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

For 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.

 

The easy way to apply for a China tourist visa to visit family and friends

As the world has expanded and opened up we are finding many family members and dear friends living overseas to work.  Recently one of my dearest friends moved to the Netherlands with his wife and 2 kids.  While we cannot see them as regularly as we would like a whole new opportunity presents itself in the form of travel to a new and exciting country.  For the inviter, it presents many of their family and friends an opportunity to visit them AND see a new country at the same time.  China is one of those countries that is experiencing a wave of people going to China for work.   Visiting a friend in China falls under the China Tourist visa category but has slightly different requirements than those travelers looking for a China Tourist visa for tours or touristic travel.

While visiting China on a tourist visa to see a friend or family member can be an exciting venture it is not as simple as telling the consulate “I’m going to visit my friend who is there and I need a Chinese tourist visa.”  Unfortunately, the Chinese consulates do not work that way and will require documentation from your friend or family member in order to visit them.  The main requirement the consulate looks for is a copy of the inviter’s foreigner’s work permit ID card.  This card proves that the traveler has indeed gained the right to reside in China and can invite you.  Without this card, they cannot do so.  The inviter must be a resident in China and be able to supply documentation to prove it…Period.

Many encounter problems because the inviter may think that a copy of their work visa stamp should be sufficient but it is not.  These visa stamps just prove they were allowed to go to China for work purposes but doesn’t show they actually went through with the process.  This is the biggest holdup and most confusing aspect of applying for a tourist visa to visit a friend or family member.  Many of the inviters do not even know they have a foreigner’s work permit ID card.  Many do not have the card in their possession as it is held by their company or school.  That said, just because they do not have it in their possession doesn’t mean they don’t have one.  They should check with their school or workplace to see if they do.  Bottom line is that the inviter must present this ID in order to invite you.  Otherwise you would have to look into applying for the china tourist visa using different requirements.  Below is copy of what that resident ID card looks like.

Sample resident ID card

Along with the ID card the consulate requires an invite from the inviter.  The invite has to have the invitee’s personal information such as the full name, passport number and date of birth.  It should also have the dates of entry and exit from China.  Lastly the invitation must have the inviter’s address because, after all, the invitee will be staying there and the Chinese consulate will want to know this information.  It can then be printed out and signed by the inviter.  It can then be scanned and sent to the invitee via email as an attachment along with a copy of the inviter’s foreigner’s work permit ID card, copy of their visa in the passport and the passport information page.

If you follow these simple steps you will find the process to be very easy and have a seamless process in obtaining your china tourist visa.  You can then concentrate on spending quality time with your friend or family member in a beautiful country with so many places and things to see.

U.S. Passport Book or Passport Card – Which Should You Get?

This is a question many travelers ask when applying.  What is the difference between a passport card and a passport book?  Which is best for you?  The answer lies in your travel needs.  Some travelers benefit from the card while the majority are better off with the book.  You may choose to get both if you prefer.  To understand which is best for you it is important to note what you can do with each one.

A new passport book and new passport card are valid for the same time.  For an adult the validity is 10 years for both and for children under 16 the validity is 5 years.  The cost of the new passport book is more expensive than the passport card.  That is what makes the passport card more appealing.  That said, there is a reason it is more expensive.  The new passport book allows you to leave the U.S. by any means of travel while the passport card is only good for leaving the U.S. under certain means of travel.

A passport card is good for cruise or boat travel from the U.S. to places in the Caribbean and if you are driving into Canada or Mexico.  That’s it.  It doesn’t allow for much more and even for cruises or boating you do need to check with the cruise line as some areas do not accept the passport card and require you to have a passport book.  It is NOT good for airline travel.  If you are boarding a plane, the passport card will NOT get you on board and not having the passport book will be a problem.

A passport book is good for all types of travel.  It can be used for the same purposes as that of a passport card and is good for all flight travel.  Just be careful of the validity and know if a visa or entry payment is required on top of just the book.

That said, the passport card is a very good piece of identification.  It is given to you by the Department of State and has all the markings of a government issued ID.  While it may not be good to board the plane it is a valid proof of identification in the States and a valid proof of citizenship.  Many travelers get the passport card IN ADDITION to the passport book just so that they can travel with both and keep the passport safe in the hotel while they explore with the passport card.

To get either one requires the same types of documentation.  You must prove that you are a U.S. citizen by providing your birth certificate, older passport or a Naturalization Certificate along with a valid ID.  You can choose to rush the passport card as well as the passport book if you so desire.  The government fees apply to both but you only have to pay the expedite fee once rather than for each one if you decide to rush your passport request.  Our Miami and Orlando offices can assist you with rush passports and rush passport cards.  Visit our site at www.passportsvisasandmore.com or at 888-336-0683.

First Steps Needed To Begin A New Passport For U.S. Born Citizens

us passportApplying for a First Time or New Passport may seem like an exciting venture.  We have found that having a new passport opens the doors to many different destinations and whole new aspect to travel.  However, if you do not have the right materials to start you could be looking at a very frustrating process.  Believe it or not, a naturalized citizen has an easier time getting a passport than someone born in the United States.  That’s because the proof of citizenship they have is recent while a U.S. born citizen has to depend on presenting a birth certificate that was most likely kept by their parents in safe keeping away from you for years.  Here are some tips to helping ensure that your new passport application gets off on the right track:

  1. Make sure you have a valid birth certificate. Your birth certificate must have your parents’ names.  The date of your birth, the county/city where the birth occurred and cannot say Abstract on it.  Be careful of abstract birth certificates.  These are birth certificates given by the county but do not show parentage and are not accepted for a new passport.  The Passport Office requires a certified long form of the birth certificate which features your parentage.   The link below will give you some tips to help with finding out if your birth certificate will be good for passport purposes:  https://blog.vitalchek.com/birth-certificates/determine-birth-certificate-official/
  2. Make sure your birth certificate is in good condition and is not a photo copy. The link in step #1 will help you to determine if the birth certificate is good or just a copy.  Also keep in mind that if it is torn apart to the point where information is missing the passport office may deny it.  If it is laminated it may also be rejected because by laminating the birth certificate you have tampered with it making it potentially unacceptable.  If your birth certificate is severely damaged or laminated you may order a new one using the same link as above:

*For out of state birth certificates try this link:  https://www.vitalchek.com/

*For travelers born in Orlando, Miami or other parts of Florida try this link:  http://www.floridahealth.gov/certificates/certificates/index.html

  1. Make sure your birth certificate does not have any errors. Such errors will be put on the passport and will make it harder to correct later on.  You must contact your county where you were born for information on data correction of a birth certificate.  Use this link as a guide to correct your passport:  https://blog.vitalchek.com/birth-certificates/correct-change-birth-certificate/
  2. Make sure you have a valid state identification either as a driver’s license or a learner’s permit. Here is a list of acceptable identification:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/identification.html
  3. Your passport photo is extremely important. Please do not overlook this part and take it as seriously as possible.  Be sure that you have recent and quality photos.  The Passport Agency requires a photo taken less than 6 months ago.  We recommend 3 months just to be sure.  We do not know how the Passport Agency knows but they know when a passport photo is older than 6 months.  Once they know it will cause a delay in your application which could cause you to miss your trip.   For more information on that see:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html

 

While having these items helps get the process started it does not mean that the Passport Agency will accept your documentation.  Your name and information still have to clear their systems. We can help you with a rush new passport if you have a need.  We have offices in Orlando and Miami that would be happy to assist.  We can be reached at 888-336-0683 or visit our site at www.passportsvisasandmore.com