Ask the Consul — September 2021

Question: My grandmother is a U.S. citizen.  She has been in Trinidad and Tobago for the past year and wishes to return to the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving.  However, her U.S. passport has expired.  Does she need a new U.S. passport?  If so, how can she get one?  Also, I’m ten years old and applied for a tourist visa to travel with her.  Can you expedite my visa application?

Answer: For the grandmother:  Even during the pandemic, the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit offers services like the processing of passport applications to U.S. citizens living in Trinidad and Tobago.  U.S. citizens can schedule an appointment to submit their passport applications and those who qualify can request passport renewal by mail.  The turnaround time for full validity U.S. passports is approximately 14 calendar days.  Details on the passport renewal process are available on the U.S. Embassy’s website: tt.usembassy.gov.

If you are a U.S. citizen overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you might even be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.  The U.S. Government started this policy to ensure that reduced consular operations during the pandemic do not adversely affect the ability of U.S. citizens to return to the United States.  To see if you qualify, visit travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html .

Beyond passport services, the ACS unit offers limited appointments to U.S. citizens in need of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad certificate and certain notarial services.

For the grandson:  The Consular Section also accepts and processes interview-waived visa applications received by TTPost.  We therefore encourage applicants under age 14 and over age 79 to apply for interview-waived cases, eliminating the need to appear in person at the Embassy.

Similarly, visa holders who want to renew a valid or expired visa by mail should apply if they meet the qualifying criteria, especially if the previous visa expired less than 48 months ago.  Interview waiver applications are processed in order of receipt and within 20-25 working days from receipt at the Embassy.

If you are not sure if you meet the mail-in criteria, you need to complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) and respond to the questions on profile at the Information and Appointment website.  The system will then determine if you qualify for the interview waiver.  For applicants with urgent travel, the Consular Section provides expedited appointments that must be requested through the Information and Appointment website.

If we receive an incomplete application, or if upon review the applicant is required to interview, we will contact the applicant.  We advise visa applicants to refrain from making travel plans until they receive back their passport with the visa.

Travel between our two countries is important, especially when it brings together family and friends during the holidays.  Persons wishing to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas should apply as early as possible.

For more information on the nonimmigrant visa process, please visit our website at usvisa-info.com.