Passport Woes
September 26, 2013 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Can I finish my passport application in person? Why didn't they accept me?!

I did a dumb thing and made travel plans to get married in Jamaica before having my passport issued. I guess I wrongly assumed that this would go smoothly. Today I received a letter from the Department of State that says they need 5 more proofs of identity that are older than 5 years. The things they list that are acceptable are military IDs, union cards, medical records, yearbook photos, newspaper articles with my photo in them, etc. I do not think I can come up with 5 things! I do have my old yearbooks, but they say the name of the school and your name have to be shown--can I copy the cover and the page with my photo on it? How would that prove that the photo came from that specific book?!

My mom was able to scan and email a copy of my old, expired, lost passport from when I was a teenager (I turn 31 tomorrow). I have a medical insurance card. I did have a birth certificate, but they make you send in the original with the passport application. I have a driver's license and social security card.

Will I be able to bring all these items in person to the expedited passport office? Will they know that they already have my original birth certificate? Do I just have to send the additional copies in like they asked and then wait 90 more days?

Our travel plans are to leave for Jamaica on November 9, so time is of the essence now. Yes, I know this is my fault. Any advice you can give that will help me get my passport in a timely manner is appreciated. Thanks! And sorry for the jumbly mess; I got home from work, read the letter, started crying, and just want to fix this. This trip is a gift and it's already paid for and I feel so stupid!
posted by masquesoporfavor to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
Response by poster: GAH forgot to mention: I have already called the Passport Agency. They were not helpful and all they could do was resummarize the letter to me.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:42 PM on September 26, 2013

It might be helpful if you would say if this is to receive a United States passport, or one from another country.

A friend of mine was able to make an appointment at a US passport office, several hundred miles from their home, and bring the documents there in person. I think there was an extra fee.
posted by yohko at 4:55 PM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit, I put it in my tags but I guess that's not obvious enough. This for a US Passport. I have made an appt at the local office, but I will not have my original birth certificate on hand because the State Department already has it since you have to send it in with your application. I am concerned that this will affect my ability to apply in person. Thanks!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:57 PM on September 26, 2013

Something similar happened to me. I was also able to turn in old college transcripts, old tax returns, a vaccination record and some old school IDs and an expired passport. They mostly want to see enough of a legitimate paper trail on you to be sure you're are who you say you are. I mailed in copied of more than five things and it all worked out fine.
posted by brookeb at 5:05 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I suggest you go to the local office ASAP. I have always been able to make a same day or next day appointment when I have needed it. I don't think anyone here is going to be able to tell you what will happen when you go there re: your birth certificate, because it's probably going to depend on whether you have a nice person helping you, or a jerk. I'm afraid to say that I've done the passport center same day passport thing twice now and most of them are not nice people. Just go do it, though, on the soonest day you can, I suspect that will be the best way to get things sorted out.

Don't panic! Because they do same day passport processing at these passport centers, I am sure you will be able to make this happen, but do it in person at the passport center, not via mail with mailing your sensitive documents back and forth with government agencies. As you can see, that leads to problems.

Also, oftentimes you can use utility bills in your name as proofs of residence/identity - do you have some of those? I would just bring every possible thing you can imagine with you that could prove your identity - bills, cards, IDs, transcripts, diplomas. And of course bring all the correspondence you have had with the State Department, and be prepared to call them on the phone to confirm that they have your birth certificate. Ask them if they can fax a copy of it to the passport center.

That's all I've got for ideas, but the most important thing is to just do this ASAP. For your peace of mind, and to ensure you don't get tripped up in governmental red tape at the last minute. If you do it early, you WILL get it done.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:05 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Send or bring them info on your travel plans so they'll expedite the process. It will cost you a fee.
posted by brookeb at 5:06 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh and to be specific, the fee for expedited processing is usually $60, more if you do it via mail with overnight envelopes. So it's not cheap but it's nothing compared to a Jamaican vacation.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:07 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The old US passport will be very helpful. Get everything you can - ask your Mom to scan all sorts of stuff from when you were a minor. Things like old report cards, immunization records, etc.

If you live close to Passport Agency office, it's worth it to go directly to them.

If you are really concerned that you don't have enough secondary evidence, and you're able to get to a Passport Agency office, you can do the following:
Verify identity via an Identifying Witness:
An identifying witness is a person who can swear to your identity. He or she must:
Be present at the time of application (drag them to the Agency with you)
Have known you for at least 2 years
Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
Have valid ID
Fill out Form DS-71: Affidavit of Identifying Witness in the presence of a Passport Agent
NOTE: Form DS-71 is only available at your local Acceptance Facility or a Passport Agency.

You have more than enough time to get this squared away. If you live near a Passport Agency office, you can get a same-day or next day Passport made if you are less than 2 weeks from your departure date and can prove you have bought a ticket - bring your confirmed ticket printouts. You'll have to pay an extra expediting fee. Many of the offices won't let you use their services if you're more than 2 weeks from your departure date. They have an automated appointment system, but if you can't make an appointment that is within the 2 weeks you need, you can go without an appointment. You just have to stand in line and wait until all of the appointment-having people have been helped.

I know it seems crazy to wait until you're less than 2 weeks from your departure date, but going directly to the Passport Agency Office makes all the difference. Bring lots of secondary proof of identity options so that the agent can pick what they want. You also have time to order a new birth certificate if you're really worried about that part. The open application should have a record that the State Department has a copy of it already.

