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How to Choose a Passport Expeditor

Passport and visa expeditor services, once a tool mainly of harried business travelers, are now de rigueur for many leisure travelers as well, who turn to them to renew passports, get extra pages added, or apply for visas to Brazil, China, India, and other countries that require them. And with the surge this year in passport applications, expeditors are being widely used as a way of jumping the long lines (though even their powers are limited).

Why spend the extra money on an expeditor, adding hundreds of dollars to passport and consular fees?First, it saves you time (more trip, less standing around in line); second, you should factor in the money you would otherwise spend schlepping around to embassies and passport offices, for expedited services. Take note: the number of days promised by expeditors for turnaround refers to processing days. Unless you're dropping off and picking up your documents in person, you need to allow extra time for delivery.

Here, four other tips to keep in mind:

  • Apply Early Though expeditors can reduce wait time from weeks to one or two days, they don't have an endless supply of passes to the front of the line. According to Rob Smith, executive director of the National Association of Passport and Visa Services (NAPVS), a company can file only a limited number of applications per day. If it has reached its quota by the time you apply (only three same-day applications are allowed from each expeditor per day at the Chicago Passport Agency, for instance), you may have to wait. Look for a company with locations around the country; they are likely registered with several Passport Agency offices and thus have more allotments.
  • Getting it Right A very basic, but important, service an expeditor provides is verifying that all of your information is accurate. If there are any typos or incorrect dates, the document won't be valid. And as Tom Collins, CEO of Perry International, points out, "Immigration officials don't try to help you at the borders."
  • Location, Location, Location Make sure the expeditor you choose has a physical office (not just a toll-free number), and consider the location. "An expeditor should literally walk your documentation through the process, if needed," says Chris Davis, CEO of G3 Visas & Passports, "so it's best to use one near consulates, embassies, and passport offices."
  • Call Around When trying to decide between expeditors, call a few. If you constantly go to voice mail, or they don't return your calls promptly, it's going to be difficult to follow up on your application or get any questions answered.
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