Renewing a passport: The process begins

Yes, it’s true. My passport did expire a little less than a year ago. With a trip out of the country coming up in March, and the prices of renewing a passport going up tomorrow, I did fill out the application, got the requisite official size pictures, wrote the check for $67 and mailed it out yesterday.

I had had the application in the glove compartment of my car for a month, but one thing led to another so I just drove it around town. Feeling motivated by the $8 that I will have saved by applying in January (thanks for the reminder Anna), and the thought of not having to spend money to expedite the process if I waited much longer, got me to the post office by 4:45 yesterday afternoon.

I did call the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Passport Services Office to make sure that:

1. I actually don’t need a passport into Mexico or back if I’m driving across (actually, I’ll be on a bus).

2. I can get the passport back in 4-6 weeks. Basically, I just want to have it and see if I can get it back within 4-6 weeks. This is a do-it-yourself experiment on pushing the time envelope. What is last minute really? I did mail the application priority mail which was probably a waste of money since the passport folks won’t get it by Monday anyway. Regular mail would have gotten it there just as quickly.

It is true that one does not need a passport to go across the Mexican border and back by car, but you do need an official certified copy of your birth certificate and driver’s license or some other official government issued ID. The woman I talked with also assured me that my passport should be back in time. I’d like to have it since I’ve used the trip as a motivation to get it renewed. If I did need the passport, I’d have paid the extra $60 to expedite it.

As phone trees go, the one that leads through passport information of the Passport Services Office is fairly easy to follow. Most information is clearly stated, except the details about passport needs for Mexico and Canada are not provided. The Web site has detailed info about travel in the Western Hemisphere.

One recorded message does tell how to track on-line where your passport is in the process. If you have a passport that is being renewed –or you are applying for a new one, you can check on-line about 2 weeks after you’ve mailed off the application. That’s how long it takes to post the information. This link leads to the details about the process.

One helpful piece of information that I heard aimed towards anyone who is on a real deadline. The well-modulated recorded voice said that if you have not yet applied for a passport and you are leaving the country in 14 days or less, head to one of the regional offices to do the process in person.

In my case, I’ll let you know just when in the 4 to 6 week time period my new passport arrives.