Emil Lerch

Husband, Father, Technologist, Cloud Architect

Passport saga

We are taking a family vacation to Casa Manana in Bucerias, Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta. We originally applied for Kathryn’s passport back on January 18th, and were given March 15th as the date for the passport to get here in the mail. Due to the recent changes in travel regulations, we expected it would take longer, but we decided 3 months (12 weeks) was plenty of time, and we did not need expedited service. The web site currently claims processing times of 10 weeks, although I believe at the time it was saying 8 weeks.

March 15th flew by, so we checked the status online around March 29th. The site said that we’d get the passport April 9th. This was pretty close to our April 15th departure, so I called on April 3rd to find out if this was a problem, and if so, what I could do about it. When I called, I literally got “all circuits are busy, please try again later”. A redial later, I got through, and the phone menu starts with, “We are currently experiencing unprecedented demand for US Passports. We have added staff and are working overtime to make sure that no travel plans are effected. If you are not traveling in the next two weeks, PLEASE, hang up. (then something to the effect of “it will be ok”)”. Option 1 and option 3 later, I’m told, “all our agents are busy, we can not answer your call at this time”.

Several more redials later, and I actually get into the queue. I wait a relatively short 30 minutes and the agent tells me, “oh, you’re in good shape, this is in book print”. I asked what that meant, and they said that it stays in book print for a day and then someone physically compares the passport to the application, a process that also takes a day. Then it gets shipped out priority mail (2-3 days). The woman told me that with Easter and everything, and “you know how the government is” (I love that coming from a government employee), that I should see it Saturday or Monday.

Monday goes by, and no passport. Tuesday goes by, and no passport. So I check the status online after the mail came, and now it says that it shipped, but it’s estimated to arrive “on or about 4/14/07”. Umm…we leave on 4/15, so what do they mean with that “about”? So, I give them another call on Tuesday (April 10th…5 days before we fly). After the prerequisite redialing and 30 minute wait, I get through and they said I should be in good shape. It physically was on a truck on April 9th, so I should see it Thursday or Friday (April 12th or 13th).

The story does have a good ending, as the passport has arrived today (April 11th). Talk about cutting it close, though…

As a quick postscript to a long post, Kathryn got one of the new RFID passports, and it’s really fancy. I think they did a very good job with the design and artwork, and I can only assume it’s less subject to counterfeiting. I’m not sure how well the face recognition will work with Kathryn when she’s 4 years old, though.