Five years ago Miguel got his first passport. I don't know how we prepared for it, but I recall that we went into the office with a pile of papers - originals and copies, he got his picture taken at a booth right there, and later that afternoon we walked out with his new passport. All accomplished in the same day - just show up, wait your turn, wait some more while they process your papers, and finally have the passport in hand.
Today we showed up at the same office - a little later than we'd planned on (10:30 instead of 9:30). A mob of people were outside the glass doors, which were guarded from within. It became clear that they were controlling the people moving in and out of the office area. A big sign on the window suggested it would be better to arrange an appointment rather than just show up and wait in line. There were two ways to arrange an appointment - a phone number and a website.
Miguel asked the woman ahead of us if we would get in, and she said it was uncertain. But she was prepared to wait, so we decided we would too. Then she mentioned that we'd need to prepay for the passport at the bank, but the form to take to the bank was inside those secured glass doors.
Miguel is not as aggressive as I am when it comes to asking what the process is. He was content to stand there waiting for something to happen, while I wanted to push my way to the front and ask my question about the form. Luckily Miguel noticed that the photo office also took photos for visas - we needed those for his visa to visit Canada. So off he went to get his picture taken.
While Miguel was gone and I was left holding our place in line, the guard opened the door and asked who was there without appointment but needing information. A bunch of us made our way to the front, and when I told her I needed the bank form, she ushered me in. When Miguel finished with the photo he came in to join me in the new 'people-needing-information' line.
We got what we needed and were told there was no point in waiting in line as they would only be letting three more people in without appointments. So we went outside, filled out the bank form, and then walked to the bank and got in line to pay the passport fee.
When we got home I went online to try to arrange the appointment, per the instructions on the instruction form we'd been given, and the big sign on the window at the office. No luck, the url didn't work, it was a broken link, and all other pages led to the same bad link.
So we tried to call, and got a busy signal. Miguel informed me that the guy at the office had told him to call, but that he would have trouble getting through. I hit redial, got a busy signal, hung up and hit redial again. Over and over until we finally got connected, only to lose the connection before we ever got to talk to someone.
More redials, more busy signals, and finally a second connection and a real man on the other end. He put Miguel on hold while he looked up his name in the computer, and then came back and asked for another piece of information and put Miguel on hold again. And shortly after that I heard it - the tone that meant that the guy had inadvertently disconnected us. Grrrrr....
More redials, more busy signals, and finally we got through a third time. The woman on the other end was much faster, and we got through all the questions without ever being put on hold. At the end Miguel was given a date, a time, and an appointment number - and from what he said, he cannot cancel or change the appointment, he has to show up.
So show up he will...all on his own as we will have guests checking in that day and someone needs to be home to greet them. So much for the plan to get the new passport and then fill in the information on the Canada visa form and get that mailed off via Fedex while we were already in Cancun.
Oh well...we did not get done what we had hoped today, but at least we have an appointment. With the way they 'improved' the process, I feel lucky we are this far into it.