Should I trust passport expediting services?
May 1, 2007 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Are passport expediting services legit?

I'll be traveling in less then a month, and, like a total dumbass, I've put off getting my passport. According to the USPS website, you can get your passport "expedited" for a $60 fee, and receive the document in a couple weeks. However, I found out today that they have a tremendous backlog, and expedited passports are now taking closer to 4 weeks. This is obviously cutting it a bit too close for comfort.

So, I do a google on US passports and all of these passport expediting services come up. Are these services legit? They promise to obtain a passport within days or weeks. This place is even a member of the Better Business Bureau.

The whole thing seems legit, but still, I wonder....
posted by Afroblanco to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Did you try one of these agencies? There is one in New York. Also, one of the things my wife did when she worked as a congressional staffer many moons ago was to expedite passports for constituents, so that is another option. If you have nearly a month, it can be done, but don't wait. Also, if it does not get delivered when promised, raise a polite fuss because they can get lost in the mail; my sister's expedited passport got lost in the mail last year and she ended up having to jump through a bunch of hoops and make a lot of unplanned flights to appear in person so she could get one in about 72 hours. It was a royal pain, but since she needed it for business travel, her company picked up the tab and assisted her with the bureaucracy.
posted by TedW at 6:05 PM on May 1, 2007

Depending on where you live see if a regional passport agency is an option. There are a decent amount of them scattered throughout the US and can usually have your passport ready in about 2 weeks. The only thing you have to do is suffer through a few dozen other travelers in the same predicament as yourself.

You can find the official website here: .
posted by Gaiwan at 6:05 PM on May 1, 2007

I got my passport expedited about a month ago, and it did not take 4 weeks. More like 3.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:06 PM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes. So much so that any large company uses them, because a few hundred bucks is nothing when an employee without a valid passport needs to travel ASAP.
posted by smackfu at 6:06 PM on May 1, 2007

My employer has paid me to use a passport expediting service three times (once for a passport, twice for visas).

I don't remember the exact time frame, but it was about a week. I can't remember the name of the service but I think they might have put a little sticker on the inside cover of my passport; I can look it up if needed.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:08 PM on May 1, 2007

Yes, but you live in NY so you can just go yourself, get your passport in one day and save the bucks. If you have the bucks, then those services are great. Otherwise, make the appointment and get your same day passport. You will need to bring proof of your impending trip, something like within six weeks. Their website has all the details.
posted by caddis at 6:23 PM on May 1, 2007

I work for a Fortune 5 company here in the U.S., and we use CIBT for expediting passports and visas. It isn't necessarily cheap, but it is a lifesaver. I let my passport expire, and they were able to renew my passport (by standing in as my proxy) at the Chicago Passport Office in 48 hours. I was amazed that within 2 days, I had a brand new passport in my hands.
posted by tdabbott at 6:23 PM on May 1, 2007

Hmmm, two weeks, not six. I would go with the service.
posted by caddis at 6:24 PM on May 1, 2007

Here in Canada, it is usually possible to go to the passport office and pay a fee for emergency service and get one in a day or two. I would expect that whatever these companies do, it's possible to do it for yourself (though perhaps it requires showing up in person someplace that is hard for you to get to)
posted by winston at 6:25 PM on May 1, 2007

Thanks, tdabbott. CIBT is the company we go through as well. Not cheap, but very fast.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:34 PM on May 1, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, it looks like the passport agency won't work since I'll be traveling in 4 weeks and not 2.

Since it's sounding like passport expediting services are legit, does anyone have one they would recommend?
posted by Afroblanco at 6:36 PM on May 1, 2007

I would recommend it; the current backlog is no joke. My company uses an expediter for passports and visas and they've never let us down.

IF you happen to be within driving distance of one of the regional passport offices, you could call them about a same-day service, but I've heard it's pretty horrible and you're at their mercy if they don't get you processed that day.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:37 PM on May 1, 2007

I got mine in six days by making an appointment at my local Passport office and providing my plane ticket dated for the next week. Same cost as the expediting services but faster. In my research I saw nothing about same-day service, unless you're renewing.
posted by bizwank at 6:57 PM on May 1, 2007

2 weeks ago I went to Paris and ran into this.

Here's my experience. 4 to 5 weeks before travelling I applied for an expedited passport. 5 days before I was to leave I still did not have the passport nor was it in their system.

