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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Passport Day In the USA

Here at Paper Doll Central, we may surround ourselves with solutions to paper clutter, but we dream about traveling around the world, particularly to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. (Yes, I do intend to travel alphabetically. Doesn't everyone?)

One of the travel-related VIP (Very Important Paper) topics we've covered involves passports. For example, we've discussed them in:

"May We See Your Papers?": Passport Cards and Trusted Travelers
"May We See Your Papers?" Redux: Enhanced Driver's Licenses

We've also talked about passports in light of specific topics, like,
A Rose By Any Other Name: Paper Doll Straightens Out Name Change Paperwork, designed to help those who have married, divorced or otherwise had reason to change their names, properly update their passports.

Perhaps you've never acquired a passport? You're not alone. According to the office of Travel and Tourism Industries, only 30% of Americans hold passports compared to 60% of Canadians, 60% of Europeans and 75% of those in the United Kingdom. This percentage is actually up from prior years, as entrance into Canada, Mexico and other countries, which prior to 2009 did not require passports, now does. As I've written previously, back when Paper Doll was a girl, going back and forth between Canada and the U.S. was barely more difficult than crossing the threshold of a house; since the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, a passport is now required.

I've noticed that many of my clients procrastinate when it comes to applying for passports. It's not that they don't want to spend the money -- although rates have risen recently. They understand that amortized over the course of the ten years one holds a passport, the cost is pretty minimal. And it's not that they can't find the essential documentation they'll need to provide (because, of course, we've gotten them so organized that these documents are at their fingertips).

No, the biggest complication seems to be finding time to get everything accomplished, from getting passport photos taken to selecting, photocopying and submitting first-time documentation. During the week, most workers are stuck at work, or at least can't take the time to get to a passport office. In addition, minors under 16 must now apply in person with both of their parents (barring specific exceptions -- see below), requiring not only that individuals carve out time, but that family members find coordinated time to visit passport offices.

Next month, however, provides the perfect opportunity for families to simultaneously catch up with one another and conquer their passport tasks...on a Saturday, when offices are usually closed. That's because next month, for the third year in a row, there will be:

Passport Day in the USA on Saturday, September 17, 2011.

On this date only, passport applicants can visit any of the 24 regional passport agency offices on a Saturday and without an appointment. In addition to the regional passport agency offices being opened on a day they'd normally be closed, many of the 8,000 Passport Acceptance Facilities will be open and/or have expanded hours, and will also not require appointments.

On Passport Day, applicants will be able to apply for either of two passport processing methods:

1) Standard passport processing, which is currently taking approximately 4-6 weeks to complete, requires no extra processing fees in excess of the standard application fees associated with applying for a new passport book for an adult or child, a passport card, or a combination passport book and card for an adult or minor.

2) Expedited processing takes just 2-3 weeks, but there's an additional $60 processing fee tacked on. (Why do you think Paper Doll is always encouraging you to schedule important tasks well in advance?)

Passport Day in the USA isn't just an appointment-free day to stand in line for passports that probably should have applied for eons ago. If it were, it would at least be more convenient to accomplish on a Saturday. But, to make things a little more pleasant for adults and kids, the regional passport agencies and many of the passport acceptance facilities (like your local post office) will be sponsoring fun events to coincide with Passport Day. Activities at prior Passport Day events have varied by location, but have included catered snacks, entertainment for children and other diversions. As Saturday, September 17, 2011 gets closer, check back with the official Passport Day site to find events and locations in your area.

Of course, not everyone has to apply in person. If you're just renewing a passport that was issued within the last 15 years (and when you were at least 16 years of age) and your old one is in fairly decent shape, you can renew by mail. However, if any of the following apply to you:
  • You're applying for a U.S. passport for the first time
  • You changed your name since your last passport was submitted, but are unable to legally document the name change
  • You're under age 16
  • You previously had a passport but:
    • it was lost, stolen or damaged
    • it was issued more than 15 years ago
    • you were under age 16 when it was issued
then you'll need to apply for a passport in person. For adults, that means you'll need to:

1) Fill out a Form DS-11, but don't sign it until instructed to do so.

2) Submit Form DS-11 in person at a Regional Passport Agency or Passport Acceptance Facility. (If you're not attending Passport Day, be sure to make to make an appointment if one is required at your preferred location.)

