I actually wrote this blog post a few months ago as we were frantically trying to figure out getting a last minute passport. I figured if it worked out this may help someone in the future!
So if you’re reading this, take a deep breath and I hope this helps!
You need a new passport… like yesterday need a new passport. We think we can help!
If you’re like us you occasionally (cough, all the time) leave things until the last minute. You would think we would have learned our lesson by now but since we still don’t have it figured out, we hope our major mistake can alleviate a little stress for you!
In October we booked a trip to Morocco and Sierra Leone, Africa. Nick’s passport was pretty much full besides a few random spaces. We thought he may need a new one in order to enter those countries but we put it off because of the holidays. Then we just figured his passport might be ok since it did have a few open spaces throughout it.
Mistake #1- Go with your gut. We had a feeling he has going to need a new passport. We also had a feeling those random spaces weren’t going to cut it.
Every country’s Visa process/stamp are different. Many countries in Africa, such as Tanzania and we’ve now learned Sierra Leone as well, take up an entire page in your passport. An entire page. Sometimes they even require you to have 2-3 pages free. Crazy we know. Which leads us to…
Mistake #2 – Research the country you’re traveling to! We should have done this before we even booked the trip or at least directly after booking. You research flights, hotels, transportation (and if you’re like us, food!), entering a new country should be no different.
If we simply researched directly after booking we wouldn’t have made the biggest mistake of all…
Mistake #3 – Waiting until the last minute to do the most important things!
We figured we had time after the holidays (a few days short of a month) to figure it all out. Very wrong. After our Christmas food coma we started looking up what we may need for Sierra Leone. A pre-approved Visa. Ok no biggie. Been there, done that.
We can’t do this online?!
We have to send our passports, price of the Visas, recent 2X2 passport photos, proof of travel, proof of a yellow fever shot and an invitation from the agency we’re volunteering at to the Embassy in Washington D.C?!
Ok, ok, no new passport for Nick because we don’t have time. His will be fine, he has a few random spaces. We’ll send everything in, get approved and get it all back in time. We have a month, plenty of time.
Then I quickly realize… I’VE NEVER HAD A YELLOW FEVER SHOT. So in true last minute form I start frantically calling every type of medical agency that administers vaccinations.
EVERYONE IS CLOSED. Of course everyone is closed, it’s that weird, awkward time between Christmas and New Years Eve. You know those few days were all you eat is leftover food from the holiday, you live in the checkered pajama pants your mom was so excited to give you as a present and also the time when you try to scrounge together plans for New Years Eve. Those few days.
After about 15-20 voicemails I finally get someone on the phone.
“Yellow Fever? Oh no dear we don’t offer that. The country is actually on a shortage, barely anyone has them. Good luck.”
I calmly walk over to Nick and proceed to hyperventilate. (I actually just told him what happened and started drowning myself in the leftover Christmas desserts I made a few days prior. Why? Because baked goods make me feel better.)
I hand him a Tiramisu cream puff (they are little balls of Heaven) and we proceed to semi freak out together. Then he remembers Passport Health. An agency that is solely for travel health.
Not only were they extremely helpful (they squeezed me in the very next day even though they were booked solid for the following two weeks in every location across the tri-state area), they were also really knowledgeable about everything and anything else I would need medical wise for our trip to Sierra Leone. They checked and rechecked every location within 4 hours of my house. Everywhere was booked solid and not only that but there actually is a shortage of Yellow Fever vaccinations so much so, that they’re not even giving them out anymore. They’re giving an approved substitute vaccination in it’s place. Only 250 places in the USA administer the substitute vaccination and I needed to get into one ASAP. Passport Health worked it out for me within 15 mins. They alerted the closest location to me that I was in a bind and they allowed me to come in early the next day, 7 in the morning early. After a quick shot and almost $400 later (crazy I know) I was on my way!
The next step was to go to CVS and have them take our 2X2 passport picture that we could send in. Tip: don’t wear white or any color close to white. $15 bucks later and…
Now we can FINALLY send in our passports, proof of yellow fever shots and everything else needed to Washington D.C to be approved for the visas. This might finally work out!
Note to self: Whenever you think that something almost always goes wrong. A week later we get a call from the Embassy. Remember that gut feeling we ignored because we kept putting it off and then didn’t have time? Well it came in the form of a man named Joseph telling us that Nick was not approved for a Visa because he needed a full page free in his passport, which he didn’t have.
