Help! I Need A Passport In 2 Days!

Kelly’s boyfriend needs a passport in a hurry, but how?

I am currently living in Japan and my boyfriend is planning on coming to visit me within the next few days (hooray!). The problem is that he applied for his passport several weeks ago, paying lots extra for the expedited process, but he still has not received it. He gets hung up on every time he calls to check on his passport status (due to heavy call volume, the IVR says), and when he tries to check using the online feature, it says they don’t have a record of his application. It also says to call if your info isn’t showing up, but you can’t actually get to a live person!

Is there any way you can find me a phone number where I can speak with an actual person at the National Passport Information Center? This is driving me nuts! He leaves first thing Friday, so time is of the essence. Anything you could do to help me out would be greatly appreciated!

Sincere thanks,

Newburgina

Our advice to her, and the story’s exciting conclusion, inside…

(Photo: cygnoir)


That same day, Carey replies…

Newburgina,

We don’t have any contact information for the NPIC, but he should definitely try something that may sound counterintuitive: call his Member of Congress.

Members of Congress have staff (called constituent liaisons) whose sole job is to nudge executive agencies to do their job. It is the single best thing he can do.

Have him call the district office (the number that doesn’t start with 202.) He can find his Member of Congress here: http://www.house.gov/writerep/

Two days later…

Carey,

Thanks to your tip, he received his passport just in time! He had to drive up to D.C. and re-apply in person, but everything is taken care of now.

Thanks again!

Newburgina

Huzzah! Remember that next time an executive agency is being way too slow or unhelpful, call your Member of Congress. — BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. Matthew says:

    Anxiety-making! Compelling testimony making the case to keep your passport up-to-date and valid at all times.

  2. JuliaD says:

    That exact situation occurred to me. I never found a direct line to a person at the passport agency. I had to leave multiple voice messages and they shipped the passport out 1 day after my flight left. British Airways was nice enough to consider it a “lost passport” and they re-booked my flight at no cost. Since them, I am with the previous poster, do not wait to keep your passport up to date.

  3. mopar_man says:

    Good thing the government can keep up with this brilliant passport idea.

  4. WindowSeat says:

    The best time to get a passport is when you have no plans to use one.

  5. Tallanvor says:

    Among the many things everyone should do, it’s get a passport. It’s better to get one before you’re even planning a trip and have it ready to go than to have to rush to get one.

    Granted, they’re not the cheapest things in the world, even if you’re not paying the expedited feeds, but especially with passports becoming a requirement to even visit Canada or Mexico, there’s really no excuse not to get one.

  6. lincolnparadox says:

    Windowseat–

    Well said.

    Keep in mind, you need a passport to go just about anywhere these days. Even to places we share borders with, like Canada and Mexico. Just get one when you have $67 to spend. They count as the ultimate ID as well. Never refusable.

  7. Catharine says:

    Sounds like the Member of Congress had little or nothing to do with the resolution, since the boyfriend ultimately got his passport in person. Which is, btw, always an option and always the most reliable way to get a passport quickly. Yes, it will take a whole day, and yes, the bureaucracy will nearly kill you. But you will go home that day with a passport.

    Btw, I used the expedited service to get my passport a couple of years back. I have an unusual (but not unheard of) spelling of my first name: Catharine. When my passport came back within the promised 2 weeks, my first name was misspelled. I traveled with it anyway, because travel and other officials don’t notice the discrepancy. However, upon getting home I sent in my passport with the correction form.

    Guess what I got back? The exact same passport, with a page in the back now saying “Correct this passport on [date] to read Catharine.” Glad I paid $100+ for that.

  8. formergr says:

    Arg, I’m in a similar spot. My passport is completely out of extra visa stamp pages, so I applied for more by mail as soon as I returned from Africa at the end of January. It is supposed to take 6 weeks or less to receive them, but nothing so far. My next trip overseas is April 3 so I’m getting very nervous.

    Fortunately I’m close to a regional passport office (two blocks from the office in Chicago), but you can only get in “by appointment only”, and to make an appointment you have to call, guess what, the national passport line that Kelly’s boyfriend couldn’t get through to either.

    I’m trying to be proactive, but they won’t give you an appointment or even let you call unless you are traveling within 10 days.

