Desperately in Need of Passport Help
June 29, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

My family has a flight at 6:30 tomorrow morning to Montreal. I realized a couple hours ago that my sixteen-year-old daughter's passport is over a year expired. Any advice for me on what to do with this situation? We are flying from Louisville, via Chicago.

Because it is a Sunday, I haven't been able to talk to a person asking what to do. I read online that one can go to a regional passport office in person and try to get it expedited. However I'm unclear if the passport offices here are even able to do that (information seemed contradictory), and if they are, they don't open until long after our flight leaves.

My husband is very optimistic and says "Of course they'll let us go! She's a minor, traveling with both her parents, both holding valid passports. And we're just going to Canada!" I'm less optimistic.

Should we call attention to this issue in Louisville, or should we wait until we get to Chicago? It was my understanding that we will have our documents checked in order to board the departing international flight. Is there a chance that they will just wave us by, or are we only going to end up renting a car in Chicago to drive us back to Louisville? If by some miracle we are allowed to board and fly to Montreal, will we be able to get back into the US on the same passport?

The reason for the trip is my daughter is supposed to compete at the North American Nationals of Irish Dance. She is scheduled to compete Wednesday morning. I knew travel to Canada required a passport, and we all three have them. What I didn't realize was that the children's version only lasts five years. I feel absolutely ill about this. She has worked so hard and is so excited to compete at her first Nationals, and now this. Any advice or personal experience is greatly appreciated.
posted by chaoticgood to Travel & Transportation (34 answers total)
I don't think they would let her fly, but could you get off in Chicago, go get an expedited passport, and then reschedule the flight to Montreal? Or, if you had enough time, you could drive from Chicago (or fly somewhere closer to Montreal on the US side and drive from there), because I think she could cross by land with a birth certificate.
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't need a passport to enter Canada by land if you are a US Citizen, as long as you have photo ID and proof of citizenship. It's a long drive, but you could rent a car and drive there.
posted by Jairus at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure she'd be allowed to board in Louisville to be honest, I'm pretty sure they'll check your passports when you check in. My feeling is your best bet is to call the airline and try and either rebook your flight to Montreal for late tomorrow (to use the long layover to get to the passport office; try to get them to flag your reservation to let you get her to Chicago). Failing that, rebook entirely for Tuesday.

However I'm unclear if the passport offices here are even able to do that (information seemed contradictory), and if they are, they don't open until long after our flight leaves.

You can definitely get a same-day passport in Chicago. Make sure you have all the paperwork with you, obviously. I assume you can at whatever regional office is closer to you.
posted by hoyland at 12:59 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

This seems pretty clear, she needs a valid passport.

If she's U16 and you have we birth certificate, Can you change your flights to Detroit, Buffalo, Boston or Portland etc, rent a car and drive across?
posted by chrispy108 at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Minor children 15 and under travelling by land or by sea may enter Canada with a valid passport or their U.S. or Canadian birth certificate."

Can you switch your flight to Burlington VT or Albany and drive?
posted by mercredi at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Google claims that the driving distance between Louisville and Montreal is about 14 hours. Plenty of time to get there before Wednesday.
posted by alex1965 at 1:01 PM on June 29, 2014

It looks like she'd effectively need a passport (card or book) to cross by land. However, if that's an option, I think Burlington, VT is the closest US airport to Montreal.
posted by hoyland at 1:01 PM on June 29, 2014

The Canadian CBSA website is clear that you don't need a passport to enter by land as a US citizen, although they recommend it.
posted by Jairus at 1:03 PM on June 29, 2014

On closer reading, I see she's not a minor, but birth certificate and photo ID should still work, if entering by land.

Also, strictly speaking, you may be able to enter Canada by air with those documents, but the airline policy may not allow them to accept them
posted by mercredi at 1:04 PM on June 29, 2014

I believe you'd need a passport to get back into the US if you're 16 or over. Entering Canada without one probably isn't a great idea, even if you can do it.
posted by hoyland at 1:06 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's very likely, but not absolutely certain, she'd get across a land border with just her birth certificate and expired passport at 16.

The problem with flying is that the airline itself gets fined if it accepts someone as a passenger that then gets denied entry, plus they have to take them home again, so airlines have greater incentive to be absolutely letter-of-the-law than border agents, who have leeway in what they will and won't allow.

Since she doesn't compete until Wednesday, I'd say your best options are these:

1. Talk to your airline about rescheduling your flights, so that you fly to Chicago tomorrow as scheduled, but don't fly to Montreal until late at night or (preferably) the next day. Go to Chicago and get her an expedited Passport renewal at the Passport office there.

2. Talk to your airline about redirecting your flights to somewhere in Maine / NY that is close to the Canadian border and plan to rent a car and drive across a land border.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Canadian/U.S. citizen here who travels back and forth a lot. Nthing getting off in Chicago and getting an expedited passport. They're not lenient at the border anymore, even by land, and the above rule about birth certificates says "15 and under." If she's 16, they likely won't bend the rules. She has until Wednesday, at the latest, which is good breathing room. (Also, customs in Quebec are supposedly a nightmare these days).