Not going to lie we both definitely thought ‘Crap we just spent $400 for Zoe to get a Yellow Fever shot and now we can’t even go on this trip because it’s 2 1/2 weeks away.’ Could we figure it all out by then? Well after some baked goods, sulking and calculations we had to at least try right?
This is the part you especially want to pay attention to. The one you came here for right?!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED A PASSPORT LAST MINUTE :
My mom (yes I still call my mom when I don’t know what to do because she’s amazing and always knows what to actually do) told me to call our local post office. The one where I originally received my passport from. She said they’d know what to do and they did!
Our local post office gave me a number to call…
It was the contact for U.S. Passports (1-877-487-2778).
They told me to explain the situation and they would help me. Surprisingly a really nice woman answered the phone and put me at ease! She scoured the tri-state area passport locations for an available appointment. She found one a week later only an hour away from us.
Why did we need an appointment a week later you ask? First of all because that’s all that was available but it worked out because we needed to overnight a priority envelope to Joseph at the Embassy so he could send us backs Nicks filled passport ASAP. Nick couldn’t get a new passport without his old passport, which was in D.C. We needed a few days for the envelope to get there and for Jospeh to send it back.
Here’s what the nice lady on the phone told me about Nick’s appointment…
(This info is if you’re already a USA passport holder. If you need a passport for the first time you will need to fill out a different form.)
-There is no longer an option to add pages to your passport. That stopped being an option in 2016.
-Our appointment was the first one of the day, which gives us a better chance of them issuing his passport that same day (we’d probably have to wait a few hours for it).
-She told us to arrive at least 15 mins early. The earlier the better. They let people in early.
-She told me we’d have to go through security before entering, so no laptops, no bottles or sharp objects. All of that needs to be left in the car or somewhere else.
And here’s what she told me to bring to the appointment…
-$170 in some form. Credit card, money order or check. We could bring cash in but they would not have change so it would have to be exact.
**This depends on the location! She looked up our location and those were the rules for payment. She did tell me other locations don’t accept cash and some don’t accept credit cards. Just depends! So make sure to ask!**
-To print and fill out a DS-82 form in only black ink. You can find that form here. We made sure to fill out the form before our appointment to speed up the process.
(She also told me that on the form theres an option for a passport with more pages, check that. It’s free of charge.)
-Nick would also need to bring a recent 2X2 passport picture. Luckily when you go to CVS you get 2 for $15 so he had one left over.
-Nick’s current passport. (Great now we just need this to come in the mail.)
-Proof of travel. This will also help your case in getting your passport the same day. It proves you need it ASAP.
A few days later we received Nick’s filled passport from D.C.. A few days after that we woke up at the crack of dawn to drive an hour away and to be super early for our appointment. We brought everything we were told to. We arrived around 7:00am and sat in the car until they started letting people in at 7:40am even though our appointment wasn’t until 8am. We went through security and by 7:55 we were back in our car on the way the Starbucks. Because we had filled out the form prior to our appointment and we had all the documentation plus proof of travel completely organized, the process was a breeze! We were told to come back around 2pm to pick up the passport. We did some work a nearby Barnes & Noble, came back for the passport and were on our way.
Still weren’t out of the woods though because we had to run to a post office, overnight the new passport back to Joseph at the Embassy, pay for them to expedite the approval process and hope and pray that we then got this new passport and the needed approval back before our trip. Mind you that trip was in 8 days.
I would say long story short but this has actually turned into quite a long blogpost whoops!
We received Nick’s new passport and the approval with a few days to spare! We also had to hunt down the doctor that did his yellow fever shot years before. And that ended up working out as well! We traveled to Morocco & Sierra Leone with zero problems!
If you’re reading this because you’re in a panic trying to get a last minute U.S. passport, take a deep breath. Everything works itself out in the end. Something Nick and I told ourselves was that if for some reason he couldn’t get a new passport in time or he didn’t get approval into Sierra Leone, it was for a reason. As much as that would absolutely stink, we tried to remember that maybe something better was meant to come along or maybe we were just being protected from something. Either way, no matter what happened, it was the right thing and we were going to give ourselves grace. We would allow ourselves to be stressed and upset because hey we are humans, but we weren’t going to let it absolutely crush us. There were 2 extremely anxious weeks that we kept putting more and more money into and we weren’t sure if it was all going to work out. We held on to the idea that either way, no matter what happened, it was what was going to happen and that was ok. So if you’re in it right now and you’re stressed and anxious take a deep breath, we’re sending you positive thoughts!
Hoping this helps someone someday! As always feel free to reach out with any questions!
Zoe and Nick