Hooray! Getting A Passport Just Got A Little Easier

by SharonKurheg

In December 2021, President Biden signed an executive order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government. I don’t know how much it would actually rebuild some people’s trust in the government, LOL, but the plan was to bring important government agencies into the digital era while simultaneously decreasing the red tape for a bunch of services.

The government has been in the midst of making applications to renew U.S. passports easier by putting the process online. They were able to get to the point of it being online as a pilot program, but after 500,000 applicants took part, it was taken offline and we’re still waiting for it to go back online again.

When applying for the first time

However, that program, whenever it DOES go back online, is only for renewals. If you’re applying for your first passport, it’s a much more drawn-out process. You have to:

  1. Confirm you meet the requirements
  2. Fill out your form online and print it
  3. Get evidence of U.S. citizenship (and a photocopy)
  4. Get a photo ID (and a photocopy)
  5. Determine special circumstances
  6. Provide a photo
  7. Calculate fees
  8. Find a location to apply
  9. Track your status

Making an appointment to apply

Number 8, “Find a location to apply,” was probably one of the most difficult parts of the whole process, because you’d have to make a reservation. And if you’ve got a busy life, it might not be easy to say, “OK, I’ll be there on the 8th at 3:05 pm.”

Happily, that might not be the case anymore.

Walk-In hours

Now, instead of having to make an appointment, U.S. Postal Service facilities that accept passport applications will finally have walk-in hours.

According to Elvin Mercado, vice president, Retail and Post Office Operations, every Post Office that processes passports will offer at least three walk-in hours each week.

How it works

You’ll still have to do all the paperwork ahead of time, get photographs, etc.

But when you’re ready to bring everything to the Post Office, you can go to the USPS Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler tool, which can be found at www.usps.com. Then, on the scheduler tool, search by date or location and you should be able to find your nearest Post Office and the available walk-in hours.

Once you arrive, a retail associate who’s trained in handling the application process will be ready to help (and, apparently, at most locations, can even take a customer’s passport photo, according to Mercado).

How well it works

Unfortunately, when I went to the USPS Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler page the first time, it went through an endless loop of “Initializing Services / Please do not refresh the page.”

a screenshot of a computerWhen I refreshed the page about 10 minutes later, I got the same “Initializing Services” prompt, which eventually included a “Sorry, this service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.”

a screenshot of a computer

Well, OK then.

The third time’s the charm, though – when I refreshed again, I got the actual page.

(PRO TIP – I discovered that if I click on the page while I got the “Initializing Services” prompt, it would bring me to the page itself)

After filling out the form (service type, how many adults, how many kids and searching by location vs time), I was able to pick a Post Office location and sure enough, they did have walk-in hours. The first location I looked at had walk-ins available on Wednesday through Friday, from 9 am to 10am.

a schedule of hours and hoursI filled out the form again, just to see what the hours were for another location. That one had walk-ins available from 9:45am to 12:45pm, only on Mondays.

a screenshot of a phoneSo I guess each Post Office has the option to vary which 3 hours per week they’ll have walk-ins available.

All Post Office locations still allow you to make an appointment, and frankly, they have many more hours per week for appointment times than they do for walk-ins.

But if you’d rather just show up during whatever the walk-in times are at your Post Office of choice, welp, that’s now an option, too.

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