We’re going through the process of renewing the family passports. With a 10-year initial term, this is actually the first renewal for Michelle and I. Catherine’s was only a 5-year term, so hers was up for renewal as well. If you don’t have a passport, what the heck are you waiting for? Go get the Chase Sapphire Card and a passport, start exploring!
Mine was first up for renewal, and was by far the easiest. There’s a link on the Secretary of State website that walks you through the process. As long as you don’t have a name change and your passport is intact, the government has done a good job of making this process very straightforward. Renewal by mail consists of filling out the application online, printing and signing the form and sending it with a picture and checks. The fee schedule is located here. Current wait times for standard service is 4-6 weeks. For an extra $70 or so, you can get expedited service in 2-3 weeks. In my case, I had my passport back in my hands in 8 business days. People in a super rush can make appointments to visit a Regional Passport Agency.
Michelle and Catherine had to go to apply in person to complete theirs. Kids under the age of 16 need to apply in person with BOTH parents, and Michelle had a name change for our marriage. We went to our local post office to find out that the process had changed recently. All of the post offices in our area (except for one about 25 miles away) no longer take applications from walk-ins. You have to schedule an appointment ahead of time. This seems a bit inefficient to me. Apparently, they schedule application slots every 30 minutes. Existing postal employees are taking care of these applications. So, if they finish an application early, they go back to work for a few minutes sorting mail or other postal duties, then stop what they’re doing when the next appointment shows up.
Our local post office had no appointments for the next 3 days. We inquired about other post offices in the area and one of the employees handed us a list of phone numbers. The first post office I called asked me how many passport applications I had to process. In an effort to try and get an appointment that day, I told her I only had 1. I figured if I could at least get one filed that day I wouldn’t need to expedite the service and we might get through things quickly and get both done. Her reply to me needing only 1 passport application? “Sorry, we have no appointments today.” Why even bother asking how many applications I need if there are no spots?
Anyway, we managed to find another post office further away that had a spot for us. We drove over and were ushered into the back of the post office. A few minutes later a postal employee sat down to start going through the application with us. The process went fairly smoothly, it took about 30 minutes to complete two applications.
The only bump in the road was the postal employee grilling us on why we needed “non-standard” passport books. We didn’t do a ton of international travel with our first set of passports, and yet we were very close to filling them up. The passport agency charges $82 to add pages to your passport later, or it’s free if you request extra pages up front. This is a total no-brainer if you think you’ll have any real amount of international travel.
A couple of other quirky things about the process. The passport agency DOES NOT accept credit cards for any part of the application process. If you apply at a post office you can use a debit card to buy a money order. You can use a credit card to pay for any postal services. Heck you can even pay your federal taxes with a credit card. But not for you passport application. Go figure.
The passport agency will send back your “proof” documents (old passport, birth certificate, etc) in a separate pouch from your new passport. They also state they may send those documents in multiple packets. I got my new passport in one envelope and my old one in another a few days later.
Not the most efficient process in the world, but there are probably parts of our government that function worse. The moral of the story is don’t wait to apply for or renew your passport. Some countries won’t grant you a visa if you have less than 6 months before renewal, and you also never know when you’re going to have an opportunity to travel somewhere exciting.