Options to expedite delivery of a US passport whilst abroad
June 18, 2018 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I have US citizenship and urgent need to travel to the US ASAP. Apparently my passport renewal application has been approved, but the local Embassy staff I have been able to speak to have been unhelpful in providing information or options beyond waiting the 1-3 weeks it will take for delivery.

My mother has reached the 'there is nothing more we can do for her' stage of cancer and has been put on palliative care; she is not expected to survive for long. I was not informed of the seriousness of her condition until last week, and began the renewal application process as soon as I found out. (I was perhaps stupidly honest during my interview and said I hadn't made travel plans yet, so it's possible there was an opportunity to expedite that way which I missed out on.) There is either nothing that can be done on this end or I have not been able to speak to anyone who is able to do anything. What I would like to find out is if there is anyone I can contact within the US to see if processing/delivery can be sped up so that I can make travel arrangements as quickly as possible.
posted by myotahapea to Law & Government (11 answers total)
I have crossed the US border on an expired US passport + current Canadian passport (I have dual citizenship). I got a lecture but was allowed in. I also brought my birth certificate with me.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:43 AM on June 18, 2018

Best answer: Tell the embassy staff it is a "life or death emergency". Have a signed letter from a hospital or medical official as evidence. Say you need an emergency passport.
posted by grouse at 7:56 AM on June 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: "Life or death emergency," as grouse says. If you are a U.S. citizen, as warriorqueen notes, they have to let you in eventually, passport or no. I can't imagine the screening would be a pleasant experience, especially if you are anything other than lily-white, but in an emergency it would be survivable. However: you might have difficulty booking a flight without a valid passport, as the U.S. makes the airline eat the cost of a return flight if a passenger is inadmissible.

The local Embassy is supposed to be able to handle this, so you need to escalate past whatever lazy desk jockey took your call the first time. Better yet, if possible, I would actually go to the embassy. Make sure you have all of these items that apply, as that is what they require for a lost/stolen passport to be replaced on an emergency basis, so they almost certainly will require them in this situation. They are supposed to be able to produce replacement passports in one business day in life-or-death emergencies. They should be able to help you.
posted by praemunire at 8:08 AM on June 18, 2018

The US Border Police cannot keep a US citizen out of the US. They can detain you while they decide whether you're a citizen or not, but they can't just say "no passport? no entry." Go with the best documentation you can get, explain your story, expect to wait, but eventually be let in.
posted by ubiquity at 8:28 AM on June 18, 2018

Yeah, but a commercial airline won't let you board a flight to the U.S. without a valid travel document.
posted by grouse at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

A US Embassy can make a new passport on site in minutes. I know the London Embassy did this for me years ago.
posted by w0mbat at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2018

Have you physically gone to the embassy and asked to speak to someone or has this all been over the phone? Going there in person and explaining your situation might help.
posted by Julnyes at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2018

Yes, if possible go to the embassy. Be very humble and polite and willing to wait there for as long as you need to. (If you don't have an appointment and they tell you you need one, tell them you can wait until everyone else has gone through.) That worked for me once.

If it doesn't work, this might be a long shot but see if you or your family can call the office of their senator or representative. I've heard of cases where they helped expedite things as part of their constituent services.
posted by trig at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding everyone who suggests you go to the Embassy. Go prepared with the DS-11 application completed via the form filler on the website*, a passport photo in hand, 2 personal checks (or, if necessary, a cashier's check or money order for $170), whatever proof of U.S. citizenship you have that wasn't submitted with your renewal form, and a To-Whom-It-May concern letter regarding why you need to travel. A letter on hospital letterhead (or from a hospital email account) would be fine, but just having a plane ticket in hand for ASAP would be ideal. If you don't have another proof of your U.S. citizenship you may need to cut another check for the $150 file search fee.

You can also call 1-877-487-2778 for advice. The automated appointment scheduling is 24/7, but you can get a real person to pick up during EST business hours. That's soon, like in a couple hours from now.

* Don't fill out the DS-11 by hand, be sure you use the form filler. Having the information in the system already is partially how the Embassy/Consulate can process your application and issue you a new passport so quickly.
posted by carsonb at 12:29 AM on June 19, 2018

Response by poster: Many thanks for all the responses. After worrying through the weekend, then calling and emailing and getting nowhere I found myself in a bit of a panic, imagining the worst-case scenario of my mother passing whilst I was sat here waiting for bureaucracy to grind along ...

I was able to get a letter (on Illinois Cancer Specialists letterhead) from one of the doctors handling the treatment drafted and signed the same day I contacted them. Their office was able to email this letter directly to American Citizen Services at the Embassy in-country, which got their attention and expedited the procedure.

As the passport renewal had already been approved* and the issue was obtaining the document quickly, the Embassy offered me collection of my new passport within 72 hours or an emergency passport tomorrow. The emergency passport incurs no additional cost.

As praemunire suggested, much of the problem seems to have resulted from the unhelpful ACS staffers I was communicating with yesterday, who were unwilling to offer any suggestions or expediency options or anyone else to speak to, simply reiterating a wait of 1-3 weeks for an email informing me of the arrival of the new passport, despite my communicating the urgency of the situation.

*Tip if anyone searches this question in the future: much like 8.5x11 vs. A4 paper, the US requires different sized photos than Europe. I had several photos in my possession but had to have them re-taken as US documents require a larger size.

(Had this not worked I would have considered travelling on an expired US passport I still have along with my foreign passport, but the names don't match, and I'd imagine this would be a bridge too far for Customs/Immigration, who -- despite my lily-white appearance -- have more than once given me a hard time on re-entry in the past for travelling too much/staying abroad too long/using my foreign passport abroad/having 'suspicious' visas (Syria, Egypt) in my passport. I can't imagine this situation has improved in Trump USA.)
posted by myotahapea at 5:58 AM on June 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

My passport was stolen in Madrid over a decade ago. The next morning I was scheduled to fly home. The US embassy had me fill out some forms, show some ID, took my picture, and issued a new passport within an hour.

(Note: An American passport issued in Madrid seems to confuse some TSA agents.)
posted by caryatid at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2018

« Older What does the crosshatch arrow mean in macOS?   |   What are some articles I should download before I... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.