U.S. Passport Predicament - And how we solved it

Us-passport.jpg

After getting married, I decided to update my last name. I know some people take a year or more to update all of their identification cards, bank cards, work emails, etc. But we already had plans to travel so I needed to change everything over in about 3 months.

Updating my social security card, driver's license, and bank cards was an easy but time-consuming process of standing in multiple lines, and sitting in waiting rooms. Updating my passport should have been fairly easy - the process of taking passport-size photos, filling out the form, and mailing everything in with a money order wasn't difficult. It was supposed to arrive after about 2 weeks. But it never came.

I checked the state.gov website and waited 10 business days from when it was sent before I contacted them over the phone. They provided a USPS tracking number which showed the passport was delivered to my address. But I have a mailbox with a lock and I checked it every day for the passport yet it never arrived. I was instructed to send in a DS-86 form along with a copy of a government issued ID so my missing passport could be canceled and a new passport would be issued. I was told it would take about a week once it arrived for it to be processed and a new passport sent.

I called a week after I sent it to check on the status. The USPS tracking showed that the DS-86 form arrived two days after I sent it, but it wasn't logged in their system until 3 days after arrival. I was told at that time to call back in two more days as it would be a week since they logged it. I was also told that someone would contact me to make sure I didn't receive my passport in the meantime and then they would be able to issue the replacement.

1 week after it was logged as received - called again and was told I was given misinformation. It wasn't going to be a week, they have two weeks from the date it was sent/postmarked to contact me and process the DS-86 form. I was told to call back in two days. I would need to "keep monitoring the status of my application" and the only way to monitor it was to call. Being frustrated, I decided to call back again to see what another person would say. This time I was told that to wait another week to call as they knew my date of departure and my application was being expedited.

2 weeks after sending the D-86 form, I called again. Once again I was told I was given misinformation as no one would have to contact me and a new passport would be issued if they determine I haven't received one yet. I said that obviously I haven't received my passport - it's been over a month since it was supposedly delivered and I've been calling twice a week to monitor the status of my DS-86 form. The call rep then suggested to drive down to Miami to and submit another DS-86 form in person because they can process a passport right away. They also said I wouldn't have to make an appointment and I would just need to bring a copy of a government issued ID. I asked if there were any other options since Miami is about a 4 hour drive from Orlando, and was told that there are other options but only when it gets to two weeks from your departure date. When I inquired further, the rep was only able to say that other options are available when it gets closer to your departure date, but that I should keep calling back to check on the status.

14 days from our departure date - At first the call rep was only able to state the same info that the DS-86 form had been received but was still processing. After explaining how many times I'd called and the multiple misinformation given, the rep gave more info about when the mail is sent out --in the afternoon, so the most updated info would be after 4pm. They also provided info about 3rd party expedited services and explained how the processing in Miami worked. Passports are able to be issued day-of if you are departing the next day. They scheduled an appointment in Miami for me just in case, but hopefully my replacement passport will be issued and sent soon. Otherwise our around the world trip will start with a road trip to Miami rather than a flight out to Europe!

Another call and the agent slips me a vital piece of information after I lost my cool with her: “We can’t do anything unless it’s under 2 days until your departure date.”

So, here is what we decided to do in order to finally get the passport. We purchased another airline ticket to our destination that was going to leave in two days - but we made sure it was 100% refundable within 24 hours. Then, we called back the Passport Agency and told them our situation had changed and that we were going to have to take an earlier flight. They required the ticket that we purchased as proof, so we sent it to them. We did end up having to pay a small additional fee to have it expedited, but they agreed to process it that day and have it sent to us by overnight delivery. Once they told us it was processing, we quickly went back to our refundable airline ticket and canceled it.

We finally received it the following morning! Technically, I now had the passport in my hands a full 10 days before my actual flight. Last minute situation averted!