Passport Pitfalls: How to Get an Expedited Passport

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The process of securing a passport is never fun or easy.  It is simply one part of the drudgery that must take place before an exciting get-away, business opportunity, or other adventure. This was not the was not the first expedited passport renewal I have been through (though the first in NYC), and it probably, unfortunately, won’t be the last.  

Thanks to politician’s whims, travel laws are ever-changing and never intuitive (the last pages must remain free of stamps! Expiration must be no less than three months after return! Or departure! Some countries, even six months of either one! Some countries don’t like each other at all and are jealously greedy over their visitors!)  Upon realizing my passport would be breaking the rules shortly after our departure, I hopped on Google to see what could be done about it...

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My alarm chirped an alert that my three hour “nap” had come to an end.  By 5:30 AM, I had dragged myself out of bed. Given the anxiety of a $1200 flight I’d purchased hours earlier and had no intention of using added to my chronic insomnia, and I dressed and navigated the five flights of stairs between me and the pavement in a daze until the rush of frozen breeze outside snapped my eyes wide open.  If the Google reviews held true, I was already late to line up outside the Federal office for my 24-hour, $170 expedited passport. Without the anticipation a cup of gift card coffee, I’m not sure I’d have made it to the windy west side. Amazingly, upon reaching the Federal facade on Hudson, I counted only a dozen or so people huddled in line.  Cursing the reviews responsible for my early rise, I trudged on to glorious coffee and returned, finding only a few more people had joined our hour long arctic wait.

With chattering teeth we related nervous stories to each other before the doors opened- from the anxious travelers with a week (a whole week!) before take off, to a woman whose flight and fiance would be on the runway in a matter of hours.  7:30 came, and right on time the doors cracked and we were recited the rules of entry. “No food, drink, EVEN WATER… Remove ALL layers, belts, and metal from your person BEFORE going through the detector!” The line began to inch forward as people more, or less, listened.

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Within twenty minutes I was standing at my interview being told the photos I had braved a blizzard for two days prior were unusable.  After being handed a pass back to the tenth floor I was back outside on my way to find new pictures. Now with no makeup, a face full of stress, and three coats showing, the $15 bodega photos are the new international me.  Fabulous. However, thirty minutes later I was back through security, new photos in hand, exchanging them with the officer and grabbing a ticket to join the others in the cramped waiting room.

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Passblog2

The day that followed (it was now 8:30 AM) was filled with crying children, restless naps sitting up, and panicked stories barked across isles as the hours passed and flights drew nearer.

As if in a time warp, suddenly it was 6:30 and I was home- new passport in hand, CVS photos returned, flight canceled, and utterly exhausted.

Why, you ask, did I do this? While my passport was only five years old, I only had about half a page left for visa stamps.  More than this would be used for only one of our planned excursions. As of a couple years ago, you can no longer simply purchase extra pages to glue into your current passport, instead you must renew the whole thing.   A few people were waiting to simply have a passport clear of stamps, worried that previous traveling (and relations between countries visited) would affect their upcoming plans and safety. Others waited that morning because their passports were expiring within three months of their return, another fun rule often unknown by travelers, hence the lines of panicked people with flights to catch the same day.

Friday, March 16th was certainly not the most pleasant twelve hours spent in my life.  But, if you need an immediate pass-for-the-clouds, though not recommended, it can be done.

-Sarah

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