3) Submit evidence of citizenship. (Your documents will be returned to you with your shiny new passport.) Be prepared to present one of the following to prove you really are an American:

--Previously issued, undamaged passport
--Certified birth certificate (i.e., bearing a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, the registrar's signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office, which must be within 1 year of birth)
--Consular Report of Birth Abroad
--Naturalization certificate
--Certificate of Citizenship

If you can't provide any primary evidence of U.S. citizenship -- let's say your parents (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) decided to move underground during the Cuban Missile Crisis before you were born and your birth wasn't exactly documented -- you can submit secondary evidence of your citizenship.

(Just make sure to apply more than six weeks before you and your bride, Alicia Silverstone, plan to leave on your honeymoon.)

4) Present identification (e.g., any one of the following to prove you are who you claim to be):

--Previously issued undamaged passport
--Naturalization certificate
--Valid driver's license*
--Current (city, state or federal) Government ID
--Current U.S. military ID

*If you submit your application and evidence at a Passport Acceptance Facility like a post office (instead of at a regional passport agency) and your proof of identification is an out-of-state driver's license, you'll need to provide a second form of identification bearing your photo, full name, date of birth and the document's date of issuance.

5) Submit a photocopy of whatever identification you presented in step #4. (Just to be clear, you'll give the representative your actual proof of citizenship, which will be returned later; however, you'll just show your actual proof of identification and then provide a photocopy, which will not be returned.)

6) Pay the fee(s) associated with your application.

7) Provide two identical passport photos, in accordance with photo requirements, but do not attach them to the DS-11.

Speaking of which, peek at some early 20th century passport photos to see why you might want to avail yourself of some good advice regarding how to look great in yours. After all, you don't want to end up looking like the Unsinkable Molly Brown (a sturdy traveler, but one with less than stellar luck at traveling).

For those under 16, steps #1-3 are identical to those above. However, as noted previously, the minor and both parents (or guardians) must appear when submitting documentation. In addition, you must:

Submit evidence of the relationship between parents/guardians and the minor, which can be:

--Minor's certified U.S. birth certificate with both parents' names*
--Minor's certified Foreign Birth Certificate with both parents' names*
--Minor's Report of Birth Abroad with both parents' names*
--Adoption Decree listing adoptive parents' names
--Court order establishing custody or guardianship of the minor

*As of April 1, 2011, there's a new requirement for first-time applicants. The full names of both parents of an applicant must be listed on the certified U.S. birth certificate. For most people, this is not a problem, but in the cases of single mothers who did not list fathers on their children's birth certificates or adoptees whose birth parents wished to remain anonymous, there are a few more hoops through which parents must jump.

A State Department representative notes that in such situations a passport applicant may submit a certified copy of a birth certificate listing the complete name of the registering parent and that two adoptive parents can amend their child's birth certificate to reflect both of their complete names. In the latter situation, a certified copy of a child's original birth certificate will be accepted as long as it's submitted with a certified copy of the adoption decree indicating the name of the child and the adoptive parents.

Present identification of the parents/guardians, as if they were the ones applying for a passport.

Submit a photocopy of the identification of the parents/guardians.

Provide parental consent. Although both parents must, in general, be present to provide consent, the State Department has outlined possible scenarios in which only one parent may be present while providing the other parent's signed, notarized Statement of Consent (Form DS 3053).

Whether you take advantage of Passport Day in the USA 2011, apply by appointment during the week, renew your passport by mail or already have your flying-south-for-the-
winter ducks in a row, may you travel often, safely and well. Bon voyage!

posted on: 8/9/2011 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Janet Barclay on 8/9/2011 12:38:37 PM:

I may not be eligible for a US passport, but thank you for the reference to "Blast from the Past" - a great movie that I should probably watch again.

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 8/9/2011 12:46:02 PM:

Janet, as one of my dear Canadian colleagues and readers, may I say that if you decide to write about this issue from the Canadian perspective, I'd be pleased to send my readers in your direction. And yes, Blast From the Past is an under-appreciated little gem.

by Gillian Villeneuve on 8/14/2011 9:30:46 PM:

What a cool idea! And I am another reader, not eligible for a US passport.

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 8/14/2011 11:54:04 PM:

Thanks for posting, Gillian. If you're, by chance, another Canadian reader, perhaps this will convince Janet (or Jackie, or another of my Canadian colleagues) to create a post for all my readers are lucky enough to have access to Coffee Crisp!

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

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