Monday, October 10, 2011

Adventures on the way to getting passports

The key to travel overseas
Ah, passports.  Those little blue booklets that enable you to cross borders, travel to distant places, become a source for potential ID theft (for those fancy, RFID tags).  Since we're planning on travelling overseas at the end of the year, we decided that we have to renew our children's passports.

For those that don't know, the renewal process for an adult passport is ridiculously easy.  Fill out a form, online if you want and print it, write a check, put your old passport, completed form, and filled check in an envelope, and mail it.  About five weeks later, a brand new document that makes you feel like Jason Bourne or James Bond arrives in the mail.  That's it.  No hassles, no pain.

For children, however, it is an entirely new ball game.  I suppose since it is harder to prove who they are, the requirements are a bit more complicated.  You need a completed form, a check, and the previous passport.  So far so good.  You also need, I discovered to my chagrin, their birth certificate, and the presence of both parents (or a notarized form signed by the missing parent).

So this is how a recent visit to the post office went.  I rounded up the children, who had a short school day, which was immensely helpful, since the post offices around our area that do passports only have the special office open until 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday.  We grabbed a quick lunch, and drove down to the post office, forms and checkbook in tow.  As I drove out the gate, I realized I forgot their old passports, and drove back.  Off we went again.

Waited in line for about 5 minutes, while the lady in front finished her business.  I step up to the counter, and the kindly gentleman informs me that I needed to bring the birth certificates, and that the mother had to be present.  The form had been somewhat ambiguous as to the birth certificate, and I had been fairly sure that both parents had to be present, but my wife had disagreed.  Fine, it was only 2:55 pm, I could make it home and back within 20 minutes.  On the way home, called the wife and asked her where she was and if she could meet us at the post office.  My wife and I also had an engagement at 3:30 pm, which we had completely forgotten about, so we had to reschedule that to 4:30 pm.

Parked the car, run into the house, found the birth certificates.  Kids are in the car, getting impatient.  Back in the car, we drive out.  As I drive past an intersection, I see my wife on the other side, and we caravan down to the post office.  Walk in with minutes to spare, and hand the birth certificates triumphantly.  The man at the office nods happily, and asks to see our driver's licenses.  He remarks that I got the wife over rather quickly, and I smile.  Suddenly he frowns a bit.  Apologetically he says that our licenses were obtained less than six months ago.  We inform him that we have recently moved from California.  He then proceeds to lament that for licenses that are newer than six months, we need alternate methods of identification, more precisely, passports, if we had them.  Of course they were back in the house.  And the fact that we had to provide passports to receive said driver's licenses was immaterial.

We really needed the passports for the children, and there might not have been another opportunity to get it done in the near future, so I leave the wife and children there and race back home.  Dig around, find the passports, and drive back down again.  It is late now, but the man had kindly waited.  Of course, now there was someone else in front of us, and she also had problems, and she just went on and on.  Minutes were ticking, and we would be late for our next thing.  Nonetheless, after multiple trips back and forth, at least we got the paperwork done for the children.  Hopefully there is nothing wrong with the forms...or it there?

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