Stickman Readers' Submissions May 21st, 2007

Passport Alert for Stickman Readers

China Hotel Guide
• Holiday Inn Vista
• JC Mandarin Hotel Shanghai
• Jing An Hotel
• Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Hotel

There is a crises going on in the passport department of the United States. Passports are taking OVER three months to process. Don’t believe what you hear from the Post Office that “expedite” is not necessary. My son’s
friend filed for his passport on January 28 and as of May 9th it is still being “processed” which could mean anything.

Today my son and I had a horribly stressful day driving 200 miles to the passport office in Houston. There were folks there from all over, as far away as Tulsa. The line just to get a “number” was 2 hours 45 minutes. Complete

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Before driving to Houston, I was able to reach the automatic appointment service. They will only make appointments if you have PROOF you are traveling within 14 days. They asked for this proof when we were there. I am glad I had it.

It is a worst situation to have sent in your passport on a regular basis and need it than to NEVER have applied and go in person for expedited service.

Before we went to Houston, we were NEVER able to reach a human being, so we had no idea what to expect. What they were able to do is reapply for a second passport. By chance, I had a second birth certificate for my son. If we didn’t
have this, they would have sent us away and we would have had to drive back.

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It was pure luck we had what we needed when we drove to Houston. The automated service gave NO guidance as to what was needed. So if you apply for a “reapply” passport, you need to get a secondary birth certificate.

The only way we knew what to do was to talk to other civilians in line. My son ran downstairs to a photo place and got pictures, while I refilled out a new passport application. He called his mom to remind us where she was born and her maiden
name…ha! We had ID, proof of travel, photos, and birth certificate and they took this from us, gave us a number and we waited some more.

They say they will send this to us Express Mail tomorrow. We are crossing our fingers it will all be okay.

This was a part of our stressful day…

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* Getting up at 5:00 a.m. to drive to Houston.
* For the first time ever, finally getting on HOLD calling the passport office at 5:00 a.m. instead of them automatically hanging up on us.
* After being on hold over an hour and 15 minutes,
proceeding on to Houston.
* Driving 200 miles…not knowing whether this could have been handled with a phone call. (In hindsight, I am sure it probably couldn’t have.)
* Looking for parking, all ground level lots full, having to
pay $25 for garage parking
* Getting shuttled to dark hallway to wait with security insisting not to ask questions cuz he doesn’t know anything
* Being forbidden food and cell phone service.
* We had to wait in the dark corridor
until there was room for us to wait in the main waiting area. There were three corridors with three lines of people, not knowing what was the procedure. When we finally got transferred to the main waiting area, they constantly called out for all
friends and family to leave the area, it was too crowded.
* 2 hours and 45 minutes to get a number to get service. They actually took my passport application then. I asked what would happen. I was told to move on….people were waiting.
* Not knowing what was going to happen. Never was able to talk to a “human being” in the last 4 days of trying to reach one.
* Networking in the line to figure out what is going on…filling out application process in line, sending
my son out on his own to get photos and trying to get ahold of out-of-state mom.
* Waiting another two hours to be helped. That was actually shockingly short. I thought we would be there until 5:00 p.m.
* Finally talking to a Passport
Agent in giant waiting room through bullet proof glass.
* Realizing on the way home, with complete gut wrenching sickness, I did not fill in my son’s height on the application, because I was going to wait and ask him when he got back
from photo session and we got distracted filling in mom’s info.
* Called travel service I had called yesterday in Houston (after trying to help me all day yesterday, they said there was nothing they could do) and they informed me that
the forgotten info would not be a problem. Thank God!
* Waiting patiently to get home to check my own passport to confirm that heights are not written on the actual passports. (Yes, no heights on passports.)
* Waiting at this moment, not
knowing for sure if they will turn down application for not having filled in height, despite assurances, knowing it is impossible to get a real person on the phone line with the Passport Service.

The Passport website and answering machine assures everyone that passports will be issued within 10 weeks now. That is complete and utter nonsense. They are trying to prevent a panic that would make the Passport Office be twice as chaotic.

I panicked early because my son’s friend applied 6 weeks before us, (Jan. 28 – May 9) and he still hasn’t gotten his, so I had a head’s up we wouldn’t get ours in time. My son’s friend will still have to
deal with his if he doesn’t get it soon. At least we can give him some guidance.

Apply for expedited service if you need a passport in the next six months! It’s the only way to be sure!

Stickman's thoughts:

This sounds like one big mess. What a total disaster. In most countries passports are issued in what, a week or so? Apparently the reason for the delays is that US citizens now need a passport to travel top either Canada or Mexico whereas they didn't need such in the past. This has resulted in many people applying for passports and a huge backlog.

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