Renewing a passport: The process ends 16 days later

When today’s mail arrived this afternoon there was a priority mail envelope with my new passport inside. I sent the application in on January 31, the last day for the $67 cost. I did pay for priority postage to get the passport application to the office a bit faster.

Along with the application and my old passport, I enclosed a letter asking for my old passport back. It did not come back so I’ll call and ask about that on Tuesday. Monday is a national holiday. Perhaps its gone for good which certainly makes me feel a bit sad. It was the best souvenir I had of my journeys over 10 years worth of travel. There are disjointed photo albums that I haven’t quite attended to properly. The passport had records of dates and countries. All those officials. All those borders. All that work getting from place to place. The excitement of getting on a plane for a new destination–and at the other side, the process of milling in a customs line at odd hours of the night, or early in the morning waiting to be ushered into a new country.

Now, I have this new passport with its smooth feeling cover–fresh with no personality. There’s nothing about this new passport that says I’m a traveler. Don’t get my wrong. I’m happy to have it since I am going on another trip in a month, this time to Mexico. Never mind that I don’t need this passport really for getting across the border since we’re going by car, but having it means I don’t have to rummage through papers looking for an official copy of my birth certificate or sending away for another. My old one was expired so I wanted a new one. Still, I miss that old passport.

I do have to hand it to the Passport Services Office. They turned the 4 to 6 weeks (the stated time it takes to get a new passport) into 16 days. Don’t count on this being all it takes for your renewal, but that’s what it took for mine. When I cross that border into Mexico and cross back into the U.S., I want two stamps. I’ve got some catching up to do.