  9. xdabomb911 says:

    Yea I just got one last Monday after applying on Feb 9th and paying for expedited. When I applied, it was “2 weeks” for expedited. Now they say it’ll take about 3-4 weeks for expedited service.

    @formergr:
    If you applied for a regular non-expedited, I would say you need to goto your passport office towards the end of March. But hopefully it comes in the mail. I realized they don’t update their website whatsoever or answer any emails or answer the phone. They just send it without updating any information. My only concern with that is what happens if it gets lost in the mail?

  10. flugangst says:

    formergr, it’s actually a lot easier to get extra passport pages put in at a US Embassy abroad. I’ve done it twice – it took 15 minutes the first time and a little over an hour on the second go. Just pop in and fill out a little form. It’s free! Plus you get a minorly cool little seal. Of course, that doesn’t do you a lot of good if you can’t get out of the country due to a lack of pages…

  11. kimsama says:

    Yeah, the gov’t has really screwed up by making passports more necessary without really providing enough extra staff/processing to get the job done during this “crunch time” (since January) when people started realizing they needed a passport for, say, spring break or whatever.

    Back in the day, I got mine (regular) in 3 weeks. I’ve heard even expedited is way longer than that sometimes. Ridic!

  12. marqlet says:

    @ Catharine , actually calling your member of congress does work. My boss’s daughter needed one expedited and she called her congressmen and her senator and got an appointment the same day and her passport the next.

  13. Hitchcock says:

    My mom just got a passport. She mailed in the app in December, got her passport at the end of january. And this wasn’t the expedited service.

  14. dieman says:

    I heard that expedited is somewhere around 4 weeks now, non-expedited is up to 10+ weeks!

  15. Plaid Rabbit says:

    I just got my passport Saturday – I applied on Jan 11th, so 8 weeks, cradle to grave, non-expedited. I imagine those numbers are quite inflated now, so YMMV. I had to replace my “lost” passport for a trip to Ireland I’m taking this summer (I say “lost” because I found the passport in an odd location two weeks later, natch), and completely ignorant of the potential crunch from the new laws taking effect.

  16. John Stracke says:

    @formergr:

    My passport is completely out of extra visa stamp pages,

    Oh, do those actually get used these days? I know that, when I went to Europe in 1990, the only stamp I got was when I came back into the US, even though I had cross national boundaries, er, probably 9 times.

  17. cabinaero says:

    @John Stracke: It depends on the border you’re crossing. My passport is filled-up with stamps from the Philippines, Hong Kong, and a couple Chinese entrance visas along with the obligatory US re-entry stamps. Also most countries will stamp your passport if you specifically request it; many collect passport stamps and there is often legitimate need to prove foreign entry (e.g., expatriate tax exemptions, satisfying maximum visa stay reqs on a multi-entry visa, etc.)

  18. zolielo says:

    Constituency almost always does not help or does not help enough. I would strongly recommend not relying on the aid of a congress person.

  19. Catharine says:

    @marqlet: I don’t say that calling your congressman doesn’t work, only that it’s unclear to me in this case if calling on a congressman is what got the boyfriend his passport from an in-person appointment.

  20. Sandy Magic Jackson says:

    Yeah, I guess I was lucky because I paid for the expedited service last month and got it within 10 days. And I had the same issue–went to the website, it said there was no record of my app after the post office mailed it in 10 days earlier. I called about seven times consecutively because the agency kept on hanging up because of “high caller volume” and kept it on speakerphone for 45 minutes. Lady told me it was already sent, and it was in my mailbox that night. Thank God, now I can go to… Canada. Ahem.

  21. Pelagius says:

    The passport agencies are getting hit with a ton of applications due to the new requirements for Mexico and Canada as well as the upcoming biometric passports – strangely enough a lot of people aren’t too keen on the idea.

  22. underpants says:

    Oh, god. I’m going through the same thing now. Someone feel free to submit my eerily similair story to the consumerist, but I applied for my passport at the end of January!

    If I can’t get the passport by the 19th, my flight on the 20th for my 30th birthday will have to leave without me, and with my best friend…not cool at all.

