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Benefits of an in person visit when using a service

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.

How To Properly Fill Out a DS #3053

Traveling internationally with a minor is often a great way to spend time with family and experience new adventures.  However, a passport is required in order to make any international flight. The process to get a minor a passport is different from that of an adult.  The main reason is because parental consent from both parent is required if both parents are listed on the birth certificate.

What does parental consent really mean?  In a nutshell it means that both parents if listed on the birth certificate must give consent to the issuance of the passport.  This is done usually in person either at a post office, county clerk or passport agency.  It is a very easy process as long as you appear with the child, birth certificate and previous passport if the minor has had a previous passport.

However, there are some instances where one parent cannot attend.  In these cases the state department allows the non attending parent to fill out a form called a DS #3053 which must be notarized and turned in by the attending parent along with a copy of the non attending parent’s ID used to notarize the DS #3053.  This form properly filled out and presented along with a clear copy of the ID will work just fine.

That being said, the success rate of filling out this form is below 50%.  Why is that?  Unfortunately the non attending parent simply does not take the time to properly fill out the form.  As a result they submit an incomplete form that the State Department rejects.  In these cases the form has to be redone and sent back in.  Almost daily we see at the agency a scenario where a parent is frantically calling the non attending parent to get a new form or race to the agency to sign off on the needed forms.  All because they didn’t put the date of birth of the child on the form, neglected to put the child’s middle name, neglected to put their address or neglected to properly authorize the attending parent by writing their name correctly on the form.

While these omissions seem trivial it is important to understand that this form is the last line of defense the State Department has against issuing a passport to a minor ensuring both parents give consent.  It is a safety feature done in the best interests of the child.  In the State Department’s eyes, each parent should know their child’s middle name, their date of birth and their own address.  Any delay requires a new form from the non attending parent notarized.  In some cases this can cause days delays and even missed trips.  Such is the importance of filling out this form correctly the first time.

Filling out this form properly requires 10 minutes and must be filled out by the parent who is not attending.  Below is the portion of the DS 3053 that the non attending parent is responsible for filling out:

cut off 3053

Please note that there are 4 questions in total.  Each question must be answered completely.  Here is some help in filling out this form;

Question #1 asks for the minor’s name in FULL…please do not forget the middle name.

Question #2 asks for the minor’s date of BIRTH…please do not leave this blank.

Question #3 asks for the parent to indicate what they are requesting.  Please check the appropriate box (most request the passport book)

Question #4 asks that you list your information and authorize the attending parent to do the passport.  DO NOT SIGN UNTIL YOU ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE NOTARY.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Please use the same color ink throughout the form…any indication the form was filled out by someone else will invalidate the form.

Be sure the notary is notarizing the documentation on the same day you sign.

Your signature must match the signature on the ID you are using.

Make sure the date you sign is the same date the notary will be using.

Do not cross out any dates or information.  If you misspelled something or wrote the date wrong do it again because it will be denied.

Above all….take your TIME.  By taking 10 minutes to fill out this form properly will save you days, additional cost and quite possibly a missed trip.  Follow these steps and taking your time will make this process smoother and easier.

Stamped India Visa or Evisa? Which one do you need?

New travelers going to India will notice that India offers 2 different options for tourist travel to India.  The first option is the standard visa that gets placed into the passport and the second option is the Evisa.  For India, the Evisa came into effect on February 4th, 2014.  Both options are great for entry into India but which one is best for you?  Let’s dig in.

In order to answer the question let’s first discuss what the benefits of the Evisa are in comparison to the standard stamped Visa. The first and most compelling benefit is the cost involved. The Evisa is $103.00 as opposed to the standard visa that comes out to $198.00 with shipping included. Another benefit of the Evisa option is that you do not have to turn in your passport and remain without it for a long period of time, since it is an electronic visa that does not require to be stamped in the passport. The stamped visa requires submitting your documents to the consulate and requires you be without it for several days or weeks. With this in mind, the last benefit is that a trip to the consulate is not required for the Evisa.

In regards to the stamped visa, you can request the visa which will be valid for 10 years with multiple entries but it costs about $90 more than the India Evisa. With this said, the India Evisa will only provide a validity of 4 months with two entries within that period of time. To figure out which visa best suits your needs, you should think about the cost and how many times you plan to travel to India. If you will be planning multiple trips to India over the course of 10 years than the stamped visa may be your best option. However, if you plan on going once and have not clear return plans then we would suggest the Evisa.

