Thoughts at a Passport Agency

So this week I went to Seattle to get my passport as I am going to Toronto for spring break. The whole process before arriving at the agency went smoothly. I thought I had gathered all the documents that I needed. Upon arriving and going through an airport like level of security I discovered that I had forgotten my passport photos. Luckily enough a kind security guard advised me to just run down the street to FedEx to get them done (took five minutes) and come back. So advice for you all; go to FedEx to get your passport photos done because that’s where the passport agency people actually recommend you go to since Walgreens doesn’t always nail down the requirements.

It was an interesting experience. I forgot that my queue number was 331 and NOT 333 which meant I had to get a new queuing number (371). While I waited, as you often do when dealing with any form of bureaucracy, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations that each agent was having with the person at the window.

There was a programmer trying to fly into Tokyo for a new job, boyfriend trying to meet up with his girlfriend in the Middle East, a child gymnast who just won her way into an international competition, families taking vacations (usually to Canada), a wife trying to claim the body of her husband who had committed suicide, businessmen and businesswomen, and a lot of immigrants trying to go home.

The last group of people stood out to me the most. Many of them had previously talked to other agencies to help them navigate the complicated system in obtaining a permit and getting permission to cross the border among many other things. A woman that came here on a work permit was attempting to get a passport to go home to Mexico because there was an emergency (which is one of the circumstances that allows you to get your passport at an agency); a relative was dying. However she needed to be naturalized or a citizen to obtain a passport. She had already talked to Border Patrol who appeared to tell her this wasn’t a problem. A lot of stories were similar to this. And the whole time I was (let’s face it) eavesdropping, I couldn’t help but wonder how could you make this process better.

It turns out that failed group projects has not allowed people to realize communication is key when you hear the stories of inaccurate information being told to people at different agencies, leading to overall confusion. So, I thought what if you had some sort of process online that cleared up the issue.

The government website where you get information for your passport has a cost calculator where you enter your basic information and it spits out a number. What if you created a Situation Calculator (terrible name, I know). A person would start off entering their basic information, then enter the circumstances they are in, and then the program would tell them the process that they would need to go through required documents needed, who to contact, and what order to contact the agencies in.

It would help. Instead of individually calling each agency and searching for this information it would all be laid out clearly for someone. The program would create an outline/plan. Just a thought.

Wait, maybe I will create this for my computer science extra credit project. (cue TaySwift singing “it could be forever or go down in flames”)