In order to help that process along, you'll probably want to schedule an appointment at the Chicago passport office. You can do it online. Anticipate long lines and grumpy passport agents. You might want a strong coffee or three to keep you going.
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Nth getting a passport in Chicago, but get online and make an appointment ASAP. I've done this in San Francisco, and a good sense of humor makes it so much easier.

Have her passport photos ready, something you can take care of today or early tomorrow. Also, her expired passport and any other documentation you need. As I recall, processing a minor's passport needs both custodial parents involved.

I travel between the US and Canada quite frequently and things have become much stricter over the recent years, in my experience traveling back to the US from Canada more so than going into Canada.

Good luck to your daughter, and to you!
posted by mamabear at 1:33 PM on June 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another option might be getting her and enhanced driver's license or enhanced non-driver ID. It's an ID issued by the state DMV equivalent that verifies one's identity as a US citizen.

I'd reschedule your flights and go to the passport office tomorrow AM (before it opens). If they are useless, try to get an enhanced driver's license or non-driver ID card. It should suffice to cross the border by land. You can try to get a new passport for her in Canada at a US consulate there to make it easier for you to get back in to the US. I've gotten a new passport at a consulate in a different country - it took less than 24 hours, though I think it was only good for 90 days.

I think you should be able to get her passport renewed quickly. It's a straightforward process and I'm sure it's a situation the passport office has dealt with countless times. But the enhanced driver's license or non-driver ID might be a good plan B.
posted by kat518 at 1:42 PM on June 29, 2014

I recently had to get an expedited passport for travel to Canada. I was able to go into the office with everything required for my passport and my application and have it turned around that day when I provided proof of impending flight. I would reschedule the flight and get to a passport office right when they open.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 1:47 PM on June 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

You have two issues: getting into Canada and returning home to the US.

You will be allowed into Canada with a US birth certificate. However, you are not getting back into the US without a valid passport, enhanced ID or passport card (land cross). Kentucky is not producing enhanced IDs so that's not going to work.

Deal with this at the passport office in Chicago.
posted by 26.2 at 1:59 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can usually cross into Canada by land with a birth certificate and photo ID, it is one of those rules that is enforced at the discretion of the border agent. The United States cannot refuse entry to a citizen of the United States, but they can make it annoying. Issuing agencies, such as the passport office in San Francisco, will give you a passport the same day you apply for it...don't know which other offices offer this service, unfortunately.
posted by maleru at 2:04 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

maleru is correct - you'll get back in eventually, but based on experiences crossing into the US from Mexico it can be an epic PITA. Crossing from Mexico, there seems to be a lot of variation in how missing/expired paperwork is handled. It might be as simple as getting a stinkeye and a quick pass from the agent or it might be hours.

I would have zero worries about crossing into Canada, but much more stress about the missing paperwork on the return.
posted by 26.2 at 2:16 PM on June 29, 2014

For entry to Canada, as noted above, the Canada Border Services Agency just says you need to have proof of US citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, a U.S. Permanent Resident Card, or a Certificate of Indian Status along with photo identification. I agree with the above posters that you should be fine to enter Canada by land, but that you might run into issues with airline policies requiring passports (largely because they're required to re-enter the country).

There is also a US Consulate in Montreal. They might also do same-day or quick-turnaround passport services, but you need an appointment. Services page here.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:27 PM on June 29, 2014

HAVE BOTH PARENTS PRESENT (with your passports) when applying for her new passport, otherwise they can't help you.

Yes, I know this the hard way.
posted by kinetic at 2:28 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you decide that one with drive and one will fly, be sure to have a notarized letter of permission, so they know it isn't with the passport, it's much easier to all be together.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:44 PM on June 29, 2014

Get a passport ASAP, in Chicago, at the Chicago Passport Agency. I've done this in NYC, and gotten a passport the next day. Those agencies in large cities are the only places that can renew passports same-day.

Pro-tip- the Yelp reviews for government offices / consulates are often times the best way to know what exactly what to do. Here's the Yelp page for the Chicago Passport Agency. Looks like you have to make an appointment, and that if you're there early (7am) you can get it same day in the afternoon, often as early as 1pm.

Option 1) Fly to Chicago, get passport, stay in Chicago, fly Monday

Since you'll probably only get to the Chicago airport by 8:30am (assuming a 1.5hr SDF->ORD flight with .5hr contingency), and it'll take you an hour to get to where the passport agency is, you'd get to the agency by 10am, and it looks like you'd get the passport the next day if so. You'd stay in Chicago for Sunday, and leave on Monday evening on rescheduled flights, just to be safe. The return flight would be normal.

Option 2) Drive to Chicago from Louisville overnight, get passport, fly Sunday evening.

