Behind the Scenes with the State Department at Passport Day 2012

by brian on April 23, 2012

This is about as much as I can show you… or else I’d have to kill you…

IMG 1447 Behind the Scenes with the State Department at Passport Day 2012

Tracey Friley of The Passport Project got me in touch with the State Department who wanted to bring travel bloggers and other interested parties in for Passport Day. I eagerly signed up for the chance.

All the equipment is in the back to actually produce the passports and passport books. That is actually not the most interesting part of the tour, but the question and answer with Kathryn, a State Department employee and our guide for the day.

At the Hudson Street Passport Office, they process about about 1500 passports a week. During the summer months this number jumps to about 2000 as school and work vacations has everyone wanting to jump on a place when they have the opportunity.

Once submitted the passport takes about 4-6 weeks to be returned to you. 2-3 weeks if you choose to expedite. Which brings up a good point. Plan ahead if you want on taking a trip out the country. If you have less than 6 months before the passport expires, get it renewed. Many countries won’t allow you to enter when you have six months or less left on your passport.

During the yearly Passport Day event, the Hudson Street office will accept 200-300 passport applications.

If you don’t know the requirements for a US passport, they are here along with other important answers. But I had a more interesting questions for our host Kathryn.

Can a convicted felon get a passport?
The answer is yes, as long as the all the requirements of incareceration are fulfilled and there is no probation. BUT many countries don’t allow convicted felons to enter their countries anyway so this could be a moot point, but not all countries have that regulation. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, has a no felon rule. You cannot enter Canada if you’ve been convicted of a felony

With all of that said, 99% of passport applications get accepted.

Typical passports need to be renewed every 10 years. Children under 16 need to have their passports renewed every five years. This takes into account how much the looks, height, weight of a child can change over the course of a few years.

There are about 110 million US passports in circulation today, but the there were only half that amount in 2000. The reason for the sudden rise: The rule that passports were needed for travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Many people complain about the rise in passport price renewals in 2010. Why is adding passport pages $82 when it used to be free? Why is a new passport $135 when it used to be $100 The answer is that the State Department does more than just issue you the blue book. All the embassies in countries around the world have to be maintained, as well as all the support staff.

RFID or radio frequency identification chips are installed in all new passports. This should make it harder to forge passports and well as make the information harder to steal if lost or stolen. The US passport is part of an international standard that covers security and encryption. This should stop thieves from pulling information out of the air off your passport as you walk by.

The Smarter Traveler app for iPhone is a great resource, surprisingly so. In fact I talked about how shocked I was that this useful app came from the US Government.

So what did we learn from Passport Day?

Getting a passport is easy.
Getting a passport is an almost automatic proposition.
Getting a passport is the key to seeing the world.

So why don’t you have a passport?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Morti June 28, 2012 at 8:27 AM

Quite a useful Post…Thanks so much


Moe August 1, 2012 at 11:22 PM

Hey man,

I’m a young black guy who just graduated from high school. I’m taking a gap year and planning to work for six months and backpack around Asia the next six months after that. I just stumbled upon your blog and haven’t read all of it yet, but I wanted to ask if you thought it was safe wandering around China/Cambodia/India as a young person of color? I don’t have a problem of being starred at, but I am a bit hesitant about any hostility I may encounter or any possible discrimination, especially when trying to rent a room in a hostel.



brian August 2, 2012 at 9:29 PM

You are not going to have a problem. I did exactly what you are talking about and had a blast. In fact I would say you’ll get more POSITIVE attention because there are so few black and brown people in the part of the world. I spent time in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau and Japan and never had an issue. And if someone had an issue with me, I was too busy having a good time to notice.

Go and enjoy the world. People are alot more welcoming than you realize.


Ann August 18, 2012 at 5:32 AM


do you know if a convicted felon can travel to thailand? or should we ask for visaat the embassy first or is that possible to have visa on arrival?

Thank you


brian September 3, 2012 at 12:07 PM

I don’t know offhand but I would definitely find out from Thailand first before you book a flight and find out they have to send you right back after you land. That would be a awful waste of time and money.


Dee October 8, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Great meeting you at the Passport Day. Looking forward to 2013 when my passport will be getting stamped.


brian April 21, 2013 at 8:26 PM

Same here. Here’s to getting your passport stamped many times in 2013 and beyond!


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