Sunday, February 18, 2007

Deinventing government: renewing a US child's passport

A golden age can only be recognized in a rear view mirror. Once upon a time Al Gore was reinventing government, and governmental websites were often useful. Alas, in the reign of Sauron all those websites have been outsourced to the highest donor. Consider, for example, the process of renewing a child's passport.

Now, I admit this is an extreme example. A few years ago our very dim congress decided that a child's passport must prove both citizenship and also, somehow, prove that the child is related to their parents. This made the process very complex - for every renewal up to age 14 (after which the child passes into yet another intermediate process). So the process is seriously bunged up to begin with. Even so, the obscure and confusing directions manage to make a bungled process even worse.

For the benefit of anyone who ever has to do this, here's the directions for the worst case scenario (adopted children, mother kept her birth name and is thus surely a terrorist):
  1. From Special Requirements for Children Under Age 14 get the forms and print them.

  2. Get pictures at Kinkos. They're open all hours, and they have the right equipment. (Some post offices will do photos! The MSP Airport post office will do the picture.)

  3. Find a post office that does passports. I don't know any way to find the hours they're open for this other than visiting them (!). In MSP (Minneapolis) the airport PO is open for passport processing from 9am-3pm seven days a week and it does photos as well. Other offices may be open on certain hours and days. There's usually no way to phone and discover the hours -- you have to actually make a specific visit to learn the hours.

  4. You will need (for our "worst case" scenario)
  • Child's current passport (god help you if it's expired)
  • Child (in good mood)
  • Those pictures from Kinkos, or done at the post office in some cases
  • BOTH parents physically present, both with identification (I recommend carrying both drivers license AND passport for identification).
  • child's certified US birth certificate (every time, you'd think they'd only need it once)
  • just in case: adoption certificate andmarriage certificate if mother's name doesn't match the children's name. The last time we did this we weren't asked for these.
The passport office will keep the original birth certificate and last passport. We paid the extra $60 for expedited service on the theory that it might reduce the rate of document loss and processing errors. I hate surrendering original documents.

You can check the status of the passport renewal here.

Read the official site for the official list, but the above works for us. I've written my house representative -- at the very least the Post Office hours and service information should be on a web site.

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