Consider timing for passport when talking spring break getaway

Scot Riggers, lead sales and service associate at the United States Postal Service Huntington branch, holds an application for a U.S. passport inside the post office on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Riggers says although the process to apply for a passport is relatively easy, the time is growing short to get a passport in time for spring break travel.
Scot Riggers, lead sales and service associate at the United States Postal Service Huntington branch, holds an application for a U.S. passport inside the post office on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Riggers says although the process to apply for a passport is relatively easy, the time is growing short to get a passport in time for spring break travel. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

With Huntington County Community School Corporation’s spring break just a scant two months away, those looking to make a getaway outside the country are scrambling to obtain passports, and post office officials say wannabe travelers need to hurry and get their applications in as soon as possible.

HCCSC’s spring break week runs from March 26 through March 30. However, some additional school days may not be in session the week before due to any unused snow makeup days. With an average turnaround time to process passport applications of four to six weeks, gambling on applying for a passport could make or break a vacation. Scot Riggers, lead sales and service associate at the United States Postal Service Huntington branch, advises people to pay the extra fee for an “expedited” passport, which takes around two or three weeks to process.

“It’s recommended, that if you plan on traveling in less than six weeks, that when you apply you should expedite your passport,” Riggers says. “That cuts your processing time in about half.”

Right now is the busiest time of the year for people to apply for passports. Riggers says his office has been flooded with phone calls and online appointments. He advises new applicants to schedule an appointment with the Huntington branch by going online to USPS.com or by calling 356-0920.

“They can get renewal information, if they’re doing a renewal, or they can get first-time application information and also schedule an appointment to come in here to be processed,” he says.

However it’s done, he stresses to get it done soon; Fort Wayne residents are even making appointments at the Huntington branch because of long waits in Allen County.

The application process is easy, Riggers says – but the easiest, and perhaps fastest way to get a passport is to use what he calls the post office’s “one stop shop.”

All new applications must be processed at the local post office. The appointments, which last about 15 minutes, allow postal clerks to go over applications, review documents and photos, and can even take photos of applicants onsite if needed.

A brochure which outlines the documents needed for either a passport book or a passport card can be found in the lobby of the Huntington post office branch, as well as application forms for either renewals or new passports.

Necessary documentation includes:

• Passport application form DS-11 (unsigned).

• Proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a previous, valid U.S. passport, a health department-issued, certified U.S. birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad or certification of birth, or a certificate of naturalization or citizenship.

• Proof of identity, which can be a driver’s license, government employee or military ID, or a recently issued certificate of naturalization or citizenship.

• One color passport photo, 2x2 inches in size, clear likeness of a full-face, front view on a white or off-white background, wearing normal street attire. Photos may be taken at CVS, Walgreens or Walmart, which are comparable in cost to the post office.

• A photocopy of the front back of the valid photo ID that is presented.

• Passport fees, in the form of a personal check or money order only.

For passport purposes, children are considered to be adults once they reach age 16, and they can obtain an adult passport, which is valid for 10 years. Under age 16 they can get a juvenile passport which is good for five years. For children under age 16 both parents or legal guardians must appear in person with evidence of the child’s U.S. citizenship, relationship to parents or guardians and parental or guardian ID. The passport clerk can explain what is necessary in the event of special circumstances where both parents are not able to come.

There are two different types of passports that can be obtained. The first, a full passport book, allows citizens to travel by any method of transportation to any country that will permit a visa. A passport card, which resembles a driver’s license, is only good for land or sea travel.

“So you can travel to Mexico, or to Canada, or go on a cruise with a passport card, but you could not fly,” Riggers says. “One thing you have to remember when you have a passport card and you travel by land or sea, if you get into that country and you have and emergency and need to fly home, you cannot; you have to go out the way you came in when you have the card.”

The full passport book costs $110 for an adult and $80 for a juvenile; the passport card costs $30 for adults and $15 for juveniles. However, Riggers warns that additional costs, such as a $25 post office processing fee and photo charges will bump up costs. Expediting the processing will also increase the cost by $60 per passport.

For each new passport application there will be one payment made to the U.S. Department of State and another one to the local post office branch. If the applicant is renewing their passport they must mail the renewal application and fee directly to the Passport Processing Center.

Riggers adds that passport holders have five years to renew by mail after the expiration of an adult passport book or card. Juveniles must get their passports renewed before their five-year passport expires or start the initial process over. They must also come back in person to apply again, this time for an adult passport, once they reach age 16.

Other services available to travelers at travel.state.gov include being able to track the passport as it is being processed and to receive an email notification when it is shipped. Links for reporting lost or stolen passports as well as inter-country adoption information are also available.