The US Department of State is increasing the number of regional passport offices available to issue passports.  The department just opened a new office in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 18th, so Minneapolis residents who need to cross the border in to Canada can make an appointment to have their passport application processed on-site.  More passport offices are planned for the future, including one in  El Paso scheduled to open in 2010.

The final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative goes into effect next month, on June 1st.  When it does, passports will be required for land and sea trips to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. More Americans will need passports than ever before, and more of them will probably need the last-minute passport services provided at Regional Passport Agency offices.

However, there are certain things that travelers should be aware of before trying to use a Regional Passport Agency office. First of all, you need an appointment-they won’t let you in without one. Second, the offices have limited hours of operation.  If you work a day shift, you will almost certainly have to take time off work. Third, there may not be one close to you-remember, there are still only 21 of these passport offices in the entire country!  Also, you need to remember to bring in all of the necessary documents. See “What to Bring When You Apply for an Emergency Passport” for a complete list.

What happens if you need a passport quickly but you aren’t close to a Regional Passport Agency? What if you just can’t get the time off work while the office is open? Don’t worry-a private passport expediting company can submit your application for you for speedy processing. With an expediting company, you can have your passport application processed in as little as 24 hours, with no need to make an appointment, drive to an agency office or take time off work.

Give yourself a break: Avoid passport offices and get your passport on time with!