The US Passport Agency is a reflection of the government that is currently in office. We were trying to get a passport updated for my son so that he can fly down to Panama to visit family. His flight was for June 6th, we submitted a passport renew request in April and payed extra for expedited service. The Passport Agency had no problem cashing the check within a day of receiving the request. So for the next two months, we heard nothing. Going into the last two weeks prior to travel, Keyla decided to call the agency to get some info on the status of the passport. After waiting for over an hour, a CSR informed her that there were problems with my signature and now we must send proof of our parental rights over our son. You would think that since this is a renewal and the fact that we sent in the old passport that proof of parental rights were already established and second, why did it took a call from my wife to find this out? The process to correct this matter was a bit baffling. We had to return to place where we initially applied for a renewal, our local post office, and fill out the application again with a birth certificate submission. Very odd.
I took some time away from work to do what was requested. When we got to the post office, we noticed people had appointments to apply and we were coming out of the blue with no such assignment. Thankfully the gentleman that helped us initially way back when was gracious enough to help us out again. People that were scheduled to go in were a bit upset and I felt a little bad about it but this has to be done…now. The post office agent was taken back by the request for a new application, no photo no payment, just a completed application with birth certificate. This was the first he ever heard of such requirement. Regardless he assisted and once again we payed for overnight delivery as well as return service. We were given a tracking number and thus had to wait again.
We now have seven days left before the flight for Panama was to leave. Word to the wise, never use the US Post Office for important mailing, their tracking system is by far the worst I ever seen. The web site gave very cryptic message on the location of the mailing and was not updated often enough. Plus we got our email confirmation that the mail was delivered the DAY AFTER THE FLIGHT TO PANAMA. Very slow service indeed. This is a story for another day.
We talked to the agency the day mailing was signed, about two days later. Yes someone signed for it but now it is in the internal delivery system within the agency and that took another day and a half for it to be delivered! Now we down to three and a half days prior to travel. The next day after waiting for another hour on hold, Keyla was able to get a hold of someone and was told that the information is all there and awaiting approval. Once approved, it will be sent out to print. She informed them about the shorten time and was told there was no way the passport would be ready. Our only hope was to go to the passport office in Houston and pick it up. No problem, we booked a hotel in Houston and off we went.
The day before traveling we arrived at the US Passport office in Houston around noon. There were people EVERYWHERE waiting to get into the federal building that housed the Passport Office. Not sure why they were waiting, we went in and headed upstairs. Keyla and Rubencito were to man this charge alone as I had my sister-in-law Rhoda, the kiddies Katalina and Rheanna in tow. All of us would make things difficult. We waited outside as Keyla tried to get onto the forth floor where the office was at.
Keyla was stopped many times by guards asking about her appointment. She pleaded that all she needs to do is pick up the passport. You see, no one is even allowed INTO the building without a confirmed appointment. Thankfully she ran into guards that understood our situation and allowed her to go upstairs. Now you figure she would go to the fourth floor, talk to an office rep and wait for someone that was available to hear our case, well no. Keyla was sent to the tenth floor in a waiting room which she sat for the next three hours. Then she was moved to waiting room number two for another two hours. Finally she was sent to the fourth floor for another hour wait. During this time, I had two very bored kids and starving adults. I finally ventured out on foot to trap some food for the family, returning with a very large New York style pepperoni pizza. The kids were delighted. I gave Keyla and Rubencito some the pizza by having it x-rayed for security reasons. Six hours of sitting on a park bench on a hot and humid day was no way to spend an afternoon in Houston. But thankfully the little kiddies understood why we were there and was very supportive by not falling apart due to the boredom.
Back to Keyla. So after six hours, she finally had a chance to talk to someone. Realizing that they can turn you away by just how you look at them, Keyla, who is usually a very feisty woman when it comes to being treated fairly, became submissive in hopes not to lose out on this opportunity. The CSR requested her application. She told the agent she submitted two by mail, the first with the photo and the second with the birth certificate. The CSR was annoyed that Keyla did not have the paperwork available and was forced to look up the information (side note: Each time we talked to someone from the agency during the weeks prior to Houston, we were told many times that the system was down and there was no way to know the status of our passport, a very unreliable system indeed). The passport came up with a picture and all. The red code stated that proof of parental rights were missing. The agent asked for the birth certificate. Keyla reminded the CSR that she sent the birth certificate in the second mailing. The CSR was now visibly upset and went somewhere to find her paperwork. Twenty minutes later the agent return with all of our mailings, glanced at the birth certificate and removed the red mark on the system…glanced. The agent did not compared signatures, names or anything. Just saw the words birth certificate and bam, we were approved. Keyla was given another slip to return later that evening to pick up the passport. She came out to give us the good news. Not wanting to leave, she quickly went back in and we waited another hour. She return with a very happy little boy and a little booklet that had a great picture of our son.
I understand the CSR must had a terrible day, hell everyday must be terrible. But it was so disheartening to see a system so flawed. I just heard that the government temporarily lifted the travel requirements as all the passport offices were overwhelmed with requests. We are just glad that my son would be able to travel with his sister and cousin. Regardless of the treatment, it was worth it. I am still waiting for my passport. Thankfully I am not leaving the country any time soon.