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Our trip to Cayman this year is a gift from my mother-in-law. It is to celebrate being cancer-free and done with 5 major surgeries I’ve undergone (4 since our last trip last year). We are traveling with her, my sister-in-law and her two kids. The trip was booked at the end of January and we all went and applied for our passports (8 of them) within days.
When we applied we were told they would arrive within 4-6 weeks. I specifically asked about expediting them and was told we didn’t need to worry about that since we had 8 weeks before we left on our trip. The clerk provided me with information to track the progress. She quoted that our passports would arrive by March 17th with the standard processing.
It took 5 weeks before I was able to find our passports online. The date of arrival had changed to 3 days later, but I wasn’t worried. I checked again a few days later and it was bumped back again…this became the norm. When I saw the date was “on or about” the day we needed them by I got EXTREMELY concerned! I started calling the passport offices multiple times a day and was told the online information was wrong…only it was pushed even further back in their computers. When I was told the beginning to mid April I flipped!!!
After multiple calls to try to expedite I was very frustrated. Some people wouldn’t let me expedite, some told me it would still take 4-6 weeks and another man told me to drive the 8 of us to our nearest regional office (6 hours away in Chicago) and start the application process over again. Only problem with that is we didn’t have our original birth certificates…they did!
The other kicker is that it would cost $595.20 to expedite them. $60 processing fee per application and $14.40 fee for express postal service for each passport – they wouldn’t package them together since different individuals most likely would be processing them. Keep in mind, there was NO GUARANTEE that they would all be here in time even if we expedited them. 3 of them were in Seattle & 5 of them were in Colorado for processing. Everyone we spoke with had a different story…no consistency in how the processing was being done or how to expedite them. I was beyond frustrated at this point…
That was it!!
I contacted one of our state Senator’s office and a Congressman’s office and told them my story. They told me not to worry and that they would take care of things for us and make sure we got the well deserved break. I spent a majority of last week on the phone with Washington between the two offices and with the passport agency.
Our story was released to the local media and they contacted me to set up an interview. Our story lead the 6 p.m. news on KARE 11 in Minneapolis on Friday evening. The Pioneer Press also ran a front page article on our story on Saturday (the video is on the KARE 11 website and the article is at the Pioneer Press’s website – search “passport” for either website).
With all of the media attention this made the offices in Washington fight harder for us!
My MIL received her passport (a renewal) on Saturday. Our 4 passports arrived on Monday and my SIL received their 3 passports yesterday! We will be in Cayman a week from right now…but didn’t think this was going to actually happen until yesterday!
I am happy to say, we did not have to pay the expedition fee because there is a rule that since we had applied before the “rush” and were within the 6-8 week timeframe we wouldn’t be required to pay the fee. My MIL was going to pay it even though there were NO GUARANTEES. The passport office did NOT tell me this rule, my Congressman’s office did and made sure my MIL wasn’t charged for this!
1. Apply 4-6 months ahead of time right now. Passport applications are up 43% since last year at this time and they cannot keep up with the workload.
2. If you are in doubt, pay the expedition fee. If I knew we were going to have this problem, I would have expedited them at the time, but was told not to worry. I spent several hours on the phone and LOTS of additional headaches to be sure we would get them before our trip…like we were told originally.
3. If you are having problems with the passport agency, contact your Senators or Congressmen. They are there to help you and if it weren’t for them I know we would not have gotten our passports in time! I will always be thankful for them getting it done.
I hope my story is helpful and can prevent others from having the headaches we’ve had. I will be burying my feet in the sand, having a cocktail and sending a postcard to those that assisted me at the Sen & Rep’s offices and to the newswoman at KARE 11.
Cayman… HERE WE COME!!!
One more bit of advice I’d like to add would be only get your passport photo taken at the passport office itself. We had ours taken at Walgreen’s to try and save a little money. Well, we could have just mailed our renewals in but since we had to go in for our daughter’s application I asked the woman at the passport office to look over our renewal forms for us. She said, “Oh, this picture won’t work. They will send it back because the dimensions of the face aren’t correct.” And she showed us what she meant. So, my husband had to take his picture over. Thank goodness we didn’t just send it by mail! We would have been in trouble for sure! She gave me a form to take to Walgreen’s to get our $ refunded for an unacceptable passport photo. The manager had no idea that certain criteria must be met nor did he seem to care! So make sure to get it done right the first time!
