Matt Kopala

Software Development, Technology, Travel

Applying for a US Passport

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Today we went and submitted our paperwork to get a passport for my baby daughter Lyla and Khanh’s son Chris.

Photos & paperwork

You can fill out the passport application online and print it. For Lyla, it was a first time application so we had to follow these guidelines.

We already picked up her birth certificate a couple of months before. Except for the drive, it was painless and easy. We were ecstatic at how easy it was (empty waiting room, quick & easy), after fearing it would be like the Arizona MVD.

We took the photos at home, and I screwed around with Gimp for a bit cutting out the background and making it a pretty white. We printed the photos at Costco and picked them up. Once we had the paperwork gathered up and photos ready, I looked up options for where to drop it off, and we headed over to the Chandler City Clerk’s office.

Applying in person

This is where things went a bit wrong.

We got Lyla’s application submitted correctly, but when it came to do Chris’s, we didn’t have his birth certificate. There was some grumbling and arguing amongst ourselves about why we didn’t have it, but we were in a hurry, so we left and headed home.

Back at home, I pulled up the requirements and reviewed them, including the special requirements.

There is nothing saying specifically that we needed to bring his birth certificate in. His ID document & proof of citizenship can be his old passport. We had that with us. Technically, it doesn’t look like he even needed his mom to be there.

The only thing it says that he needs is parental consent.

I searched all over trying to figure out what that means. No luck. The site FAILS on this one, as far as I can tell. They go so far as to bold the text on the page, but don’t tell you any more … Apparently for us it meant proving the woman standing there was Chris’s mother (thus the birth certificate), and that it was OK for him to get a new passport.

If Chris had come asking what parental consent means, I probably would have said, “WTF!? I don’t know”. I don’t know what we would have come up with.

And WTF does this ambiguous sentence mean?

“(You may be requested to provide written parental consent for a child age 16 or 17 if it is not implied on the application)”

Implied on the application? I must have missed that field.

So, there will be another trip back for Chris.

It still takes way too long and costs too much to get a passport. At least, in a week we can check the status online of the application.

Final rant

It is completely ridiculous that they are still having us fill out paper forms, submitting printed photos, and photocopying documents.

  • Forms should be filled out online, even if you still have to appear in person.
  • Photos should uploaded, or for the less tech-savvy, scanned at the acceptance facility.
  • Identification documents should be scanned as well.

Stop wasting paper and time.

I kept thinking about if I had some extra time, this would be a good project for Code for America.

Besides these minor gripes, the experience was pretty decent, just like the birth certificate, and nothing like the DMV.