Who knew a simple..Ok, not so simple name change would cause me untold drama. I changed..actually I dropped one name during my naturalization process. I updated my military records easily and my colleagues have a much easier time pronouncing my name nowadays.
I applied for a passport soon after my naturalization ceremony. They require all original documents be submitted with the application. In my case with the local post office. It cost me about $200 for the application.
That went well. I got my passport a week later since I’d paid for expedited service. The original documents came a day later except they didn’t return my original Petition for Name Change Court document. That is the document by the court authorizing me to change names. The National Passport Center indicated I should wait for two weeks for all original documents to arrive in the mail.
I waited for the two week period to lapse then wrote to them. Surprise, surprise..They have no record of ever receiving the name change document. They advised me to go ahead and get a replacement then send them a copy of the receipt and they’ll reimburse me. If I say I was not disappointed, I’d be lying.
I asked the lady at the Post Office. She sent in all the documents as I gave her. Now let the runaround start. A story of musical chairs with different offices I called the court clerk who said USCIS, the Citizenship agency keeps such documents. Unfortunately there was no way to contact the local citizenship office. More research and calls. Finally the base support office gave me a contact. I got in touch and was directed back to the court but this time the federal division. What would you know. They don’t keep the documents. This was now getting comical. I was referred to another 800 number, one of those with so many prompts that by the time you actually get to speak to a human, you’ve nearby given up. Luckily the human knew where I needed to go to get the much sought after duplicate document.
I needed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Request to get that court document. Apparently they are filed in faraway St. Louis, Missouri. Luckily I could scan and send in the request. I’ll be required to pay $ 25 for my hassles. Not bad if they’ll get me copy of the document. I’m still waiting to hear from them on how I should proceed. What a couple of weeks it’s been. Luckily the copies I made before I applied for the passport have to suffice for now.
I was able to change the Social Security card easily, the same with utility bills and the credit card. I’m having issues with my bank and Texas Department of Public Safety for my Driver’s License.
My bank wants me to physically present my original documents at a branch. The only problem is they don’t operate in the state I’m in. Our relationship will have to come to an end. There is no way I’m driving three hours to a neighboring state to change a name at a branch. This is America and banking shouldn’t be much of a headache. And ATM fees have been killing me here anyway using other banks. Time for change.
With the Driver’s License. I sent it the required paperwork and fees. I waited for a while then contacted them when I didn’t hear from them. Apparently I’m supposed to physically present the original naturalization papers to a DPS outside down in Houston. There is a small problem with that. I’m stationed out of state. They told me the issue has to be sent up the chain of command to see if they’ll be able to do it since I’m a service member. I’m waiting to see what they decide. Interesting times I tell you.
The only thing I’m impressed with despite my frustrations is there has always been someone trying to help even when they don’t have the answers. The level of customer service is impressive. The Passport Center could easily have not bothered to reply, but they did call and sent a letter of apology for losing my stuff.
In other news, it’s ridiculously expensive to have foreign education documents evaluated here. It cost me $ 249 without considering the cost of the institution sending transcripts to the evaluating body. That aviation dream is still alive and well ladies and gentlemen. I’m officially a student at Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University.
Dare to dream.