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security procedures question and passport question

Hi everyone! Forgive me if this has already been coveredI read a few pages back and didn't find the topic recently; the TSA website is kind of vague and a lot of rhetoric; I'd rather hear straight answers from fellow travelers! What is the current sequence of security procedures now? I haven't flown for a couple years and want to know what to expect. We still go through the metal detector first? Then we can choose the body image scanner or a pat-down? My husband thinks we must do both the scanner and the pat-down; I have been under the impression that we can choose. My passport expires December 2012. How do I go about renewing it? I really need a new picture too! Thanks in advance for any advice! :)

Posted by
9363 posts

You will go through the regular metal detector after removing your shoes and putting them in the bin, along with other carryon items, to go through the machine. Depending on the airport, you may or may not have any secondary screening at all, but if you do, you choose which method. At our local airport, there is only the metal detector, but you might be called aside for wanding or a patdown (it's random). I have traveled a lot and never been called aside for a secondary screening. As for your passport, you renew it by going into your local post office to get the necessary form. Get passport pictures taken in lots of places (all of our local drugstores and photo processing places take them). Fill out the renewal form and take it with the two pictures back to the post office, along with your old passport and the applicable renewal fee. They will turn it all in for processing, and in probably three weeks or so you will get your new passport. You will also get your old one back, but it will most likely come in a separate envelope.

Posted by
71 posts

Mari, http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html Renew by Mail if All of the Following are True: Your Most Recent U.S. Passport: Is undamaged and can be submitted with your application Was issued when you were age 16 or older Was issued within the last 15 years
Was issued in your current name or you can legally document your name change Be sure to get a good photo ( no shadows, correct size, etc.)

Posted by
4524 posts

Just to add/clarify to Nancy's post, sometimes your screening will be a regular metal detector, sometimes it'll be the body scanner. You don't get to choose, the TSA agent directs you to the available machine. Secondary screening, such as wands and/or pat downs typically only occur if the metal detector/scanner finds something or if you have a medical issue (such as a pacemaker or other medical devices). Since you haven't flown in a few years, know that you'll need to remove your shoes and belt along with stuff in your pockets and put them through the x-ray. Liquids are restricted to 3oz's each and must fit in a 1 quart bag.

Posted by
3419 posts

If your airport has the newer scaners, you will not go through the metal detectors. If you don't want the "background scatter x-ray" scanner used on you, then you can opt for a pat down. Note that those pat downs are rather intesives (usually). You take off your shoes and jacket, put them, your carry on luggage, EVERYTHING from your pockets (even a tissue) and your 3-1-1 baggie on the conveyor belt before you go through the scanner and pick things up after you exit the scanner. If you are a AAA member. you can get the renewal forms and free passport pictures at the nearest AAA office.

Posted by
839 posts

YMMV, but at my airport: You will need to obtain your boarding pass first. Once you have that, present your passport and boarding pass to a checkpoint person, who will stamp it and allow you to go through security. The normal security check entails x-raying your carry-ons and going through the metal detector. After this, you may be asked to go through the scanner. You can choose between scanner and pat-down, I believe...though I guess I am too unassuming to ever be ed. After passing security, you can proceed to your gate. On international flights, the airlines (at least the ones I've flown with) ask to see your passport and boarding pass. Once you get to your first European destination, you will go through passport control, and then at your final destination, you will go through customs. P.S.: also, at the airport in Budapest, my boyfriend ended up having to go through additional security after going through the metal detector/having his bag x-rayed. They basically ended up going through his entire carry-on shrug

Posted by
2349 posts

Check with the passport office of your passport. They may be able to take the photos for you. Ours did, and did a retake as soon as they realized they needed to. It was either free or cheap, and much easier than going to Walgreens.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the repliesvery easy to understand as you all explain it! I have flown since the shoes-and-belt-off, 311 rules, so no problem there. I don't mind the scanner but I"m totally not comfortable with the pat-down idea. I just saw the info about passport renewal when I was at the post office today buying stamps. How close to the renewal date can I send in the paperwork? Is it like your driver's license and you renew it before it expires? Thanks for walking me through these silly questions, guys!

