The United States Passport Agency has decided to crack down on handwritten passport applications. It used to be that you were asked to print out a passport application form – the DS-11 form – fill it out in ink, and then take the form along with your other passport requirements – your photo, birth certificate or expired passport, the fee, etc. – to a passport office for processing. If you decided to work with a company like Swift when applying for a passport, we could fill out the form on your behalf or along with you and turn in all the documents for you (with your authorization).
But now, the rules have changed. You still need to fill out a DS-11 form to get new passports, but you can’t do it by hand. The form must be filled out online, then printed and brought into an office. There are even strict rules about the printing – you have to print the form on two separate pages rather than one page printed on both sides.
We know, this all sounds rather silly. But there is good reason for the change. When you fill out the DS-11 online, the printed version adds a barcode to your application that contains all of your information. This means that when you take your printed form to a passport office, the agent can scan your barcode and get all of the information exactly as you entered it online. This helps improve security and makes the whole passport application process more reliable than someone trying to decipher your handwriting could ever be.
Wouldn’t it be easier for the agent to just be able to access your online application online without you having to print it out? Yes, it would. Why can’t they do that? We really don’t know. Technology is weird.
For now, this is the process. So, if you’ve printed out a passport application to fill out by hand, put it in the shredder. You’ll need to hop online to complete your application. We can still help you with expediting your new passport or with renewing your passport, but you’ll have to take charge of the online application part for the time being.
If you need help or have any questions, contact the Swift team. We are available around the clock to help your travel go as smoothly as possible!
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.