first time passport process which includes minor’s passports and lost/stolen passports. The reasons for this are several but the most important reason revolves around the fact that an appearance is required at a county clerk’s or post office. This is because the process for doing a first time passport THROUGH A SERVICE is a totally different process for a county clerk than sending the passport by mail to the State Department. The simplest explanation is many of these locations just do not deal with an applicant using a third party service that often. So they are not used to looking for an authorization letter, they aren’t used to the exact fees and in some cases aren’t even aware that an applicant can use a third party service. They are supposed to know, supposed to know the procedures but since they rarely do it they can forget and this kind of delay is the last thing you need when your trip is in a matter of days. So while they do not realize it at the time, they are putting your trip is real jeopardy. An online service will only tell you where to go but will not tell you the experience level of that location. An in person visit with a service will more than likely lead to going to a county clerk that does have experience with a service and will know the procedures so problems due to incorrect fees and incorrect documentation is minimized drastically.
Using a third party service is a great way to get your passport done without having to actually visit a Passport Agency. At the end of the day getting a passport is totally dependent on the documentation you provide and when you provide it. While using a service online and going through the steps they provide is a very viable option there is something to be said about going in person having an experienced person review your documents.