Luckily, we can assist with both the India Evisa and the India stamped visa. For more information, you can take a look at our website. Allow us to assist you in this process and make it as painless as possible for you. We can complete the Evisa electronically, which means you will simply have to print out your approval and take it with your original passport when traveling to India. We can submit your stamped visa if this is your preferred choice as well. Then, you can simply enjoy the wonders India has to offer!

Check out our website http://www.passportsvisasandmore.com or call us at 888-336-0683 for any further information you may need!

 

Getting your first passport as a Naturalized U.S. Citizen

us passportFor those foreign nationals who have applied to be a U.S. citizen there is nothing more exhilarating than receiving a phone call from the U.S. State Department.  That special phone call letting advising you that the process is complete and you are going to be a U.S. citizen.  We have often heard about how gratifying it is for many to finally receive this call.  For some however, it is not only gratifying but it poses an entirely new potential problem if they should have travel shortly afterwards.

The phone call comes with a scheduled date and time for your naturalization ceremony.  At this ceremony a certificate of naturalization is given which officially gives you documented proof of citizenship.  While getting this certificate signifies the completion of a long and sometimes arduous process it can bring about new concerns regarding future travels.  Since one never knows when this phone call will come, most people just go about their regular lives and routines.  This could mean planned travel to visit family overseas or it could mean a scheduled business trip in India or Brazil.

This can pose a problem as once you become a U.S. citizen you forfeit your green card.  That means you cannot return to the US with your other passport but would have to go through the process of getting a First Time passport.  In some cases the process has to be expedited.  The other option is to delay the ceremony which would delay the receipt of the naturalization certificate.  For some this is a worthy option but for others it is not.  Fortunately we can assist in expediting a First Time Passport and can do so even for recently naturalized citizens.  In order for us to do so we’d need to see your original naturalized certificate, a valid driver’s license that was issued over 6 months ago and travel itinerary.

If you aren’t traveling right away you can always go to your local passport acceptance facility:  https://iafdb.travel.state.gov/ where your documents will be mailed out and returned to you in about 4 to 6 weeks.  However, if you do need the First Time Passport process expedited and cannot make it to the Miami Passport Agency, we can help.  Call us today at 407-459-8807 to find out how we can assist you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dangers of traveling with a Damaged Passport

 

A passport can be damaged in any number of ways.  It happens more easily than you may think.  A person can come home from a long trip and accidentally leave the passport in clothing that gets put in the washing machine or a passport gets left on the table where your having a glass of water and in reaching for your glass you tip it over pouring water all over your passport.  There are a number of ways in which a passport can be accidentally to intentionally damaged.  The problem is that once it is damaged you should look to obtain a new passport rather than risk travel.

We have received many a call from a traveler stuck at the airport not able to fly because the airline would not let them due to what they believe is damage to the passport.  In many of these cases, the traveler knows the passport is damaged but they believe that since the damage is “minimal” they feel that they can get by.  They are overlooking one inherent problem with that line of thinking.  The problem is that they are banking on the fact that since their passport is in their name and they have it in their possession that logically the immigration officer or airline official will allow you to go through.  This line of thinking can cause you to miss your trip.

It is important to remember that by going to the airport with a damaged passport you are putting your trip in the hands of an official or officer who is trained to verify your passport and make sure that you are who you say you are.  The official/officer’s obligation is to his job and his country’s immigration policies not to you the traveler.  If the officer cannot verify your passport or feels that the damage makes it so that they cannot accept your passport they will deny you.  If that means you miss your trip so be it.  Often there will be no refund.  By accepting this cold and hard truth you will be better off in dealing with this situation.

Damaged Passport
Example of a passport with water damage 

If your passport has water damage or has been chewed on by your dog, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, the passport has now been altered from the original state and must now be considered damaged.  Obtaining a new passport should be your top priority if you plan to travel again in the near future.  You may do so by going through your county clerk’s office if you want to do regular processing in 4-6 weeks or through rush processing in 3 weeks.  If you need it back faster than you can use a service or go directly to a Passport Agency nearest you. For further information on how to rush your passport through a service please visit our website at http://www.passportsvisasandmore.com or call us 888-336-0683.

Brazil Stamped Visa or Evisa? Which one is best for you?

New travelers going to Brazil will notice that Brazil has begun to offer an Evisa for entry into their country.  The Brazil Evisa came into effect on January 25th, 2017.  It’s a new visa that Brazilians want you to try as they feel it will increase tourism to their country.  This is a great option for the traveler who lives in Orlando or the upper Florida peninsula and cannot go to Miami to apply for the visa.

