27 Jun Passports Expediting Services
There are a few different ways to acquire US passports. The most common is to visit a local post office and provide them with the documentation required. Processing times can vary from 2 to 8 weeks during normal periods and up to 3 months during busy season (generally May through August). You may pay additional for faster return shipping of your completed passport which will be sent out directly from the passport office when issued. This is the least expensive way but results in longer processing times. If you are preparing for a far off trip or just keeping things up-to-date, this is your best choice.
If you are lucky enough to live in a city that has a passport office (Boston, MA, Chicago, IL, Cherry Creek, CO, Norwalk, CT, Honolulu, HI, Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA, New Orleans, LA, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA and Washington, DC), you may call the US governments passport appointment hot line at 1-877-487-2778 and schedule an appointment to be seen in person. Appointment availability can be as early as the next day or two but are often booked a week or more out. An appointment will authorize you to enter to waiting area during a morning or afternoon session and you will generally be seen in the order in which you show up. Fulfillment times can be as fast as same day (for morning appointment holders) or as long as 3 days. This process can end up taking a full day (or two half days) between waiting to be seen and retrieving your new passport, but offers a fast turnaround time and saves on return shipping fees.
Passport expediting firms help fill some of the gaps. Expediting firms register with the US State Department and go through minimal screening to ensure that no employees have been convicted of federal crimes or other public trust crimes and are issued a number of “slots” or pre-registered appointments. Most firms receive between 7 and 30 slots with pre-determined processing times. These times vary from passport office to passport office and sometimes even within the same office. For instance, registered forms with the Washington passport office receive 7 same day slots (meaning the company drops off an application Monday morning and picks up the completed passport Monday afternoon) and 7 3-day slots (meaning the company drops off an application Monday morning and picks it up Thursday afternoon). Expediting firms are not empowered to issue the passports themselves or even to verify the applicant or documents, those responsibilities rest on the government. The expeditors simply facility faster than normal processing and less inconvenience than traditional methods. For a cost, of course. Prices for these services can range from $55 to upwards of $300 on top of the governments fees depending on how quickly the passport is needed.
Although the passport expediting industry used to be like the wild west where everyone could get in, through up a web site and start making money, the industry has consolidated and had some tightening by the government in recent years. The overall slot allotment is basically still the same as it was in the late 90’s meaning that hundreds of new firms are now waitlisted at passport offices throughout the country. Some of the smaller firms were bought outright by larger firms just to gain control of their slots and gray area mergers of multiple small firms in different cities occur in order to provide support when one is overloaded with applications. Corporate travel and large scale agencies have found passport expeditors to be very useful in ensuring travelers make their flights and their leverage for higher quality services has brought some of the better firms up to a new level and consequently left some of the smaller ones to feed for the leftovers on the Internet. The major players, of which there are a dozen or so, have an estimated 70 percent share of Internet and retail customers and nearly 95 percent of the corporate and travel agent market. These large firms control slots at multiple passport office throughout the country and often have office in multiple cities, 24 hour call centers and modern technology that provides up to the minute changes in requirements, processing times, delays, online status checks and more. These firms also process business and tourist visas for travel to almost any country.
Expediting firms are easy to use, provide fast service and are available to assist with questions for what amounts to a fair price. Competition has ensured the pricing structures are reasonably consistent and reasonable across the board. If you need a passport quickly and conveniently, expediting firms exist to serve you. Try http://www.itseasy.com for more information.