It took me three separate visits to the passport office, but I have finally turned in the applications for the children's passport renewals. If the government's estimate is correct, I can expect the passports to arrive in the mail by, oh, the end of July.
The first time I tried, about a month ago, I simply grabbed the children and their expired passports and raised downtown, thinking that I could fill out the applications, write a check, and be on my merry way. Shouldn't the old passports serve as proof of citizenship?
No, no, no, it isn't nearly that simple. For children under sixteen, each issue of a passport, whether first time issue or fourth time-renewal, has all of the same requirements. Those are (in case you are wondering):
- certified copy of birth certificate (not a photocopy)
- social security number
- presence of both parents or legal guardians, or death certificate for parent not present
- approved identification for said parents or guardians
- two identical photos, recent, conforming to size requirements that must apparently be measured by microscope.
Yeah, I don't know how I forgot about the photos, either.
Last thursday, I made a second attempt. I had everything on the list, except that I had forgotten that Homero had to be present. Oh, and I had forgotten the social security numbers. And that for Rowan, I only had a copy of her birth certificate, not the state certified original. Oh, right, and the photos I had had taken (for the rather exorbitant price of $34) were unacceptable.
You may, at this point, be justified in asking if I had read the list of requirements given to me on the previous visit. The answer is that yes, I had. Five seconds after the nice bureaucrat lady handed it to me, I glanced at it and stuck it in my purse. Then a month went by and I said to myself "oh shit! I STILL haven't applied for passports! I better get right on that!" Then I seemingly stepped into a time loop wherein in I repeated everything I had done the month before, with exactly equal results.
Not quite. The second time, I DID bring the passport photos. I got them taken at Office Max, which has a sign that says "passport photos here" right on the front window. It took quite a few minutes to get the children to settle down and quit giggling - you are not supposed to be smiling in a passport photo. Tell a six year old not to smile and what you get is a child who spends the next ten minutes dissolved on the floor in a pile of mirth.
Finally the Office Max man gave me the photos. I said "aren't these too big? These look too big." He whipped out a ruler and measured the photos. "no," he said, "the face should be between 1' and 1 5/8" from chin to forehead. See?"
"Ok," I answered dubiously, "but look how much bigger these photos are than the old ones..."
"Those are the guidelines," he said.
So when I got to the passport office and the lady bureaucrat said "these are too big," I really wasn't surprised. Pissed off? Yes. The lady whipped out a little plastic frame and slapped it down over the photos. "See," she said, "the entire photo must be no larger than 2" x 2", and there must be white space showing above the crown of the head. These photos cut off the top of the head. They're no good."
Plus, of course, the humiliating list of the other ways in which I had failed to meet requirements. I don't think I met a single one. It was too late in the day to get new photos, order a certified copy of Rowan's birth certificate, and call Homero to get his butt downtown before the office closed, so I had to leave with my tail between my legs.
First I went to the health department and ordered a birth certificate for Rowan. $20. Then we all trooped back to Office Max where I gave the young photographer the rough side of my tongue. He retook the pictures at no charge, and this time there was no trouble about giggling. We were all hot, annoyed, and tired. These are some sad, droopy looking passport photos this time around. The first pictures were so much nicer, I told the kid, "I'm keeping the first ones." He started to say "I can't let you do that..." but I cut him to shreds with my best "do NOT fuck with mama" look and he subsided.
Friday morning I collared Homero and we made our third and final assault on the impregnable passport office. I had a gigantic file folder with all the necessary documents in it. I had the kids. I had my husband. I had my checkbook. A different lady bureaucrat was behind the counter, and everything went smoothly. Even with everything filled out, ready, and in order, it took some thirty minutes for her to go over everything, staple everything int eh right order, and administer to us the oath that we weren't lying about our children being U.S. citizens and not cute little baby terrorists or something.
Then I wrote a check for the tidy and not at all ridiculous sum of $340, and that's where we are now.