Posted by
203 posts

Mari, you can renew your passport any time you like. It is not like you drivers license in which you receive a notice in the mail. If you want to do it through the mail, I think it has to be current, as in not expired, and you don't want to be doing this if you are travelling within 4-6 weeks of the renewal or risk being stuck without a passport if there is a glitch in the process somewhere. The post office will charge you a $25 fee for processing your passport in addition to the renewal fee itself. My post office charged $15 for pictures but did a better job than the drugstore. The passports arrived back in less than two weeks and that was "normal" processing, not the expedited.

Posted by
813 posts

Just FYI, the taking off the shoes is a U.S. thing. We haven't had to do it in Europe yet (in the last 3 months I've been through 5 different country's airports). You will need to take off your jacket/sweater so you're not wearing anything bulky when you go through the metal detector.

Posted by
1437 posts

Mari, I have been been through two pat-downs in the US in the last couple of weeks. The scanner was not an option, and if it had been, I would have still opted for the pat-downs instead. Although thorough, I have never been made to be uncomfortable during a pat-down. I fly several times a year, domestically and internationally, and I set off the metal detector each time, resulting in a pat-down and/or wanded. I also regularly get my hands swabbed. I allow for this an extra 10 minutes to the usual wait time for passing security (the longest wait-time in a line-up was 30 minutes, during a busy time). I always budget an hour for this stage, even though it's usually much faster than that. For a pat-down, follow the verbal instructions carefully, for positioning and turning, smile and be respectful. The ladies that I have dealt with have, to date, been very professional and courteous. So be reassured on that point. Anticipate having to remove your jacket, shoes and belt. Also put in the tub the contents of your pockets. Take out your liquids Ziploc bag and laptop/notebook from your carry-on, so that they be visible for inspection. My carry-on is now organized with clear-through plastic bags holding all my small stuff, cords & etc.. That way, should it be searched, it's much easier for me to deal with it and for the person searching to see what's there. Make sure that one of you is always keeping an eye on your stuff, while the other goes through the pat-down procedure. Watch the search closely should they open your carry-on. Don't get flustered and everything will go smoothly.

Posted by
133 posts

For passport renewal, like others said you can do it by mail if your current passport has not expired. I would probably give it 8 weeks to be safe; they currently say 4-6 weeks but it could be much faster. If you wait too close until expiration (and will need to travel soon) then you need to pay a lot extra $ to expedite processing plus overnight delivery or travel to a processing center (in your case Chicago). Once it has expired they treat it like a new application. If you google "US passport" the state dept. website is clear about instructions, fees, etc. My recent experiences with airport security were that everyone has to go through the metal detector and usually I got waved past the scanner/pat-down station but anybody who set off the metal detector seemed to get sent to scanner/pat-down. My husband had the same experience and when he gets sent to the scanner he requests pat-down instead. Husband travels a lot for business and says that it depends on the airport, some are stricter than others and more "thorough" in the pat-down. He never takes the scanner.

Posted by
643 posts

They choose you for the scanner or not. In Amsterdam, where we flew from today to Seattle, everyone gets scanned when they enter the gate waiting area. Security is higher at Schipol than at SeaTac. I had to remove my shoes and belt at the Amsterdam gate security area. But some others did not.

Posted by
5 posts

I think you have to be ready for anything at the airports these days. We travel alot and it's different everywhere. Recently at the Palm Springs airport in California, my husband was told to go thru the metal detector and I was directed to the body image scanner. Other times we were both directed to the metal detectors. At times we have been patted down. There's no set pattern it seems. At the Vancouver (YVR)airport we have never seen the body image scanner being used, but you walk by it when you go thru the metal scanners. Don't worry...just do as you are told! Just watch the liquids, as there's still lots of restrictions. Check your local airport website...most of them are pretty good with providing up to date information re TSA. The YVR.ca site is great. Can't help you with the passport Q's, as we are Canadians, but we can download our forms online and renewals are done very quickly.

