In January, the meetings industry will take a global leap forward as PCMA’s Convening Leaders welcomes planners and suppliers to Vancouver for four days of learning, networking and cultivating creative moments in British Columbia. The trip north of the border requires one additional small step: making sure that all travel documentation is up-to-date. If you have questions on your passport, you’re in luck, because we have answers. Below, you’ll find a convenient guide to some of the most commonly asked questions about global travel paperwork.
When should I submit my application?
Literally, right now. This very moment. Whether you’re applying for a new passport or you need to renew your documentation, the fall is the best time to send your paperwork to the State Department. The summer rush is over, and the State Department estimates that routine applications will be processed within four to six weeks of the submission date. Click here if you’re a first-time applicant, and click here if you need to renew your passport.
How much time will this take me?
Filling out the application is easy, and in most cases, you can plan for this to be relatively hassle-free. However, there are some exceptions. If you're a first-time applicant, you’ll have to take care of this in-person. If you’re renewing, you can most likely take care of it via mail. You have to satisfy these conditions, though:
— Your passport is undamaged and can be submitted with your application.
— Your passport was issued when you were 16 or older.
— Your passport was issued within the last 15 years.
— Your passport is in your current name or you can legally document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate or a government-issued document supporting your name change.
What if my passport is set to expire near my travel dates?
If your current passport is set to expire near your travel dates, you’re better off taking care of the process before you go. Some countries require six months of validity remaining on a passport to approve entry. For example, if you’re set to travel outside the United States in December and your passport expires in February, it’s best to renew now instead of waiting until your return.
Should I ask for expedited service?
If you do wait to send in your application, pay the extra $60 for expedited service. It’s the best investment you can make. It comes with the assurance that you will receive your new passport (or your denial letter) within three weeks. I recently submitted my renewal application before a trip to Lithuania and kicked myself for not expediting the application. As my travel date approached, I called the passport processing center too many times to count. I checked my mailbox each day. I tracked my application online (the government’s online system is not helpful). While the new passport did arrive in time, I could have saved myself a lot of stress by forking over a few extra bucks.
Where do I send this?
While you may be used to using FedEx or UPS, I discovered that some locations of these delivery services will not ship passport applications. Since they are delivered to Post Office Boxes, the USPS is your best bet.
Should I ask for anything else?
There’s a chance that your next career move could require more international travel. With that in mind, you should request that the State Department send you a 52-page booklet instead of the standard 28-page booklet. This way, if you do wind up fulfilling the role of globetrotter, you’re less likely to need to get a new passport early if you run out of room for additional stamps.
Curious about what your travel experience to Canada will be like for Convening Leaders? Click here
to check out my perspective on my recent trip to Vancouver for TED. Hint: customs is very convenient there, and the city is waiting to greet the meetings industry with open arms.