BY MORGAN LEGEL
Despite the pandemic, some of Guam’s residents need to travel, or are eager to resume personal travel, particularly with the expectation that the island is opening for tourists, and quarantine restrictions are to ease.
Christine B.C. Tudela, the customer service supervisor for the Guam Passport Office, housed at the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation, told the Journal the office’s two to three daily employees process between 60 and 70 passport applications a day, five days a week.
She said for the week of April 19 through April 23, the office processed 256 applications in total.
Passport applicants are required to bring a two-inch by two-inch photo and the application.
While the passport office does offer a walk-in service, the average wait, if the customer gets there in the morning is one to two hours. When scheduling an appointment, the next available date can often be months out.
Tudela said the office is the busiest in the region and “the only designated office to accept all passport applications,” to include new and renewed passports for both adults and minors.
If you want more of one-stop shop, American Passport Renewal Center also helps funnel passport applications, for adult renewals only. However, the business does provide a photo booth to take the required photo, for an additional charge, as well as application help if there are any questions.
“We do passport assistance for photos and the application process for those who need to go to Rev and Tax, and then [photos] plus filing for the adult renewals here,” said De’Aoni Villagomez, manager at American Passport.
On average, the center files 15 passports a day, amounting to about 90 a week, equivalent to half of Rev and Tax’s output.
“We’re a private business; we don’t work for the government and we’re not able to do what Rev and Tax does, like administer the oath when getting a new passport,” Keneisha Paulina, owner of the renewal center, said.
Staff at the center recommend appointments but do provide walk-in services as well. When scheduling an appointment, the next available appointment can be as soon as the next day, with each appointment lasting between 15 and 20 minutes, sometimes quicker if no photo is needed.
Tudela also said the office is understaffed and overwhelmed.
For the passport office in Rev and Tax, a standard minor passport book is $115, or $175 with an expedited process. For new adult books, it will cost $145 or $205, expedited. An adult renewal is $110 and $170 for an expedited book.
According to Paulina, the renewal center is slightly more expensive, but gives the customer the ability to check off all the to-do boxes in one place.
Passports are taking longer to come back.
“For standard renewal service, that one is 10 to 12 weeks to get the passport back, or about three and a half months, that one is $169. For expedited service, it’s $289 and that is four to six weeks, or a month and a half, to get the passport back.
For either, if you want to add on a passport card, it’s an additional $55,” she said.
Some passports may come earlier than the 10-week to 12-week time frame; it’s dependent on how fast your application is processed and how fast the U.S. Postal Service can get a passport to you.
When filing with Rev&Tax’s Guam Passport Office, the wait times are similar.
Paulina said before COVID, the wait times were less, with a standard passport taking about six to eight weeks to arrive in the hands of its owner and an expedited application taking about two to three weeks.
No passport service offers a tracking number or courier option once the application has been approved and needs shipped back to the customer.
Paulina does recommend getting a passport card, even though it is intended for domestic travel. With the card, she said, if someone were to lose their book on an international trip, they can take the card to the nearest U.S. Embassy, which can help get a new passport to get that person back home.
Tudela said it’s important to be educated on what it takes to apply for a passport. While there are directions and a list of needed items listed on the passport application, there are other resources for people to refer to.
Whether you choose the official passport office or the renewal center, one thing remains the same: the list of items to submit with the renewal application. These items include your most recent passport and/or card, a certified copy of a marriage certificate if your name has changed and a color photograph.
For new passports from Rev and Tax, you need proof of U.S. citizenship, proof of identity, black-and-white photocopies of the front and back of both documents, and a color photo.
“Anyone that needs information can obtain that information online at travel.state.gov or guamtax.com,” she said. “There is also an automated system that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week for assistance.” mbj