If your March Break travel plans include flying or driving past the U.S. border, you need to have a valid passport. If you haven’t already got one, you’re looking at some serious hand wringing as the U.S. Department of State is currently reporting processing times of four to six weeks. Expedited passport services that cost extra are taking up to three weeks to complete.
The days where you can drive into Canada on a drivers’ license and birth certificate are over and for the past few years, air travel into Canada and Mexico also now requires a passport. If in doubt, call the U.S. State Department especially if you are traveling with children.
There are several extra steps required when trying to obtain a passport for your kids. The biggest difference compared to years past, is that both parents and the child or children must appear together before officials where they accept passport applications such as the post office or township office.
If only one parent can attend, then a signed affidavit or a notarized statement of consent from the other parent must be completed. If the parents are divorced or if the child is adopted, there are several other documents required. For a full understanding of what’s needed, check out www.travel.state.gov and click on passports.
The fees for passports are $95 plus a $25 processing fee for first time applicants. Those who are renewing a passport will be charged $95. If you need the passport right away, there is a $60 charge for expedited service for each passport application. The passport fee for children is $70 plus a $25 processing fee.
If you’re someone who travels frequently by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean, you can save money by applying for what’s called a “passport card,” but just remember, this card is only good for land or travel by sea and will not be accepted for air travel. The card, which looks similar to a drivers’ license, costs $45 for first time applicants.
While March break will be here before you know it, getting your documents in order can be a frustrating experience if you end up leaving it until the last minute. If your in Chicago and you’re leaving the country in the next two weeks, you can at least access a regional passport agency where officials there can help you get started. All you need is to make an appointment by calling the National Passport Information Center, 1-877-487-2778. They will set you up with a time to visit a service rep at the Chicago Passport Agency.
The Chicago Passport Agency is located at 230 S. Dearborn Street on the 18th Floor of the Kluczynski Building.