““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Passports in a Hurry
Those business negotiations have taken an unexpected twist and you need to be in some far-off country as soon as possible. Arranging a flight? No problem. Packing? Piece of cake. Renewing your passport or getting a visa from a foreign government in a hurry? Here you might need help. This is where the services of a passport expediter can be invaluable.
Some of these companies have hundreds of employees around the world, while others are small and regional, but all have the same mission: helping clients navigate their way through bureaucracies to swiftly obtain passports and visas.
"It's not a difficult science-it's a game that we know the rules to, so we're very good at playing," said Christopher Davis, CEO of G3 Visas and Passports in Washington, D.C. "People come to us for our knowledge and expertise."
In addition to experience and skill, the expediters have infrastructures geared toward rapid processing of documents, according to Bill Scott, vice president of operations at industry giant CIBT Corp. "We have people going to the various consulates every day, so we are in good contact with them and we stay on top of the regulations," Scott said.
Passport expediters advise clients on what they need to provide to make the process as smooth as possible. "We can tell them how to gather everything over the Internet," said Kathleen Curran, owner of A Rush Passport and Visa Services in Austin, Texas. "We talk to our customers several times a day, just to make sure they have a complete package. Then we have them send the package directly to a courier in Washington, D.C., who submits [the documents] and lets us know if there are any problems."
The cost of such services depends on what you need and how quickly you need it. For one-day passport processing, the service fee would be at least $150, plus expedited shipping charges and the government cost of $157. A rush job on a multi-entry visa to Russia could cost about $500, while a visa for Jordan would run less than $100.
Since implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative in January, expediters have been seeing more rush passport orders. "Anyone traveling by air to the Caribbean, Canada or Mexico requires a passport now," said Priority Passports owner Pedro Bonegiboyeaux. "That is taking a lot of people by surprise." The regulation will eventually include travel to these areas by land and sea, as well.
When you need a travel visa in a hurry, you may wish to work with an expediter firm that either has offices in the Washington, D.C. area or will have you send documents directly to a courier service there. Many countries have their only diplomatic services in Washington, and the fewer steps you take in submitting your application, the faster you'll get results. For help in selecting an expediter, visit www.us-passport-service-guide.com, which lists many of the industry's major players.