Saturday, June 9, 2012

Applying for Henry's US Passport

Henry at the start of our long wait

We will be traveling to Europe at the end of July to celebrate Henry's 2nd birthday with family (most of whom haven't yet met Henry) so we applied for his American passport today. Since both parents must be present for minors under 16, Dave took the day off work. I had packed enough food for Henry until lunch, and we also gathered all our documents the night before:
  1. Form DS-11: Application For A U.S. Passport 
  2. One 2x2 color photo of Henry 
  3. Henry's original Certificate of Citizenship (they will staple this to the application but it will be returned to you in the mail!!!)
  4. A copy of our Adoption Decree (in both Chinese and English) 
  5. Both of our passports 
  6. A photocopy of both our passports 
  7. Payment (credit card) 

At around 9:45 this morning, we arrived at our local post office and there were about six families in front of us. We saw a sign-in sheet being passed down the line except when after the third family signed in, the postal worker asked for the sign-in sheet back! She said she'll see how far she gets as she may not have time to see the rest of us as people with appointments have priority over us. According to the website, "If you have international travel in less than 2 weeks or need to obtain a foreign visa within 4 weeks, you are eligible to schedule an appointment at one of our regional passport agencies" -- we thought this system was pretty ridiculous as they gave priority to those who were probably waiting until last minute to get their passports.

It was at least one hour later when we saw the line move at all due to incoming applicants who had made appointments. Henry had been fed his cheese and crackers and a bottle of milk, and it was time to dig into his small pieces of dried apricots. I didn't want to pull out my emergency to-go pack of fruit purée until it was absolutely necessary.

We walked around with Henry, played with him, gave him his small toys, and took apart a couple of shipping boxes from the foyer. He was such a trooper but he was becoming evidently bored at waiting in the foyer of a post office! Dave even ran an errand and picked up boxes of T-shirts for our business and when he returned, we had barely moved. By around 12:30, we decided he should drop off the boxes and take Henry home for a nap, lunch and diaper change, while I stayed in line.

A few of us in line were bitching about the slow process and lack of staff on duty, and I also discovered that the folks who made appointments weren't even traveling internationally "in less than 2 weeks"! I later learned from the one postal employee that their central branch accepted any kind of appointment. Grrrr!

At 2pm, they brought out a second postal worker and the last two families before me in "our line of no appointments" were next...but only if no more applicants with appointments arrive! I overheard that they were going to see the last applicant at 2:30 and I was sure we would not make it as they spent roughly 20-25 minutes per case. I called Dave to tell him to wake Henry from his nap, pack a sandwich, cottage cheese and more milk (I had plenty of water for Henry) and drive back as soon as possible!

Of course, when my boys got back in line, the second worker disappeared. Every time someone turned up, we were just hoping they hadn't made an appointment or if they did, they were prepared! Dave managed to talk to the employee and she reluctantly agreed to see us (and the very last family who came after us).

At 3pm (they close at 3pm on Fridays), we finally walked into the "passport office" of which we saw families, couples and singles filing in and out. I laid out all our documents on the glass counter and it took no more than 10 minutes to have Henry's application signed, stapled and paid for. Why it took everyone else so long we don't exactly know but we think if you go in prepared by pre-filling your forms with black ink and read the instructions on their website so you'll have all your required documents, you, too, will be in and out in 10 minutes :).

Anyway, we paid for the 2-3 week service (total $166) in case we see a mistake on the passport and we need to expedite a replacement. Can't believe we wasted an entire day just to stand in the post office for over 5 hours -- argh!

Henry was ready to go home
after the first hour of waiting!


Tony and Sue said...

Wow! What a day!

I tried to get Meighan's passport before we finalized and they wouldn't let us without the AMERICAN adoption finalization papers/birth certificate. It got sent back to us. Luckily we re-finalized a couple weeks after we applied so by the time they sent it back to us, we had what we needed. Yes, I had the papers for adoption from China but apparently they didn't accept that. I'll be interested to know how things go for you.


linxx said...

Yikes! We'll see what happens but I'm going to look into it anyway!

Thanks, Sue!