Fast emergency U.S. passport needed for travel soon.
September 8, 2007 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I post this on behalf of a friend in need of passport help. Here he is: I need a U.S. passport in less than a week's time. I have been summoned to a foreign country on short notice, and it's crucial that I'm there when needed. I need to leave no later than September 17th.

The recent post-9/11 changes in security related to foreign travel have completely gummed up the system. Applying by mail takes 4-6 weeks. The National Passport Information Center ( is no help whatsoever. The current backlog on new/replacement "expedited" passports is 3-4 weeks. I'm told my only hope is to schedule an interview with the NPIC office, since I'm traveling within the next 14 days. However, trying to schedule an appointment puts me into phone-menu hell, with a friendly voice telling me to call back during non-high-volume call times and then unceremoniously disconnecting me. Not to mention the fact that getting an interview is no guarantee of getting a passport in under a week.

I'd love to contract the services of a third party, but searching "passport scam" put me into a genuine funk. U.S. passport scams appear to be only slightly less prevalent than Nigerian 411 scams.

Someone tried, unsuccessfully, to humor me by informing me that a "Passport Reduction Backlog Act" (S.966) was passed this summer. I'm left, while flipping through a prolonged outrage/anger/despair cycle, to ponder the supreme irony of the spectacle of our Government creating more government so we can reap the benefits of less government. But it's too little, too late for me.

I'm an American citizen with no security issues. I'm praying for some good advice. A friend suggested asking MeFi.
posted by brownpau to Law & Government (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I used these folks when I procrastinated applying for a passport and got it in less than a week. This was in October 2006.
posted by clh at 12:40 PM on September 8, 2007

You can get a passport if you have your birth cert and social security card AND a ticket in hand for the foreign destination and major US passport hubs (San Francisco, Houston, New York, ETC) within 72 hours.

It's expensive, it involves waiting in line and visiting in person as well as spending lots of time on the phone but I've had engineers who work for me go through this process before and get their passports issued in 72 hours.

See here and start calling.
posted by iamabot at 12:40 PM on September 8, 2007

keep calling over the weekend. also, first thing on monday, i would place a call to your member of congress and both your senators. if that doesn't work, i would show up first thing in the morning on tuesday with your ticket, birth certificate, social security card, and passport photos at your nearest passport agency. yes, you have to make an appointment, but if you can't get through on the phone, surely you can walk up to the front desk and make one in person. this very well may entail taking a number and waiting six hours. bring snacks and a book.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:42 PM on September 8, 2007

This thread has a lot of good companies: Are passport expediting services legit?

You have to pay a lot, but they are legit. And possibly your only option.
posted by smackfu at 12:53 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Prior to 9/11, at least, you could contact the field (local) office of your US Senator for expedited emergency passport processing. It might be worth a call--they would at least know where to redirect you.
posted by sock it to me monkey at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2007

he won't have too many issues leaving the country if the place he has been summoned to is canada or mexico, his problem is coming back. that just in case he's going to spend a few months in canada. now if we're talking most other countries, all bets are off. passports are just what you need to travel the world.
posted by krautland at 1:39 PM on September 8, 2007

I applied for my passport on August 24th, expedited. I received it a week later on the 31st. YMMV.
posted by sephira at 2:16 PM on September 8, 2007

If you get an appointment at the Passport Agency office and you have all your papers in order, you will get a passport the day you go or the day after. In the two instances that I have needed a passport on short notice, I have never had any trouble getting into the one in NYC, and I have never been asked for my ticket, though I have always had one. So maybe if the DC passport office is just impossible, your friend could try to get an appointment here and take the train up. While annoying, I don't think it would cost so much more than a third-party expediter.
posted by dame at 3:12 PM on September 8, 2007

If you're planning on coming to the DC passport office, they won't even SEE you unless you're leaving within 3 days. Leaving in 4 days? They'll actually tell you to come back tomorrow. This is obviously nerve-wracking because it means that every single person in line is completely desperate and getting more nervous by the minute. Stressful to be sure.

That being said, if you wait until the 14th to go to the Passport office, with all your paperwork (download and print it before you even leave your house), your old passport (if you have one), and your supporting documentation, you should be able to get it done in a day, and pick it up the next day. But prepare to spend those 2 days at the passport office.

