How I Scored a New U.S. Passport in One Day

Travel Blog  •  Terry Ward  •  08.06.07 | 10:40 AM ET

imageWhen my car was stolen in Miami a few weeks ago with everything I own inside (as usual, I was between homes), my passport was among the things I lost. With all the nightmare stories of passport backlogs and international dream vacations canceled, it seemed to be the worst moment to be applying for a new passport. But I needed that little blue book back in my command ASAP. What I found was surprising.

After persistent calls to the passport appointment line—it took about seven tries to get through the busy lines—I was given a morning appointment the following week at the Washington D.C. regional passport agency.

The automated voice made it clear one has to be leaving the U.S. within 14 days to apply for a passport at a regional office. I booked a trip to Paris.

My passport appointment was for 8:30 a.m., and when I arrived at the office around 7:45 a.m. there were long lines outside (people who had letters from their congressional representatives but no appointment times, I was told). Feeling lucky to have an appointment, I was ushered inside—where the line was even longer and the air conditioning was broken.

A helpful passport office employee checked the documents of those of us standing in line and assured me that I had everything I needed.

A 19-year-old in front of me had flown in from Atlanta for the sole purpose of procuring a passport (there are only 13 regional passport agencies in the country, and none in Georgia). But he didn’t have proof of his airline ticket to the Caribbean, where he was headed for his honeymoon in four days. I watched him get turned away by the agent and, full of nerves, call his bride-to-be to have his itinerary faxed lest the honeymoon get ruined.

When I reached the front of the appointment check-in line after an hour of waiting, I was given a number for yet another queue. About half an hour later I was called to the official application window, where it took all of five minutes to present my stolen passport declaration, apply for the new document and convince the agent that I needed the passport today. Originally she said I could pick it up the following day, but when I told her I was leaving town that evening she said I could pick it up at 2 p.m.

I returned at 2 p.m. to pick it up thinking it would be a breeze-in, breeze-out sort of thing. Far from it. I stood in line outside for another hour—they passed out government-issued umbrellas to shield us from the midday sun. And once inside, it was another hour wait before I was handed my new passport.

One woman in line kept fretting, “We’re leaving for our Mediterranean cruise today!” I pictured a luxury liner steaming out of the Potomac for Greece.

But in the end, I walked away with my new passport in one day and once again counted myself among the growing percentage of Americans free to roam the world at will.

Related on World Hum:
* U.S. Plans Temporary Waiver of Passport Policy
* U.S. Passports in Demand: Lines Look ‘Like a Rolling Stones Concert 25 Years Ago’
* The New U.S. Passport: ‘It Is Like Being Given A Coloring Book That Your Brother Already Colored In’


Terry Ward

Terry Ward is a Florida-based writer and a long-time contributor to World Hum.


1 Comment for How I Scored a New U.S. Passport in One Day

Travel Documents 01.05.08 | 12:52 PM ET

If you are unable to make a personal appearance at a US Passport Agency, there are many companies that can expedite a passport within 24 hours. These companies charge a fee for their services (usually between $130 and $200 + government fees of $127 or $157 for a first-time passport). This option may be the best choice for those who do not live near one of the 13 regional passport agencies.

For a list of passport services visit: http://www.traveldocuments.org

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