Tag: bureaucracy

A Sequel to the Passports Story

Last week I told the story of the project manager and the passports. This week, I want to add sequel. In order to do this, we need to go back in time a few months.

In early June I began looking into how long it takes to get a passport renewed. With COVID, nothing is normal, and so I assumed this was the case with passports. Indeed, what I learned from the official State Department website for passports was to expect the total process to take about 16 weeks: 12 weeks for processing and 4 weeks for shipping. I could be a little faster if one paid the expedited fee, but there was really no rush. So at the end of June, I got new photos, filled out application forms, and submitted my application to renew my passport.

We wanted to get passports for the kids’ as well, but seeing as how kids passports have to be renewed in 5 years, we figured we’d wait until the fall to do theirs. When fall rolled around, I checked and all indications were still that 16 week turnaround time. So we got the photos, filled out applications, collected all of the necessary paperwork, and, well, I’ve told this part of the story already. Along the way, I even managed to hit a squirrel.

On Tuesday evening, Kelly and I went for a walk. When we got home, the mail had come (unusually late) and in the mail was all three of the kids’ new passports. They arrived precisely 11 days after we submitted our applications. Eleven days. That’s about 101 days less than the 16 week estimate we were given. If you take that piece of data, and add to it the fact that our appointment estimate was 45 minutes and it took 7 minutes total, I think it is fair to say that the State Department may be overestimating how long things take.

After I got over my initial disbelief that the kids’ passports had arrived in 11 days (what would have happened if we’d paid the expedite fee, I wonder?), my next natural question was: where the heck is my passport? I submitted my application 105 days ago.

Well, this morning, I checked the status of my passport online, and learned that it has shipped and I should be getting it next week. That would still be about 2 weeks shy of the original estimate.

I suppose one could argue that mine was a passport renewal, and there is more background checking to do for a middle-aged man than for 3 young kids, and that’s why there’s were done so quickly. What I can’t understand is how much the State Department is overestimating how long it takes process passport applications. Could mine be just an outlier? Maybe. But I recall my brother obtaining passports for all six of his kids earlier this year, and getting them much faster than he was told. You’d think the State Department would want to brag about such efficiency. They could market it as what bureaucracy is supposed to be like when all of the red tape is cut away.

I guess they are reluctant to do this for fear of being inundated with applications (“the hug of death,” as Tim Ferriss calls it).

Well, anyway, kudos to the hard working folks at the State Department who proceeded these passports so quickly. It was an unexpected positive moment of truth, and you deserve to be recognized for your diligence. I only wish I knew your names.

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