One of the little secrets of US passport processing is that if you send in for passport service by mail, you’re going to get an envelope with your new passport in it… and nothing else. You might find yourself wondering if the State Department forgot to give you back your birth certificate or cancelled passport. Don’t panic! Your other documents will arrive in a separate envelope.
When you apply for passport service by mail, you are given two options for return shipping. Your new passport can be sent to you via Priority Mail, at no additional charge, or by Express Mail for a fee of approximately $16. However, that Priority or Express Mail will arrive holding only your new passport and a few informational pamphlets. Your proof of citizenship (birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or old passport) will be sent back in a separate envelope via standard First Class mail. If you ordered a passport card in addition to a passport book, your new passport card will also be mailed in another envelope.
We recently heard from a mom who had applied for a new passport book and card for her 12 year old son. “We applied for standard processing by mail for his passport,” she says, “and almost exactly 6 weeks later, we got a Priority Mail package with his new passport. His passport card arrived in a plain white envelope three days after that. It took nearly a full week after we got his passport for us to get the last envelope with his original birth certificate, old passport, and cancelled passport card! I got nervous about it, and actually woke up in the night worrying that someone could have stolen his birth certificate out of our mailbox. Luckily, I got the envelope with the birth certificate the next day!”
If you, like this mom, are worried about having an original birth certificate or other personal documents sent to you by untraceable postal mail, what can you do? The best way to ensure that all your important documents stay together is to use the services of a registered passport expeditor. All of your documents will be hand-carried into a Passport Agency for processing on-site. When your new passport is complete, the Passport Agency will release your birth certificate or cancelled passport to the passport expeditor at the same time as your new passport. The passport expeditor will then send you everything – your new passport, cancelled passport and/or birth certificate – in one package using a reliable delivery service with a tracking system, like UPS or Federal Express. You’ll get everything at once, quickly and without worries!