Much of this travel blog exists to explain how travel is easier and more fabulous than people imagine. Today, however, I must rant about how much harder it was to get our baby’s passport than we ever anticipated. In total, it took us FOUR attempts and five months. Why?
Here are the main issues: The hours that post offices offer to submit passport applications are as slippery and thin as eels. Moreover, both parents, plus the child must be present to apply for the passport, unless one parent has signed a notarized document. You also need a stack of paperwork, two photos, and a birth certificate. Now, this might seem like small inconveniences for the precious acquisition of a U.S. Passport, but just watch how it all played out with us.
Attempt #1: I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to go somewhere with a baby, but children have magical powers to delay the completion time of any plans, usually by at least three hours. Thus it came to pass that on a Saturday in September, our attempts to get out the door and to the post office with our little man were foiled, and the sun was setting by the time we got his diaper situation in order, naps achieved, and jacket on. It was just as well that we didn’t make it that time, however, because it turned out we had filled out one of the forms incorrectly, and had forgotten to take baby’s passport photos. Sheesh.
Three weeks later, we finally got our rears in gear to head to the local convenience store that takes passport photos. This task was actually both easy and hilarious. We held the little guy on a stool in front of a pull-down screen, and the clerk took a digital photo. Within ten minutes, the necessary two copies were printed and paid for, and we went our merry way… but not before falling over from laughter at the resulting pictures. Check these out!
Attempt #2: On a Saturday in October, my husband and I got the baby suited up for the Boston cold, gathered all our stuff, and jogged out the door, paperwork in hand. We stood in line in our local post office for 45 minutes. When we got to the front, breathless and excited, the clerk declared, “Sorry, no more passport applications today. Applications are 8:30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays, and it’s 12:31.”
“What?!” we gasped. “It’s only one minute past the time!”
“Sorry,” the clerk said, clearly not the least bit sorry. “Try again another time.”
Attempt #3: Come December, Colin and I decided that, despite our previous assumption, the weekend passport acceptance hours of the post office were actually harder to catch than a weekday. Therefore, we arranged all our teacher thingies (grading, copies, and such) so that we could sprint out of work right as the last bell rang to scoop up the baby from daycare and make it to the one post office in town whose listed weekday passport application acceptance hours ended at 4pm versus 3pm. As before, we stood in line for 45 minutes. When we reached the clerk, it was 3:30pm. “Plenty of time!” we thought, triumphantly. Oh, were we ever wrong.
“Sorry,” purred the clerk smugly. “Passport hours end at 3pm.”
I held up my smartphone, displaying the official USPS page that declared that office was open until 4pm.
“Ah,” said the clerk, “that’s wrong.” She handed me a printed list of offices and hours. “These are right.”
I pointed to one address. “Isn’t that this post office?” I asked. “This address that says: Passport Applications until 4pm?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“But even though it says you accept passport applications until 4pm, you don’t.”
“Right,” she said. “Goodbye and have a nice day.”
You better bet I sent a furious tweet to the U.S. Postal Service. They kindly replied that they would correct the listing on their website. That merely lessened my anger from “Level 11 Fury” to “Level 9 Rage,” but it was something. The lesson for you: Call ahead to verify listed passport application hours, or risk rage.
Attempt #4: School vacation came at last! We couldn’t go to the post office in December because of our Washington, D.C. travels, but in early January (yes, FIVE months after we started this quest), we managed to get documents, photos, birth certificate, and baby out the door and to the front of the post office line before 12:30pm on a Saturday.
During the 45-minute wait in the post office line (which we now know is customary), I suddenly did some math and realized, “Oh no! We need to pay the extra money to expedite the passport, since we fly to Ireland in February!” Good thing I’d brought an extra check so I could rip up the original one and write the new amount.
Once at the front of the line, the process took about fifteen minutes. I was a little freaked out that the clerk TOOK the baby’s birth certificate, but he assured me that we would get it back by mail around the same time that the passport was mailed to us.
Sure enough, in two weeks both packages arrived. We were so excited! “Yay! Baby got his passport!!!”
I posted to my @WorldLillie Twitter account.
A reader promptly replied, “Nice. You now have a @WorldBaby.” Indeed we do. Ireland, here we come!
So what about YOU? What have your experiences been with getting a first passport, either for a child or for yourself? Do share!