Need a passport? Start early, and expect to wait
Planning to take the family on an April trip to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean? If you don't have valid passports, it may be too late to get them.
A backup in passport processing across the country has resulted from new government anti-terrorism regulations that went into effect in January, requiring passports now for all U.S. travelers flying to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central and South America.
The Vineyard is not immune. While it used to take about a month to get a regular passport, that time is now 10 weeks or more, said Beth Kramer, who has just been trained to process passports at the West Tisbury Library. While in training at the Boston Passport Agency, she said she saw "room after room" with piles of passports waiting to be processed.
"The backlog is tremendous," she said. "People need to deal with their passport issues." She suggested travelers try the expedited process, at a $60 extra charge, which can process a passport in four to six weeks. If a person can't get a passport through a local office in time, there's always Boston.
Ms. Kramer is now one of three people at the West Tisbury Library qualified to take passport applications by appointment. The phone number is 693-3366.
Vineyard Haven post office officials also said passport processing may take up to 10 weeks. An attachment to a large sign at the entrance warns people of the delay. The Vineyard Haven post office will take passport applications Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday from 10 am to noon.
The other location on the Island that takes the applications is the Edgartown courthouse, Monday through Friday from 9 to 11 am and 1 to 3 pm. The Falmouth Post Office on South Main Street is the next nearest Cape location and is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. That office takes photos on site, while the others do not.
The applications are not processed at the intake sites, but sent on to the larger regional offices, in Philadelphia or Boston.
The cost of processing is $67 plus an additional $30 execution fee for everyone 16 and older. For those under 16 the cost is $52 plus the $30 fee.
To apply for a passport for the first time, a person needs to apply in person and pick up an application at one of the local passport agencies, bring two photographs of a specified size, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver's license. The photographs may be taken at a professional photo shop and are an additional cost.
It is possible to renew a U.S. passport by mail if it is not damaged or altered and you received it within the past 15 years. You can get a passport renewal application form by downloading it from the U.S. Passport web site, http://travel.state.gov/passport.