Renewing a passport is pretty simple. But if you don’t understand the process it can be intimidating and frustrating, especially if you are required to have it for work or need it very quickly. Here’s how I got my passport the same day at the Chicago Passport Agency.
How to Renew a Passport Same Day
Renewing a passport is a pretty straightforward process. The State Department website will walk you through the process. Most people will simply fill out the forms and send them with a check, photo, and your old passport via the mail to the State Department who returns you a new passport in several weeks. The website is very easy to use and very helpful for the average person. But, if you are like me, you need it very quickly. A passport renewal can be done same day or at least within a day or two, and that is when the process get’s confusing. Here’s how I did it:
A Frustrating Start
Many bad words were said as I yelled at my computer.
As a pilot, I am allowed a certain amount of time in our Ops Specs (Ops Specs are like a letter of authorization from the FAA to an airline to operate under different rules than the federal regulations) to not have my passport and continue to work but it causes headaches for me and a couple of different departments. It is much better to be able to go in and come out with a new passport on the same day. It was worth some time trying to find a solution that let me do that. I started out at the State Department’s website trying to figure out how quickly I could turn around a passport renewal. It just seemed impossible to do it in less than 2 to 3 weeks. During that time, while I could technically work, I would be pulled from CASS (which allows me to jumpseat on other airlines) making it very difficult to commute – adding additional headaches for me and for crew scheduling if I mis-commuted.
Adding to the confusion, there are ads all over the website for 24-hour service. They are expensive but I knew it could be done. I kept digging and I found a Passport Agency in Minneapolis but it was not listed in some of the lists of agencies for fast renewal. So I wasn’t sure (and still am not sure) if a same-day service can be done in my hometown. After spending a few hours reading through the whole website, I ended up calling the customer service number for the state department. After a good sized phone tree, I was finally talking to someone. I had a lot of questions like “Can I get my passport photo at the agency?” and “Can I pay with a credit card?” as well as expediting same day service. The answers were I don’t know” for the first two and for the third, “You just have to make an appointment and find out.” Ugh.
At this point, I was rethinking my career and whole adult life. But I got some good answers from our pilot group’s facebook page and I share them here:
Document a Need for Same Day (expedited) Service
Airline pilots are required by the FAA to carry their passport at work. The nature of the job requires me to be available for rerouting and rescheduling to international destinations even on my days off. Many other people may have needs for an expedited passport for things like family emergencies, destroyed or lost passports, and quick international travel to name a few.
In my case, I had the Cheif Pilot (my boss) simply write a letter on my behalf that I attached to my application. I know other people who have successfully shown travel plans or hotel confirmations to the same effect. The State Departments website says that proof of immediate travel, the expedited fee, and an appointment are required for each application. Proof of immediate travel being “printed proof of international travel (such as your flight itinerary, hotel reservation, cruise tickets, or international car insurance” within two weeks, or within four weeks for an international visa.
Filling Out the Paperwork and Scheduling an Appointment
Step by Step Instructions:
- From Travel.State.Gov select “Get a US Passport.”
- Then choose “How to Apply or Renew a Passport”
- Choose “Get A Passport in a Hurry” on the left menu.
- There is a table on the page. Choose the “Make an appointment at a passport agency or center” option in the row for “less than 2-3 weeks”. I copied the link above if you just want to do it from here.
- At this point, you have to select an office. I chose “Chicago Passport Agency” and followed the instructions.
Shortcuts to the stuff you actually need:
- Make an appointment – Passport Agency Appointment
- Fill out your forms – What Forms Should I Use?
- Fees – just bring a checkbook. They will tell you how much when you get there. I was able to use a credit card but I think cards are available on a limited basis.
- Photo – just go to Walgreens. They do photos there. Yours is going to suck. Get over it.
- Proof of travel – or in my case, letter from work documenting the need for same day service.
- If renewing your passport, bring your current one.
I had all of these things and the forms were already filled out and organized. I spent less than 10 minutes inside the building before I was done. I had a 9 AM appointment. My arrived at the office was at 8 AM because I was unfamiliar with the public transportation and built in an extra hour of time. I walked out of the building before 8:15 and was scheduled to pick up my new passport at 3 PM.
My Trip to Chicago
The night before my appointment, I printed and organized my paperwork. Here’s how you can get it done in Chicago if you didn’t already have it done at home.
Get a Passport Photo from O’Hare Airport.
I finished a four day trip on Thursday night and stayed overnight at a hotel at the airport. To get ready, I literally printed all of the paperwork in the lobby. If you need a passport photo, there is a FedEx and several Walgreens by the airport that can get it for you. It will cost about $15. If you are coming in late or at an odd time, visit the Walgreens at 6310 N Nagle Ave. They are open 24 hours a day. The number is 773-774-2225. There are a ton of Uber and Lyft drivers by the airport so it is cheap and easy to get around.
Take the Blue Line Downtown
If you purchase a day pass, you can ride the blue line from O’Hare and back the same day for about $10. When you get to the kiosk by the O’Hare station, you can figure out what makes sense for you. Consider making a day trip out of your time between your appointment and the pickup time.
If you are traveling to Chicago by air you will arrive in one of the terminals. From any terminal follow these signs for the “CTA” or “Trains to City.”
They will bring you to the O’Hare Station below the parking lot by Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
Outside of the station, buy your ticket and get on the train. The Chicago Passport Agency is at the LaSalle stop downtown. Get off the train at LaSalle and take the south exit to the street. You will walk out of the subway literally 20 feet from the front door of the building you need for your passport. The subway is the stairway coming up out of the ground on the right side of the image and the front door is on the left side.
Once inside, go through security and take the elevator up to floor 9. From there, agents will help you through the cues. I was there on a slow day during a slow season and I walked out in about 10 minutes with a 3 PM pickup time for my renewed passport.
How does this compare to the 24-hour passport services?
I was able to renew my passport hassle free and it cost me $170 to get it the same day. Many of the passport services charge hundreds of dollars to do the same. If you can make it to your local or regional passport agency, you can get a passport renewal done for a lot less money.
What to Do While You Wait in Chicago
The passport office is right downtown near the Chicago Public Library. It is also near the Shed Aquarium and the Field Museum. If it’s nice out, consider a walk Grant Park. From there you can follow the park north to Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate (the bean) and Navy Pier. After your adventure, take a bus back to LaSalle to pick up your passport.
Other Travel Tips
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