Passport application lines gone for now

July 8, 2008 7:12:07 PM PDT
At this time last year, many travelers were scrambling to get their passports so they could take off on their summer vacations.

Last year, some actually had to cancel their vacations because they couldn't get a passport in time. This year, the wait time for a passport has averaged less than a month. But let me be the first to warn you, we could be seeing the return of long lines, delays in getting passports and yes, even cancelled vacations as soon as next year.

The scene at the Passport Agency in San Francisco last year consisted of long lines of frustrated travelers stretching outside the door, desperate to get their necessary passport.

"We're kind of pushing the wire now," said Paul Johnson in May 2007.

That was last year.

Now, there is a near empty passport office and service agents waiting for customers.

"We had a lot of lines last year. Last year was a very busy year. This year we're pretty much caught up," said Michael Silva from the San Francisco Passport Agency.

But don't expect that to last. Demand for passports next year is expected to increase from 20 million applications to 30 million. That's because new rules take effect next June.

Anyone traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by car or by cruise ship will need a passport.

If your passport is set to expire next year, there's still time to avoid an expected long wait getting it renewed.

"We recommend that they apply now, and anticipate the huge demand which could be generated next year," said Silva.

Silva warns some countries won't accept your passport if it expires in less than a year, and another reason is to take advantage of the personal service available from clerks right now.

As a future traveler found out, the wait for a passport shouldn't be very long at all.

"Within a week's time," said Alfred Calacal from Union City.

If your foreign travels are unlikely to ever take you outside of the U.S., Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, you can save up to $55 by purchasing just the passport card. The card is only good for travel by land or cruise ships to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.


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