Frequently asked questions on the status of the U.S. Passport Agency

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the travel agency extremely hard.  There is so much uncertainty ranging from countries not allowing U.S. citizens entry to cruise ships docked with no passengers and nowhere to go. This uncertainty is also notable with the United States Passport Agency and obtaining a U.S. Passport.  After nearly 2 1/2 months of silence, the United States Department of State finally announced in June that they will be opening up the various passport agencies in phases.  Here are some frequent questions that travelers have been asking and what we know right now:

1.What are these phases that the agencies mention and what is their criteria?

There are three phases, with almost all agencies either beginning phase 1 or planning phase 1.  Here are the phases below direct from the Department of State website:

Phase 1:  Some of our employees will return to our agencies and centers, allowing us to resume limited processing of applications we already received.  We will continue to prioritize services for customers with life-or-death emergencies by appointment only.  No other expedite service will be available during phase one.

Phase 2:  We will be able to resume processing more of the applications we already received. Applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis, beginning with the oldest applications received. We will continue prioritizing life-or-death emergency cases but no other expedited service will be available during phase two.

Phase 3:  All remaining staff return to our agencies and centers, and we plan to resume normal operations. We will offer a processing time commitment for routine service and resume expedited service in this phase.  Expedite service is available at this time.

When an agency enters a phase is totally dependent on the containment of the virus in that location. For example, some agencies such as Connecticut and New York are already in phase 2 while other agencies like Houston and Miami are not even in a phase yet due to the high number of corona virus cases.

2. What phase are the agencies in now?

At the moment the passport agencies are in different phases but none are in phase 3 as of yet.  The passport agencies in New York, Connecticut and Washington DC are in phase 2 which is the closest phase to reopening.  However no set date is being given as to when they will begin phase 3 and reopen to the public. 

3. I have a life or death emergency.  What can I do?

If you have a life or death emergency you can call the Department of State and set up an appointment.  Please note, you are going to have to prove that this is the case or you will be sent home.  This is something they are taking very serious.  If you have the proof you can call them at 877-487-2778 to set up an appointment.  You do have to go the designated agency in person as no third party service can assist.

4. Can I start the processing of my passport now?

Yes, you can start the processing of your passport right now but expedited processing is, unfortunately, not available yet.  If it is not a life or death emergency, the only way to apply for a passport, at this time, is to do regular processing which can only be done through the mail for renewals or through an authorized post office or county clerk.  Please note that there are lengthy delays regarding regular processing.  There is an expected delay of 2 to 3 months minimum.  There is no exact timeframe.  Renewals can be mailed in while first time/children’s passport can be done by going to a county clerk or post office that does passports.  Note:  not all county clerks and post offices do it so you need to check with one will work for you.  Here is a link:   iafdb.travel.state.gov

5. Can I mail in my passport to get processed?

Here is the official stance from the Department of State:  You can apply now for regular process, but unless you have a life-or-death emergency, you will experience delays before receiving your passport and the return of your citizenship documents such as previous passports, and birth and naturalization certificates. We will not offer normal processing times until phase three of our reopening plan.

6. What if I don’t have a passport and have a trip that I must absolutely make without exception?

Not to be evasive but you must discuss this matter with Department of State.   You can call them at the number listed at 877-487-2778 and discuss the matter with them.  Third party services are not allowed to process until Phase 3.  There are no exceptions.  There is a distinct possibility that you would have to change your trip.

7. How long until the Department of State can process expedited passports?

This is the million dollar question.  And unfortunately it does not have an answer at this time.  The Department of State has not indicated nor given specific dates when they will reopen.  All they are saying is that the reopening is totally dependent on the handling of the pandemic.

8. What can PVM do for me at this time?

PVM is an expedited service.  We are not a regular process service and have never been a service for regular processing.  We do have to wait for them to reach Phase 3 before we can help clients.  If you would like you can send us an email and we will be happy to notify you once the Department of State has reopened and we are able to do passports again.  Our email is info@passportsvisasandmore.com

9. I want to travel but I need to get my visa before my trip.  Can you assist with getting visas at this time?

Many consulates, while open, are either not accepting applications or only accepting urgent family visa type requests with proof of such an urgency.  Some consulates are closed until the pandemic eases.  Most consulates will not reopen for visas until it is safe to travel.

10. I mailed in my application at a post office/county clerk but still have not gotten it back.  Can you assist me or guide me in what to do? 

If you began your application dealing with the Department of State directly through a post office or county clerk you must remain dealing with the Department of State directly.  No third party service can help you when you apply in this manner.  For information on your application please call 877-487-2778 for information on your application.

We are a passport and visa expediting service with offices in Downtown Orlando and Coral Gables Florida.  Allow us to expedite your passport processing.  We do accept appointments. Please click the office you would like to visit below to set it up.  

Coral Gables office appointment

Downtown Orlando office appointment

Unfortunately there is a lot of uncertainty with regards to expediting a U.S. passport at this time. We do hope that we have been able to answer some of your questions even though they may be answers you weren’t hoping to hear. We do believe that will be changing soon. If it does we will be advising you. Thank you and stay safe everyone!!!

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.