Five lessons we learned from offering passport services
It's been over eight months since we started offering passport services at the Thurston County Auditor's Office. This seems like a good time to take stock and see how this new service is coming along.
We're seeing more and more people come into our office every month to fill out and drop off their passport application packets. We've been averaging over 150 applications each month, but in April we almost hit 250 applications. A new record!
Here are a few things we've learned along the way:
We don't do passport renewals, but we can do photos for your renewals!
While we can't take your paperwork if you're renewing your passport (you can take care of that through the mail), we can help you with your renewal.
To process your passport renewal, the State Department is particular about the photo you submit. There are size and color requirements. If this sounds daunting, just come down to our office and we can take care of the photo for you!
Five days a week, all day long!
We're the only place in Thurston County where you can apply for your passport anytime during the work week. The passport application process can be long, and it is hard to carve out time during the week. We are open every weekday between 8 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (except for the first Wednesday of the month, when we open at 9 a.m.).
Because of federal requirements, the Auditor's passport processing agents send your payment directly to U.S. Department of State. And, the federal government does not accept payment by cash or card. Auditor staff cannot process application packets without a check, money order or cashier's check. So, when you come to our office, make sure you bring proper payment.
The deadline is coming!
Passports aren't just for your over-seas trips anymore.
In October 2021 2020 (due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the REAL ID deadline was delayed), the REAL ID law will go into effect for Washington State. This means that to get into a federal building or board a plane for domestic travel, you will need a specific kind of ID. The two kinds of IDs that will work for Washingtonians will be an enhanced driver's license or a passport.
Our great staff make it happen!
When we made the decision to offer passport services last year, we knew that our front-line staff would feel the pinch. Our customer service staff in Licensing and Recording already help dozens of people each day who are applying for marriage licenses, renewing car tabs or searching for land records, among other services.
Finding a way to also offer passport services took a lot of conversations, planning and training.
Each one of our front-line staff had to complete six hours of training. When you're focused on serving people coming through the door all day, it is hard to carve out six hours to train on a new service. But by juggling hours and covering for each other, we were all able to get up to speed.
When you come to the Auditor's office, you can still expect the same high-quality customer service and expertise that you've come to expect.