Traveling internationally this summer? If so, start your passport process now.

Since the passport agency closed its doors to walk in service on March 19, 2020 we have received many calls from travelers asking when will they return to normal. Each time we emphasize that regardless of when they fully reopen you should get started and not wait. However, many have avoided doing so and have paid a price. They, hesitate, thinking the State Department will open really soon and we will take care of it then. Unfortunately, that thinking has come back to cost many a traveler their trip, time and money.

The reason is because the Passport Agencies, 2 years after closing, are still not operating the same as they were Pre-Covid. For example, the Miami Passport Agency used to allow walk ins every day. Now the first thing you see when you go there is a sign stating they will only see you if you have an appointment. No walk ins are allowed. The agencies are now only taking appointments and good luck getting those. You must have a ticket with a booking number and be leaving within 2 weeks. Then you must hope they have an appointment available. You may not be able to get the agency nearest you. We’ve had people living in Florida given appointments at the Honolulu, Hawaii agency. There is no negotiation…it’s either take it over leave it. This is the reality with the State Department appointment system now.

Signage now posted at the passport agency

Yet, if you casually bring up passport processing among friends at an event you will almost certainly be told about the time they, or a friend of theirs, needed a passport and just went to the agency and “they took care of it that day!” This brings up the thinking that exists today… too many people are waiting til the week or weeks before they travel to look into getting a passport. They do this thinking that what worked Pre-Covid is now working Post-Covid. That is not the case at the moment.

One would think services like mine would prosper during this time but you would be wrong. Why? Because we have not been given our full assortment of slots. Post-Covid most services can now only submit about 20% of the amount of passports submitted Pre-Covid. As a result, we have to turn away many people we would have been able to help 2 years ago and we now have to charge much more for the use of our services. This is before we get into the fact that the processing times are nowhere near what we used to have as well. Gone are the same day or next day applications. Private companies simply cannot meet the demand that has been created because the Passport Agencies are not taking walk ins.

As if to pile on, many countries have now begun enforcing entry agreements that have been in place for years with the United States. Some of these entry agreements require your passport to be valid for a certain period of time before or after you arrive. In some cases your passport must be valid for 6 months upon your RETURN to the states for you to travel. Please note, airlines will enforce this…because they will get hit with fines if they don’t. And those fines cost a lot more than your ticket. In their eyes, better for you to lose your ticket than for them to lose money in fines. You can find out what agreement is in place with the country you are planning to travel by using this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html

This situation promises to escalate as more and more people look to travel, especially in the summer. The passport agencies have not made any mention or even hinted when they will reopen fully or give the services their full allotment of slots back. As a result, Summer of 2022 promises to be super busy as many people are eying travel Post-Covid. It also means that unless the State Department changes many people more will be hit with the same challenges we have discussed.

So what can someone do now to avoid this? By looking at your passports now to make sure your passport is valid or has enough validity to make the trip and back. Don’t wait til after you book your tickets. The State Department offers a mail in service for renewals and first time process. You can do this on your own or through a service. For passport renewals, currently there is a 4-6 week option for expedite service and an 8-10 week option for regular processing of passport renewals. Both processing times are being completed on the early end as of this writing. First time passports are being done through the clerk’s office, post office, libraries or other official locations but they have the same timeframe and a service can help you organize all the documents. You can find the nearest location by using this link: https://iafdb.travel.state.gov. Many of these locations require an appointment so book in advance. Avoid scrambling to get a passport by starting your passport process now and planning accordingly.

I understand many people are concerned about mailing in their documents. While an extremely rare amount of cases are valid the majority of cases “sender error” plays a major role. For example, don’t use regular mail to send your passport. Express or Priority mail have tracking abilities which help you and are shipped differently than regular mail. Know that the process doesn’t start once you drop it in the mail…it’s starts when it registers in their systems. The faster they receive it the faster it will register. Express Mail also provides insurance in the event that the package gets lost. Another misstep is thinking any passport can be renewed. Children’s passports that were valid for 5 years or less cannot be renewed and require different procedures. Many travelers have had their request sent back for this reason losing valuable time. Many travelers do the application by hand using handwriting that only their mother can love. We recommend using the online application filler to avoid misspellings or misinterpretations of your handwriting and to ensure you print out the proper application. The form can be done here: https://pptform.state.gov Remember, they are only as good as the paperwork you send them.

The simple truth is that a passport sent in for the expedite 4-6 week or 8-10 week process gets done on time if done correctly. True, there can be instances where there are delays but those are few and far in between. There have been rare instances where a passport just does not get approved but it’s because for whatever reason the name hasn’t been cleared to be issued a passport. This could happen even if you applied at a passport agency directly. The rest of the time, if there is a delay it’s fixable such as a bad photo or you didn’t sign the form. Again…these are “sender error” types of delays. All these things a service can help you avoid.

As a service we try to provide you with as much information as we possibly can. We do not know when the passport agencies will reopen fully but we do not believe it will be in the next 2 to 3 months. Certainly not this month. We are writing this entry so that you consider all options. If your passport is expired or has less than one year remaining we recommend you get started on renewing. Especially if you aren’t traveling in the next few months. If you have never had a passport before but are looking at a summer cruise/trip with the kids, don’t wait. Remember It can get pretty expensive doing multiple passports not to mention the added anxiety…especially the closer you get to your travel date. The key is to get the process started so that you are looking at your summer trip with passport in hand.