I hope you have a wonderful trip!
Thank you so much for posting this. I am still in limbo with my passport. Everyone else has theirs. I forgot to sign mine and had it sent back.
I check the passport website daily to see if it is being tracked yet. I also assumed that once they put my date on there it would be set in stone. I am glad that I know they kept messing with your expected date.
The website says not to call until you are ten days away from your trip. I was trying to be patient. I’m sure a lot of the backup is due to spring break travelers and kids that need passports for the first time. I was *hoping* that since we fall after the spring breakers we would be OK.
How close was your trip when you started calling?
That is another excellent point! We purposely had them taken at the government center because I heard horror stories with other places taking photos. I do hope your passports arrive on time…sounds like you planned ahead!!
Our passport’s showed up online on March 5th, we applied the 2nd of February. I started calling on the 12th when the date was moved to the day we needed them by. I called multiple times a day because they keep a log of your calls and the information on when they would arrive kept changing from what I saw online to what they saw on their computer systems. I was told that the more you call the more they track it (some sort of “bumping” thing in their system I guess). I don’t know if that is true or not. My state offices started calling on the 15th (within the 14 day/2 week mark) and we all had our passports by the 20th. We leave for the airport at 3 a.m. on Wednesday the 28th.
Also, when calling…instead of hanging up if they say everyone is busy just hit #9 and you’ll be put back into the main menu. Then hit #3 and you’ll be re-entered into the ‘que. A tip that someone gave me and it worked. It cut my hold time down and the time with redialing the number.
I don’t get to go to paradise, but will be staying with my daughter till after Easter!!!! Have a rum punch on the beach for me, and God LOVE you Kim! You are quite a good friend! Can’t wait to see all the photos!!!
Love and Kisses from Kansas!!!
What a horror story-it must have been so frustrating-but wow you took the bull by the horns and glad everything worked out for you. last year when the passport law was supposed to go into effect, I had my daughter get passports for her kids-glad they did it then before all this rush that has backed things up. I thought I read somewhere that the govt. now says that kids don’t need them. My feeling was to get the passports and to be safe, rather than sorry. Who knows what they’ll tell us next.
Have a great trip
Chalk another one up for the frickin terrorist A-holes
Yeah…there are other reasons(IE Government agency, etc.) but that is the bottom line.
Shelly, You are right. Effective January 2008 children will not need passports. I believe it is age 16 & under. So…we spent $182 for 11 months of travel. It’s a shame we can’t afford to use it more than once!
I don’t know if the no passport for kids applies to just certain areas. I bet they would need one to go to Europe. So maybe you’ll be off to a beach vacation on the Spanish coast, and then you could put those kids passports to good use
My father called me when the Star Tribune ran an article on the 2008 changes for children. Hubby bought a paper and read it to me.
In my communications with the offices in Washington, they confirmed what I read.
Lucky you didn’t rush down to chicago to get your passports. There was an article in the Tribune this morning about people waiting in line with their children for 7 1/2 hours to get their passports-now wouldn’t that be a lot of fun?
Spring break has put quite a crunch on the system.
If I had one suggestion to give anyone that is getting passports, obviously do your homework and apply as early as possible. Like they said, 6 months in advance if possible. I was looking at Char’s original post that was from Oct. ’06 and I had said I was going to get started on it then, and time just got away from me and before I knew it, it was March of this year!
Also, If you have to expedite, and you are already having to pay a fee for this service, go thru a passport agency, they are all over our neck of the woods, the one we went thru (and maybe not the best choice) was just around the corner from my husbands office. This is something that can be researched via the net.
I have not really had any true headaches compared to Kim by any far stretch of the imagination, but it just seems like the right hand doesn’t know what the left one is doing and there is no consistancy in the matter.
Atleast the darn thing is good for 10 years and we won’t have to deal with it again for some time to come!
Good luck to all of you waiting on your passports.
I had our plans set in September. On the flip side of your story, I am happy to note that our passports were in hand within 3 weeks of application, but I am very aware that I had time on my side. My travel agent urged me to get it done ASAP due to the change in regulations, so I followed her advice.
I’m glad you got everything worked out. Have a great trip and maybe we’ll see you there!!!