Passport: I DO EXIST!

One of the first things you have to have in order to travel abroad is a passport. How I managed to go this long without having one, I don’t know.
You’d think it would be easy to get one. Run into your local post office, pick up an application, fill it out and mail it in with your birth certificate. Right?
Well, apparently not in my case. Here’s what happened.
I picked up two applications. Since you have to fill them out in black ink, and I’m notorious for flubbing up stuff like this, I was smart and got two. Just in case. Good thing, because I needed to use both. I filled out my application perfectly (well… the second one anyways). I read it through three times just to make sure.

Next, I took my passport photos. I read the “what not to do in your passport photo” section on the state department’s website. I did my hair and makeup. You gotta look good. You are stuck with these pictures for ten years. I ordered extras. Just because I knew I would be needing them for other things like my Visas, International Drivers License, and so on.

Then I begged my parents for their ONLY COPY of my birth certificate. Which they reluctantly handed over.

 

Having all components in a folder and good to go, I went to the post office to process my passport application. I signed, dated, sealed, paid everything I was supposed to. Process time for a passport is 4-6 weeks. All I had to do was wait.

Four weeks later I received a little package from the state department. I was soooo excited.

I ran in the house and ripped it open expecting my little blue booklet to be inside. Imagine my confusion when what was in the parcel were tons of paper packets. And a letter.

When a letter starts “Dear Nina La Fountaine, We regret…” it’s never a good thing.
Turns out whomever processed my application at the PO didn’t do it correctly.This somehow resulted in my identity being questioned. In order to continue the process I needed to provide certain elements of proof to the dept of state.
I was so disappointed. I was heartbroken. I felt defeated and I felt as if I wasn’t going to be able to make my trip. Then I was annoyed. Wait a second! I DON’T EXIST?!?!

I called the dept of state first thing in the morning and was able to speak to someone. They were very helpful and walked me through what I would need to do. Even though I needed 5 specific elements to prove my identity, the agent assigned to my passport case advised me to include other documents as well. Even if these couldn’t be used as proof on their own, they might lend support to others that might be questionable.

So, after everything was pulled together, for a second time, I headed back to the same PO that processed it the first time. I got a different agent this time, and put everything through again.

3 weeks later I received  two parcels from the dept of state.
And they were… MY PASSPORTS!

I officially exist, and apparently they decided I am an American citizen.Thank. Goodness.
I am so relieved that it all got taken care of. I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t able to get them.

So. Here are my tips for making the process as smooth as possible. Some of these might seem silly or common sense, but trust me, it helps. Especially if it prevents you from having to go through all the extra paperwork and stress that I did.

 

  • Take extra Passport applications. If you mess up, you’ll have extras. If you don’t, you can always return the extras when you go to process your application.
  • Apply for both your Passport Booklet and your Passport Card. This may seem redundant or like a waste of money but its worth it. While the Passport book has your Visa pages and acts as Identification it is also mandatory for Visa applications and flying internationally. Your Passport Card serves as ID when you are out of the country and is valid for entry into the US at land and sea crossings. When you’re out and about you don’t want to take your passport book with you incase you lose it or it gets stolen. However your passport card serves as proper ID. Also, your card and visa book are independent of each other. So, if your book gets stolen or lost it doesn’t affect the validity of your card and viceversa.
  • Smile in your photo. They used to be very specific about not smiling. Now, you can smile. So why not? Make sure you’re wearing street clothes and that your appearance most closely matches how you look on a daily basis. For example, it won’t help to identify you if you normally wear glasses and don’t have them on in the photo. Just think of how your mom would describe you, and go from there.
  • Order more than 2 copies of your photo. Just like having extra applications is helpful, having extra photos will be as well. You can use them for other things like your Visa applications, International Drivers License and when you register with the embassy. You never know, you might need to submit an extra photo when you apply for something. Also, it’s nice if all your documents have the same photo.
  • Read through everything VERY thoroughly. Double check everything, then check it again. If you have any questions make sure to ask your processing agent before you sign anything.
  • Apply for your Passports long before you need them. The last thing you want is to need them expedited and then something goes wrong. Planning and being prepared means less stress.

 

 

 

Luckily it all was resolved and my passports are in my hand. Now I can go anywhere!
Do you have a passport? Was your process big an ordeal as mine was? Did your PO suck like mine did or was it all smooth sailing?
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