#getapassport #rushpassport #ilovetravel

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Applying for a first time passport during the covid pandemic.

Obtaining a first time passport in years past used to be a very easy proposition. You had many options to get the passport done quickly. These included going in person, using a third party service or mailing in the documentation through a post office or county clerk. Due to Covid 19 restrictions the options have dwindled dramatically. Several days processing is no longer an option and the State Department is only allowing for a 4-6 week expedite processing for a first time passport. Emergency processing is only available if you can prove a life or death situation and make the necessary appointment.

A first time passport requires the verification of an ID from the applicant or the parents if the applicant is a minor. This process is done by authorized personnel at either a passport agency, a post office or county clerk. In person processing is no longer an option as the State Department is only going by appointments and is strictly assigning those appointments to those travelers who have a life or death emergency. Even these appointments are limited and often travelers aren’t able to make an appointment in time even when they have a legitimate life or death emergency. Third party services are not an option either as third party services are not allowed to walk into the passport agencies at this time. This leaves the post office or county clerk for processing first time passports.

Many people are unfamiliar with the county clerk and believe that a first time passport can be applied for only at a post office. Another common misconception is that the post office actually DOES the passport at their location. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Post offices and county clerks check to make sure your documents are okay but they really only do the ID verification at their location. The actual issuance of the passport can only be done at a passport location. This ID verification is what makes it possible to apply for a first time, lost/stolen, minor’s passport at a post office or county clerk at this time.

So where can you go to get your process started? Simply click on this link: https://iafdb.travel.state.gov and enter your zip code. The link will locate the nearest clerks or post office where you can make an appointment. It will also advise you if appointments are required or if you can just walk in. It also gives you a link to their specific website which gives you the pricing and hours of operation.

Don’t know what to bring? Just click on this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/need-passport/apply-in-person.html and it will show you step by step information on what to bring with you including costs.

Third party services are, until further notice, only able to do passport renewals of passports that were valid for 10 years and have not expired for more than 5 years. Please note, children’s passports cannot be renewed. Why? Because their passports are only given to them for 5 years not the 10 years like an adult. As a result each time a minor has to go through the first time process. Use this link for more information on children’s passports: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/need-passport/under-16.html

Currently, our PVM service provides passport renewals processing that takes 4-6 weeks. We only need the passport as we can do the photos and the application in our office. Simply click on this link below to make an appointment for a passport renewal. Or call us at either 407-459-8807 if your in Orlando or 305-330-4430 if your in Miami. Please note that due to Covid restrictions we are are only available by appointment. Needless to say, we cannot wait to return to normal expediting services as in years past. Use one of the links below to make your appointment:

Orlando office: https://square.site/book/QRHJE7BTV6106/passports-visas-more-orlando-office-orlando-fl

Miami office: https://square.site/book/1QSNBCWF82Q4J/passports-visas-and-more-miami-location-coral-gables-fl

We can also work on the application remotely with you so that you can then send it to us via fedex. We can do the application over the phone or through Zoom. Call us for more information. Thank you and we hope that you find this article helpful. You can visit our site at passportsvisasandmore.co.

How To Properly Fill Out a DS #3053

Family trips are a great way to spend time with family getting to know each other and see different experiences.  From traveling to visit grandma or visiting your uncle to taking your children to see a World Cup soccer game, traveling with children can be a great experience.  That being said it is important to have the right documents for your children in order for them to travel safely with you.  Many travelers are not aware that any international flight will require a passport even for minors.  This means that every child who is traveling with you must have their own passport in order to make their trip.  

The process of getting a minor’s U.S. passport is different from that of an adult.  The main reason is because parental consent from both parents is required if both parents are listed on the birth certificate and both have custody of the child.  In cases where sole custody has been obtained a DS 3053 is not required but you will need the certified copy of the court documents indicating this.

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.  The birth certificate is important especially at the post office or county clerk because the birth certificate lists parentage while the passport does not.  If only one parent is listed on the birth certificate then only the parent listed on the birth certificate can apply with the minor being present.  If both parents are listed then both parents have to attend with the minor.

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.  Another important item is that the form must be signed and notarized by a notary public.  Failure to notarize the form or to sign it one day and then notarize it on another will cause the form to be rejected.  

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.  You are expected to sign the form in the presence of a notary so if you sign the form on January 1st and then notarize it on January 2nd the form will be rejected because in the State Department’s eyes, the notary did not witness your signature.  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 updated version of the DS 3053:

DS 3053

 

Please note that there are 5 questions in total that must be answered.  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…you will note that the minor’s last name must go in the last name section and so on.  If you mistakenly put the first name in the last name section you have to do it over again.  

Question #2 asks for the minor’s date of BIRTH…please do not leave this blank.  Again, the State Department expects you to know the answer to this question so do not leave it 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 has two parts.  The first part (4a.) asks if the child is under 16 years old.  If the answer is yes then you must fill in the second part (4b.).

Question #5 asks that you list your information and authorize the attending parent to do the passport.  You must list the authorizing parent not the minor.  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.  This is another popular reason for rejecting the form.  

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.

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

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.

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.