To beat summer rush, get passport now


May 20, 2001|By Christopher Reynolds | Christopher Reynolds,LOS ANGELES TIMES

If you're planning to travel abroad this summer, you should start thinking about passports now. Apart from the usual seasonal rush, there are two new child-related passport laws that take effect this year.

Summer is always the most harried time at any passport office because that's when most foreign trips are taken.

Tom Reid, regional director of the Los Angeles Passport Agency, says it takes about four weeks to process a passport application, although that sometimes stretches to five in the summer. If you give yourself at least that much lead time, you can comfortably apply at a post office or other site that handles applications.

To find the facility nearest you, call the National Passport Information Center at 900-225-5674, which charges 35 cents a minute, or 888-362-8668, which charges a flat fee of $4.95 that is billable via credit card number. Or you can consult the State Department's Web site at

The only solution for those passport seekers who wait too long and need "expedited service" is to make an appointment at a federal passport agency office and prepare to sit or stand in a waiting room crowded with glum fellow citizen-customers. Be aware that expedited service adds $35 to the basic fees of $60 per adult applicant older than 16, $40 for those younger than 16. Renewals cost $40.

Through the first four months of this year, applications are off 2 percent from last year, Reid said. He blames the sputtering economy, strained relations with China and tourist concerns about foot-and-mouth disease in Europe.

Changes for children

If your passport is in order, two newly enacted federal laws could affect your family.

One of the laws may simplify life for many families. Since Feb. 27, citizenship applications (hence passport applications) have been streamlined for internationally adopted children and other foreign-born children of U.S. citizens. The Child Citizenship Act, which applies to adopted and biological children of U.S. citizens, gives foreign-born children automatic U.S. citizenship if one parent is a U.S. citizen and the child is younger than 18, lives in the United States as a lawful permanent resident alien and is in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent. (If the child is adopted, the adoption must be final.)

The second new passport-related law, which is scheduled to take effect July 2, may have more complicated results, especially in one-parent households. It requires both parents or guardians to sign passport applications for children younger than 14. Until now, federal officials have required only one parent's signature.

"It's to prevent child abductions. It's for a good cause," Reid said. "But in practicality, it's going to have some difficulties."

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