I also called and tried to make an appointment for a local office which can only be done via an automated system which craps out if their are no available slots (the customer service reps I talked to could NOT make an appt and were generally useless). So now I had 4 days to get a passport and couldn't get an appointment at the regional office (I live in SF fortunately so I'm local to one of the 13 offices). This was killing me so I went down to the local office. Despite saying these are "appointment only" you can show up at the SF office at least and they will get you in and turn around a passport in 24 hours. WAITING WILL TAKE ALL DAY. I also had to pay the expedited fee for my passport again. (I'm supposed to get my original fee back at some point)

What I did find out was that the expediting services have NO secret backdoor to the passport office. There were agents from some of these services waiting in line with everyone else. Security at the front of the agency would let these people jump the line a bit but again they have no secret "in".

My suggestion is to right now apply for an expedited passport via normal methods of the passport office (if this works out as it should you're out no additional monies). Then ASAP make an appointment with the regional office (if convenient) for a couple of days before you leave. This is your backup option. You may have to pay twice if you don't get the original expedited passport.

I'd may suggest contacting one of these services just to get the details if you're not close to a regional office.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:02 PM on May 1, 2007

Best answer: Earlier this year, my cousin (who is a dumbass) put in her daughter's passport application for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Tokyo four weeks before the flight. When they inevitably ran out of time, these guys got a passport to the middle of the Ozarks in forty-eight hours. They charged through the nose, of course, but they did it.
posted by ormondsacker at 7:31 PM on May 1, 2007

I just went through this process to obtain 4 passports in an "oh shit, I waited too long" emergency fashion. Fortunately, there are 13 regional passport agencies -- New York has one -- whose sole mission, currently, is to handle this passport backlog. The catch is you cannot even get an appointment unless you can prove you're traveling in 14 days or less.

So here's the process:

Exactly 14 days prior to your departure date, you need to call the New York Passport Agency and make an appointment. The phone system is a major pain in the ass and takes forever to search for an open time slot (which is bullshit because you'll have to wait in line for along time anyway once you get there), but be patient.

Once you have your appointment, show up an hour early with all the required paperwork filled out as completely as possible -- don't forget your proof of travel -- and wait in the check-in line. When you get to the head of the check-in line, a staffperson will verify your documents are in order and place you into the secondary appointment queue. This wait tends to be reasonable.

When they call your number, you go to the window and hand over your papers and payment. If nothing is wrong, they'll process the papers and hand you a receipt with a date and time to pick up the passport. If you're lucky, you won't have to wait more than 24 hours.
posted by pmbuko at 7:42 PM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've done it, and it was easy. If they have a serious backlog you might have to wait a long time, but I'm talking about hours or a day in line, not weeks.
posted by xammerboy at 7:43 PM on May 1, 2007

Whatever you do, do NOT use Passports and They are a scam. I had to call Chase to get my money refunded.

Call Ambassador Passport and Visa Services. They are good.
posted by charlesv at 8:02 PM on May 1, 2007

When I went through an expeditor they had me call them before dropping the application materials into FedEx and they gave me the city with the shortest queue time for the next day which in my case was San Francisco. It beat the hell out of taking a day off of work, driving to Houston and standing in line in all day. I sent the FedEx on Monday and had my passport on Wednesday.

In my case, my company paid for it. But it really cuts down the hassle and you know you'll get the passport before you leave.
posted by birdherder at 8:15 PM on May 1, 2007

After seeing them recommended here on MeFi, I used this expeditor and got my passport in less than a week. Worth every penny.
posted by clh at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2007

I went to my local postal branch (after checking online.) I paid to have my passport expedited - they filled out the paperwork.

I had to pay $60, but not to a third party service. I got my passport in less than 2 weeks. They had an even faster method, as well
posted by filmgeek at 3:53 AM on May 2, 2007

Just got my expedited through an outside agency.

Five days.

And it was only a hundred dollars more. Which is worth it because expediting through the post office or wherever was going to still take 4 weeks they said (there is apparently a new system in place that they have to yet to figure out completely).

Just go with one that's been recommended.
posted by ryecatcher at 9:11 AM on May 2, 2007

Best answer: Los Angeles Magazine has an article this month that recommends as one company that can turn one around in 24 hoiurs - for a price (they mentioned $200 in the article).

Bon voyage!
posted by DandyRandy at 10:29 AM on May 2, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all for your help. In the end, I decided to go with an expediting service. I just sent off all the relevant information, and it looks like I'm good to go.

Thanks, AskMe!
posted by Afroblanco at 2:59 PM on May 2, 2007

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