I've had to get expedited Passports for myself and family members a number of times and it's a bit of a bureaucratic pain (plan on spending the day at the Agency Office). If you really get up a tree, call your Congress Representative's office. They can be of enormous help if you are still having issues and have run out of time.
posted by quince at 5:09 PM on September 26, 2013

And (sorry to multi post) stop beating yourself up about this. This doesn't sound like it is your fault at all. I don't see anything that you have done wrong. You should have been able to get a passport, I have never heard of this "5 extra IDs" thing before. This is bureaucracy's fault, not your fault!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:09 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

ok, this is the most I've ever commented on a single question, but quince's excellent response reminded me: it can be easy to get another copy of your birth certificate, especially if you are able to show up in person at the relevant local office in the town where you were born. I just did this two days ago, walked in and paid $35 for a wallet size birth certificate copy and a full size birth certificate copy (just in case I lost one again in the future). Took all of 10 minutes, all I needed to show was my driver's license.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:12 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why didn't they accept me?!

I'm not entirely clear from your question, but did you try to apply by mail or in person? I think if you tried to apply through mail, that could be your problem:

You Must Apply in Person If:
You are applying for your first U.S. passport
You are under age 16
Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16
Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged
Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago
Your name has changed since your U.S. passport was issued and you are unable to legally document your name change

Please ignore me if you applied in person or this is otherwise inapplicable.
posted by snarfles at 5:19 PM on September 26, 2013

When is your appointment? Can you get all of your stuff together and go tomorrow/make an appointment for emergency processing (1-2 business days at a higher cost, appointment required for emergency processing)? I don't mean to add to your stress, but if the government shutdown happens--deadline Monday--which definitely has a probability greater than zero, passport offices will close/applications will not be processed except in special cases, e.g. medical travel. And depending on how long the shutdown lasts, there will almost certainly be a backlog of applications due to the shutdown. Good luck!
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 5:33 PM on September 26, 2013

masquesoporfavor: "My mom was able to scan and email a copy of my old, expired, lost passport from when I was a teenager (I turn 31 tomorrow)."

Because your timeframe is tight and, as mentioned earlier, there's a possibility of a government shutdown, I recommend doing things expeditiously. Here's what I helped a friend do:

Ask your mother to send you your expired passport to you via USPS Express Mail, both so that it gets there in a hurry and because they deliver Express Mail 7 days a week and are quite careful with those envelopes. An expired passport is secondary proof of U.S. citizenship and is quite useful at an appointment.

Assuming you were born in a U.S. state (specifically, not Puerto Rico because their birth certificates have special circumstances[1]): If you or your mother live in the same state where you were born, go to the agency that keeps vital records for your birth state and ask for a certified copy of your birth certificate. Most states have scanned in birth certificate records going back approximately 40 years so you can usually get a certified copy quickly at any county office as long as the person on the certificate or a parent or an authorized person with a notarized letter shows up in person. This is a perfectly acceptable, completely legal, exact substitute for your original birth certificate. You emphatically do not need the original paper; a copy certified by the agency that holds the record is suitable.

Take both of these with you to your appointment along with your driver's license. (A Social Security card probably won't help because, technically, those aren't "valid for identification.") I've never seen having all three of these result in a passport not being issued at an appointment.

1. If you were born in Puerto Rico, you need to read this page from the U.S. State Department because Puerto Rican birth certificates issued prior to 1 July 2010 aren't accepted for passports.
posted by fireoyster at 5:52 PM on September 26, 2013

My mom was able to scan and email a copy of my old, expired, lost passport from when I was a teenager

I read this as meaning that there is a copy of the passport, which OP's Mom has scanned and sent, but that the original passport has been lost. Not sure how helpful an unverifiable photocopy/scan of a document that's now lost will be - perhaps others can comment.
posted by Cheese Monster at 6:15 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi all, thanks for all the help! To clarify: the old passport that my mom scanned is indeed only a copy, not the actual thing. I was born in San Francisco and live in Atlanta, and my parents now reside in Vancouver, BC, so getting a second original would/will take time. My appointment at the office is for this coming Tuesday. I did originally apply in person, so I'm kind of irritated at the letter because I think the issue is my name (My mom remarried when I was 11 and I added my stepdad's name to my whole name legally, and the entire thing doesn't fit on documents which means my old passport has Firstname Lastname but my drivers license has Firstname Middlename Originallastname Newlastname. I did include both my birth certificate and legal name change documents with my app, which is why I'm so annoyed! I will just go up there on Tuesday with EVERYTHING I have, including yearbooks, my high school diploma, driver's license, ss card, medical insurance card, and any utility bills. I am fine paying the extra $60 to expedite, or whatever it costs, I just want to avoid a "where is your birth certificate, we can't do anything without it" scenario. Thank you again, very much!!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:18 PM on September 26, 2013

Agree on the nice factor. KILL WITH KINDNESS. DO NOT do not GET ANGRY OR FRUSTRATED. Be humble. Smile, comment on the weather, say thank you so much before they even start. The person on the other side of that glass is in control.

Also, take everything you can think of, even if it's not on their list. A record from your last dental visit. A health insurance statement. A library card, even if it's expired. Your arcade ID from Golfland. Seriously everything, especially if your picture is on it. It shows effort and sincerity on your part.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 1:41 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

nthing to make sure that you go to The Regional Passport Center, go in person, be there when it opens, bring all docs, including the whole yearbook :), and it will be fine.

Look at it this way...your trip is still far enough away that even if you had to go to the county clerk in sf for a new birth cert., which would never happen, you would still have time.
posted by skbw at 7:54 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

(you may not be aware that with a plane ticket in hand, you can get a passport the next day in atlanta, possibly even the same day. so you have plenty of time for plans b and c.)
posted by skbw at 7:58 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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