    My email is: (needapassport @ gmail.com)

  23. Jason-Ryan-Isaksen says:

    Yeah don’t want to sound like a broken record but it’s the thing you have to have way ahead of time. It’s not like a drivers license which you can just walk in and get. If all else fails just tell them you’re a truck driver for Haliburton and if you don’t get to Iraq soon, over 60 tons of Manwiches will go bad before they reach the troops!

  24. itmustbeken says:

    Great story and great info. Consumerist rocks so hard.

    I paid the ‘rush’ charges to get a passport within weeks, but days? Wow.

  25. mjcarrabine says:

    If you live near one of the 13 (???) passport centers, you can get it in about 2 hours for $135 by just calling to make an appointment. Conveniently, I work 2 blocks from the passport office in Philadelphia.

    You can’t get a “rush” passport unless you can prove that you are leaving in the next 2 weeks. Since they won’t guarantee you a passport in less than 6 weeks, when I only had a month to go before my trip, I just waited until 14 days before, paid the money and had it that day.

    I was in shock at how quickly a government agency could move…if you pay them enough money.

  26. Her Grace says:

    @John Stracke: I have a full-page sticker, not a stamp, for my work visa. I’m living in Australia on a student e-visa, so no stamps there, but there is a no-work restriction on it. I had to apply for a separate work visa, with student restrictions (20 hours/week during school times, restricted from some jobs–mostly logical stuff like Australian government), at the local Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (their Foreign Service, basically, at least when it comes to visa/passport processing). This took a day and cost me $60aud, and is the only sticker/stamp in my passport so far (well, I’m not quite 22 yet; hopefully this is the only stamp for this passport, and I will have a diplomatic passport the next time I travel, working for the FS).

    I know this passport stuff sucks right now with the new requirements, but I selfishly can’t be too upset, as the FS is hiring like madmen to meet the demand and I desperately hope to be one of the new hires at the end of the year when I finish my degree.

  27. Pelagius says:

    Her Grace The hiring process for the State Dept. can take months or even years (depending on how hard they have to look into your background). You might consider getting that civvie passport renewed in the meatntime.

  28. sixsnowflakes says:

    I travel frequently to Germany. If you fly, you get one stamp arriving and one stamp departing. This should apply to any Schengen country (most of Europe). You won’t get stamps when you travel between most countries. Adjacent Schengen countries don’t have check points and those with checkpoints (Switzerland, Czech Republic) never stop you. If you stop to ask for a stamp, you will only get the German exit stamp. Residence and work permits will fill a full 1 or 2 pages of your passport. I need more pages or a new passport after only 3 years of use. Also, I didn’t get any stamps for Great Britain, and I got 3 stamps when I visited Colombia.

  29. micturatedupon says:

    where are these ’13 offices’ i keep hearing about?


    the dept of state’s website is useless, of course…

  30. kostia says:

    @micturatedupon: Boston, Chicago, Denver, Connecticut, Honolulu, Houston, L.A., Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.

    Unfortunately the only phone number is that same national one.

    If you do manage to get through and get an appointment, you can do it in person within 14 days (as noted above), but in my experience your paper application (given at the post office or wherever) is mailed to and processed at the center nearest you anyway.

    Link: http://travel.state.gov/passport/about/agencies/agencies_9

  31. MusterMark says:

    to everyone who says your congress person wont help you, i dont know what state your from but my girlfriends full time job is handling passport cases that call in to our state senator

    she gets a full salary and works 60 hrs a week going to bat with people who needed their passports “yesterday”

    one tip, the passport office in dc is actually open 18 hrs a day, 6am to midnight. best time to reach someone is between 6 and 7am. the call flood starts at 7, and is full force by 8. and of course im talking east coast time.

    there are also congressional lines, reserved for members of congress. if you can get a hold of one of those you can call and pretend to be anyones staff assistant from any state and they wouldnt know any better.

  32. Yasmin Belkhyr says:

    I need a passport in one week. I won an all expense paid trip to morocco and just when i need it, I lost my moroccan passport. My american passport expired so I applied fpor it a week ago. Stupid me didnt get it expedited so I have to wait another 8 weeks for my passport when my plane leaves next friday. I’m planning on calling my congressman and senator first thing tomorrow but at this point it seems only God can help me. So umm…God…HELP! (or you knw any one else who can help me) lolz