Renewing Our Passports or Wasting Two+ Hours of Our Time

passportsby Nancy Bestor

Our two daughter’s passports expired last month, and since we’re headed to Peru in March, we wanted to get them renewed as soon as possible. If you’re over 18, you can send in your renewal application with your old passport and renew by mail. If you are renewing the passport of a minor, or an adult who was under 16 when their previous passport was issued, you must renew in person, at a government passport office. Both parents must be in attendance (or you may be able to bring a notarized letter from one parent), as must the person renewing their passport.

We arrived at the Medford Post Office passport office at 11:10am. Two hours and 20 minutes later, we were done. That’s right two hours and 20 minutes later. And there were only nine people in line ahead of us when we arrived. When we got into line, the woman ahead of us told us that she had tried to renew her passport the day before. After waiting 90 minutes however, the office closed for lunch (even though their posted hours are 9:30-3:00), and she had to go back to work. A gentleman ahead of us waited two hours, was told he did not have the correct documentation, and was sent away.

We weren’t worried though. We knew we had all the documents necessary, and our paperwork was filled out correctly, so we figured when it finally got to be our turn, we would be in and out in less than 10 minutes. We figured wrong. Our 18-year-old had both her old passport (which had expired the previous month), and her birth certificate for identification. She did not have her driver’s license. Both passport office employees really wanted to see a driver’s license and were quite concerned as to whether we had enough legal documentation to prove her identity. Although her passport was legal proof, because it had expired they did not believe the main passport office would allow it. But right on the application, which we picked up in their office, it clearly stated in plain English that a passport, current or expired, was legal proof of identity. Despite this, our friendly Medford passport office employees fretted. They also hemmed and hawed. They even made some phone calls on this issue, and a few others. All this went on for nearly 30 minutes, until we finally said we would take our chances that the main office would issue our daughter a new passport with the documentation provided. And lo and behold, her new passport came in the mail yesterday.

Passport Renewal Advice:

  • Renew your passport well before you intend to travel. If your passport is set to expire, but you don’t have a new trip on the books, go ahead and renew your passport anyway. The last thing you need is to have to put a rush on your passport renewal process. The State Department says that current passport applications are being processed in 4-6 weeks. Emily and Sarah’s renewals took about three weeks.
  • If you are able to renew by mail, do so. Trust me on this one. I’m fairly certain that the main passport office is more knowledgeable than most regional offices. I’m 100% certain they’re more knowledgeable than our regional office.
  • Make certain to have all necessary documentation, whether you are mailing your renewal or waiting at a regional office. One person in line did not have the original copy of her marriage license, just a photocopy. She was turned away. Beginning in 2011, birth certificates used for passport application/renewal identification purposes must have the full name of both parents on the certificate. No exceptions.
  • Before mailing your application or heading to your regional passport office, read through ALL the information on the State Department passport website.