So what are the benefits of the Brazilian Evisa as compared to the old standard Brazil Visa?  There are a couple of benefits.  The first benefit is that you do not have to turn your passport into the consulate and be without it for a long period of time.  The Brazil Evisa is now electronic and isn’t a stamp that gets placed into the passport.  The other advantage is that a trip to the consulate is no longer required.  Another benefit, and probably the biggest benefit, is the cost involved.  At $45.00 the Evisa is almost 70% cheaper than the standard visa.

This leads me to the stamped Brazil visa.  What happens to those Brazil stamped visas already issued?  They are still valid and will remain so until the end of the visa.  You can also still get a stamped Brazil visa which will be valid for 10 years but it costs $160.00.  Both the Brazil Evisa and the Brazil stamped visa allow you multiple entries.  The major difference between the Brazil Evisa and the stamped Brazil visa is that the stamped Brazil visa requires you to submit your passport and other requirements for the duration of the processing time.

So which one is best for your needs?  The first thing to consider is the cost.  Do you plan to go to Brazil more than once?  It is a beautiful country.  You have the beaches of Rio, the Falls in Iquazu and the Amazon River among other amazing things the country has to offer.  The problem is that these are not all in the same city.  It will require multiple trips.  In addition, there are large number of cruise ships that plan to go through Brazil now and in the future.  These are all things to consider.  For most, the 2-year Brazil Evisa makes the most sense.  That said, if touring all of Latin America is your goal over a several year span or if you have family in Brazil and make multiple trips over the course of several years, the 10-year visa may be a viable option.

We can help with both the Brazil Evisa and the Brazil stamped visa.  For each visa, just stop by our website.   Let us help you get the visa so you can go about your day.  The Evisa can all be done electronically.  At that point all you have to do is print it out and take it with your original passport to the check-in at the airport and enjoy all the beauty and wonder Brazil has to offer.  As for the 10 year visa, we can still submit that for you as we are a registered visa service at the Brazilian consulate in Miami.  Check us out at www.passportsvisasandmore.com or call us at 888-336-0683.

Roadblocks to a successful passport renewal process

Having a valid passport is an essential part of international travel.  Your passport has to be valid in order to be able to make your trip.  In some cases, your passport has to be valid for a certain period of time.  Unfortunately, those who have a passport will eventually come upon a time when that passport must be renewed.  After all, a passport is only valid for a certain amount of time.  For adults, in most cases, it is valid for 10 years while for children it is valid for 5 years.

While renewing a passport is not as complex as obtaining a brand new passport, there are some criteria involved that will determine whether you can apply for a passport renewal or have to start all over again.  Some of these steps can be determined simply by looking at the passport.  Others are more complex.  The following criteria can help to determine which route you would have to take:

  1. A children’s passport cannot be renewed through the renewal process. The reason for this is because a children’s passport was only valid for 5 years.  A children’s passport requires parental consent and because they are minor’s will only be valid for 5 years.  The renewal process only applies if your passport was valid for 10 years and was not expired for more than 5 years.
  2. If your passport was valid for 10 years it can be renewed as long as it has not been expired for more than 5 years. For example, let’s say your passport was valid from 2002 to 2012.  This passport cannot be renewed in 2018 because the passport has been expired for more than 5 years.
  3. Your passport must be in good to great condition. If your passport has been damaged in any way, has pages cut off, is falling apart, has been mistreated or has been accidently left in the washing machine then chances are the passport is not renewable.  Any passport that has been damaged is considered just that…a damaged passport and you must now follow the damaged passport process.
  4. If there are any changes to your name or if the passport was accidentally misspelled or has inaccurate information, a birth certificate or other certified documentation would be needed in order to correct it. In some cases, the State Department may determine that the change requires you to apply as a new passport instead of a renewal.
  5. You can renew your passport before it expires. There are some countries that require a passport to be valid for more than 6 months in order for them to allow you to enter their country.  The State Department does allow you to renew your passport before it expires.
  6. Remain eligible to obtain a passport. There are certain citizens who are not able to obtain a passport or even renew a passport.  Those who are ineligible to receive a passport are those who are wanted by the government, owe the government money or are in arrears of child support.

If your passport adheres to the criteria listed, you should be able to do a passport renewal and receive a new passport.  Renewals can be sent through the mail for regular process or if you are in a rush go in person or through a service like ours.  We have offices in Downtown Orlando and in Coral Gables, FL.  Visit our site for more infomration at http://www.passportsvisasandmore.com.