If you drive overnight tonight (ugh), you can get in line at the agency at 7am. All of the yelp reviews indicate that you can get the passport in the afternoon (1pm?), and take a Chicago -> Montreal flight Sunday afternoon/evening. Cancel your Louisville->Chicago flights both ways, and drive back from Chicago on your way back.

As a whole, Option 2 seems much more reliable and with fewer variables to go wrong - if you leave early, you can control what time you get there; if you rent a car from Louisville, use it to get around Chicago and to the passport agency, and return it at the O'Hare airport, you won't have to worry about leaving your personal car around while you're in Canada.
posted by suedehead at 2:50 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cancel your Louisville->Chicago flights both ways, and drive back from Chicago on your way back.

If you decide you want to do that, make sure you talk to the airline and see if you can cancel only part of your flight itinerary. I know that just skipping the first leg of a connecting flight automatically cancels your reservations for all remaining legs of the flight; I don't know how flexible airlines are about letting you cancel legs with advance notice, though.
posted by jaguar at 5:56 PM on June 29, 2014

Response by poster: OP here. Thanks for the advice, everyone! We got our flight from Chicago to Montreal rescheduled. Got the forms printed and a photo made. The problem is I called the automated appointment scheduling number and the only appointment they had was 7th July. Do you think we should just show up without an appointment and plead our case, schedule the appointment for the 7th and hope they let us in tomorrow, other options? Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be any direct way of calling the office first thing tomorrow when we get to Chicago.
posted by chaoticgood at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2014

We recently had a passport issue and a friend suggested we call our Assemblywoman. We did so and it was amazing -- they solved the issue pretty much immediately. Maybe first thing tomorrow morning you could call your representative's office, explain that your daughter will be competing etc., and see if they can make things happen for you. Good Luck.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:37 PM on June 29, 2014

Do you think we should just show up without an appointment and plead our case, schedule the appointment for the 7th and hope they let us in tomorrow, other options?

Yes, definitely, provided that you show up early enough, and bring solid proof of your plane ticket the next day, as well as all other documentation and the online forms, etc. I did this in New York, at least, and they took pity on me. (Thank you, NYC Passport Agency!)
posted by suedehead at 7:05 PM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, just show up. I've done a just-show-up and received a same day passport. You just have to wait longer and they'll do a same day if needed. Both parents must be present. No food or phone calls once you're in the actual office. Good luck!
posted by quince at 8:07 PM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing just show up. Call your assemblyman, but it shouldn't be necessary to have them intervene.
posted by 8603 at 5:04 AM on June 30, 2014

But the enhanced driver's license or non-driver ID might be a good plan B.
Kentucky does not offer EDL and in states that do, it is usually a 4-6 week wait to get the license.
posted by soelo at 7:46 AM on June 30, 2014

Got the forms printed and a photo made
Don't forget a certified copy of her Birth Certificate, too.

Bring cash to the Passport Office, I think they even required exact change when I was there in 2007. You will not be able to eat, drink or use a cell phone once you are in line. I submitted my app in the morning and had to return around 1pm and wait some more, but I did leave with a passport in my hand. Good Luck.
posted by soelo at 7:52 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Show up WICKED early without an appointment. We've done this in DC twice - they hand out a certain number of "walk-in" numbers each day, so we were there early to get one of those (maybe in line by 6:30, there when the doors open). They had passports ready the same day by 2PM.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2014

Let us know how it goes!
posted by mercredi at 5:13 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi you all, it's been a crazy couple days. We got into O'Hare around 7am, hopped in a cab and got to the Chicago Regional Passport Authority right around the time they opened. Long lines, a couple cranky guards (they take security far more seriously than TSA), but lots of helpful, understanding people. It helped to see dozens of folks in more or less our exact situation. We walked out with a valid passport just after two in the afternoon. That gave us plenty of time to get back to the airport to go through security and catch our 6:40 flight to Montreal.

Except it was one of more than 450 flights canceled due to a series of severe storms that hit Chicago. Our flight was canceled at 11pm after we had sat in a hot, nonmoving plane for over two hours. United did basically nothing to help, and we were looking at leaving Chicago at 1:30pm and getting into Montreal at 7:30pm the next day. Cue freak out at the prospect of spending another day waiting around. I asked at the Air Canada counter if they could possibly help us get there sooner, and, due to divine intervention or my visible sad desperation, they got us on a flight that left at 2:30am. We arrived in Montreal this morning without our luggage, but we made sure to carry-on her solo dress and shoes so she's set to compete first thing in the morning.

Thanks to everyone for the advice and info. Without the specifics about procedure at the passport authority we probably would not have sailed through with the ease that we did...or even attempted it! Also tons of good fortune--we were already going to be at the only place in the region that could do a same-day passport and our flight from Louisville was early enough to make it all possible. Now if I can just get our baggage. I've been wearing the same skirt and shirt for over forty hours. It was Canada Day here and very few stores were open. Loving Montreal so far though!
posted by chaoticgood at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

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