Houston is fortunate to have services available for its growing diverse population. Within the United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Houston Passport Agency is one of 29 agencies/centers.
In fiscal year 2015, the Houston Passport Agency issued an estimated 625,531 passports and cards. Its courier service is the largest nationally with 83,509 products being processed through its courier program. The agency’s public counter service assisted 42,044 passport applicants.
The Houston Passport Agency is unique as it processes three different streams of work: lockbox, courier and counter work. Lockbox work is accepted from acceptance facilities (which include post offices, libraries, universities/colleges, etc). Lockbox cases can be processed as routine or expedited.
Courier work occurs when a customer utilizes a third party company to assist with the passport process. Counter expedite service is processed faster than routine lockbox service. The cost for expedite service is an additional $60 with processing and delivery occurring within two to three weeks. This service is helpful to travelers with life or death emergencies, last minute travel, or those needing a visa that requires long processing times.
Please note, the traveling public can only make an appointment at the agency for expedited service, there are no options for the public to make an appointment for routine service.
Online services are important to meet the logistics needs of travelers. Those who have had a passport that has been lost or stolen can now report it online through the State Department website, by submitting an online DS-64 (travel.state.gov).
Houston has 91 Consular Corps representatives. The Houston Passport Agency along with the Department of State’s regional Office of Foreign Missions, works with the Consular Corps to provide passport information to Foreign Nationals with U.S. born children.
Other instances where collaboration has taken place includes but is not limited to how to enhance communication via social media, passport fraud trends, discussions on countries that require a passport to have six months or more validity for entry and reviewing countries that require at least two blank visa pages for entry.
This year, the agency hosted its first “Insight Symposium,” where it opened the agency for a comprehensive tour of operations and an information session from a panel of subject matter experts. Attending were members of the Houston Consular Corps as well as public and private community leaders.
As of January 1, 2016, customers will be required to apply for a new passport in lieu of the visa pages. The agency strongly advises business and frequent travelers to request 52-page passports whenever they apply for their next passport.
Passport Services has historical data that indicates that large numbers of current holders will have passports expiring in 2017, so they are urging those due to expire or already expired, to renew as soon as possible.
Houston’s demographics are constantly changing and the Houston Passport Agency is an example of offering services for this changing environment.