Fun for the whole family!

YMMV of course.
posted by nkknkk at 5:56 PM on September 8, 2007

We had to get my son's passport renewed this July, so my experience is relatively recent, but is specific to Chicago. I don't know if all 13 Passport Agencies operate exactly the same, and the problem, as you have found out is that you can't easily call and find out the local wrinkles. And if you do manage to talk to somebody, not all of the people you talk to are helpful (I don't think they are trying to be mean, it's more that they understand the process too well so they don't give answers that help the inexperienced). It turned out there were three options:
  • Expedited service -- which, as you noted, may take 3 weeks
  • Within one week of travel -- make an appointment via an automated system to go to the Passport Agencies in person. The problem is that if there are no appointments available for the relevant day the system just gives you a brief message and dumps the call, requiring lots of trips through the voice menus. As a practical tip, start towards the end of the week (i.e. closer to your date of travel) as you're more likely to find an available appointment.
  • Within two business days of travel -- you can go in person and wait for for an opening to talk to an official, first come first served. I suggest getting there well before they open. My wife got there at about 8:15, they start seeing people at 9, she was seen at about 11:30. If all is in order they will issue the passport the same day.

posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:03 PM on September 8, 2007

A buddy of mine recently had a passport emergency. He'd never had a passport before and the wait was longer than advertised when he applied.

Long story short, a week before departure he called his congressman, explained his situation and had a passport the next day. The passport he'd applied for (months prior) arrived while he away and he returned the unnecessary copy when he returned.
posted by EmptyK at 11:10 PM on September 8, 2007

I haven't dealt with the passport people in a while, so my info might be out of date. But if you're expediting because of imminent travel, then along with your usual supporting documentation, bring proof of your upcoming trip (plane ticket, whatever it is that's summoning you out-of-country on short notice, etc.)
posted by hattifattener at 12:21 AM on September 9, 2007

smackfu already linked to my passport expediting thread, so I won't re-link.

Suffice it to say that passport expediting is indeed a legitimate business. I used American Passport Express, and they got my passport to me in a couple days time. I think they even have an overnight option if you're willing to pay for it.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:12 AM on September 9, 2007

Not sure if you are traveling to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Carribean, but U.S. Citizens With Pending Passport Applications Allowed Temporary Travel Flexibility Within Western Hemisphere.
Nth the suggestion to go the the passport agency; my father showed up at the Philadelphia Passport office the day before his trip and got his renewal within a few hours.
posted by dreaming in stereo at 2:11 AM on September 9, 2007

Call the local office of your Senator/Congressman. A Senator's casework staffer told me that her office is filled with flowers thanking them for honeymoons saved and that sort of thing, so I think they have a pretty good success rate.
posted by naoko at 2:02 PM on September 9, 2007

I went through this over the summer, although I had applied months in advance and got caught in the backlog; if your friend has not applied yet, getting an appointment at the office is probably the best/only option. (If he's also in DC, as your profile indicates, that should help -- I live in Georgia and DC is actually where they told me to go!) (But definitely make an appointment! They say they'll turn you away otherwise.)

If he has applied, or hell, even if not, the only way I was able to get mine (despite calling a Senator and a Rep well before I needed to go) was by calling the State Dept's Passport Task Force at 202-647-7948 (found via WhirledView, which has a lot of other helpful tips that might be applicable to your case). I reached a very friendly (though clearly tired) worker who assured me that she could make things happen up at the New Hampshire Passport Factory. She got my passport made and FedEx'ed overnight... during July 4th week.

Best of luck dealing with this situation.
posted by SuperNova at 7:50 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, the backlog is supposed to be over now. They just announced on Friday that they're back to normal processing times. So just get the papers to the expediter and don't lose any sleep.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:58 PM on September 9, 2007

Response by poster: I just got off the phone with the guy who asked the question, and he is en route to the airport this moment. He got his passport in 2 days at the Court of Commons in Old Town Philadelphia, with only moderate bouts of scurrying about and jumping through hoops of red tape. Thanks to all of you!
posted by brownpau at 1:18 PM on September 17, 2007

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