Posted by
9110 posts

'you can do it by mail if your current passport has not expired' You can get a new passport by mail even if your old one has expired. It just has to have been issued in the past fifteen years.

Posted by
977 posts

Just out of curiosity, how much do you have to pay for a normal passport? Cost here $226 for 10 years.

Posted by
8293 posts

Despite what Kathy (Germany) says, you do have to remove your shoes at both Gatwick and Heathrow when going through security in the UK. Came home just last night from London Gatwick so I know this to be true.

Posted by
8959 posts

That must be a new policy. I've been through Heathrow and Gatwick countless times, and I've never had to take off my shoes before. According to Gatwick's website: "be ready to take off your shoes and belt if asked" So it might be a random/s e l e ctive policy. From the Heathrow website "...You should only remove your footwear for security screening if you are asked to do so by a security officer...."

Posted by
1976 posts

@Judy - the cost to renew a passport in the U.S. was $75 for 10 years (what I paid at the end of 2008) but I think it has gone up to $100 or maybe a little more than that. I didn't have to remove my shoes when I went through screening at Hamburg Fuhlsbuettel but they did flag me for some kind of security check - I had to hand over my point-and-shoot camera and go into a room while they did a test on it. When I got to my gate, I saw that it was a glassed-off room - they checked my passport at the door and once I was "in" the gate, I couldn't leave. Luckily there was a bathroom in it. So yes, be ready for anything!

Posted by
977 posts

Thanks for this info. Boy, are we are getting ripped off!!!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks everyone for all the responses. I think Sarah is right and I should just be ready for anything. My husband has already been through scanners and pat-downs due to his insulin pump, so I'm sure we will allow for extra time at security. My husband suggested that I renew my passport when we come back home at the end of October. Might as well get the papers filled out and sent in sooner rather than later. I have another passport question...My current passport is in my maiden name, with a note on the back page referencing my married name. Is the change in names going to make a hassle for renewal? Thanks so much for keeping this going--I'm enjoying all the thoughts and comments!

Posted by
203 posts

http://travel.state.gov/passport/correcting/correcting_2654.html This is the link to the US Government Passport website - the official website. This link deals with name changes/ incorrect spelling etc. Check the official site for information. Remember that your airline ticket must match your name on your government issued identification. Their phone number is below. From the United States: 1-877-487-2778 TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793 Speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., EST, excluding federal holidays.

Posted by
193 posts

I assume the note on the last page regarding your name change is the official notice placed there by passport agency when you changed your name. If so, that is the official name on your passport and how they have you recorded. You don't need to do anything special for your renewal. I had my passport like that for three or four years between my wedding and when it expired. It was never a problem. When immigration control scans your passport, I believe the new name comes up and they expect that to match the name on your ticket.

Posted by
6 posts

HK, you assume correctly. I've never had a problem yet with my passport the way it is; good to know you didn't either, thanks.

Posted by
448 posts

At London airports, it doesn't seem to be consistent about the shoes... Flew out of Gatwick on 8/28 and we didn't have to remove our shoes. They were making people with heels or boots sometimes remove their shoes. Flew Heathrow to San Francisco out of Terminal 1 on 9/18 and the only people who had to remove their shoes were those going through the second time because they set off the metal detector the first time. In Heathrow terminal 1, I noticed that everyone went through the metal detectors. Then as you are exiting the security area, they pulled aside random people to go through the body scanner as they had only one and it was separate from the normal security screening lines. This year, in addition to London we didn't have to remove shoes in Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Rome, Mykonos or Rhodes. I don't think I ever had to remove shoes in Europe except when we flew out of Gatwick about a week after 9/11/2001.

Posted by
956 posts

A little more FYI. Not all post offices accept Passport apps; most in my area do not, and only two or three of those will accept walk-ins from 10 am to 2pm. The others which do take applications are appointment only and were booking two months out. I got better information by calling the post office than on the web. The pictures are not free at the passport office, but they are roughly the same price. Costco had $4.95 pictures, but Walgreens took pictures with a real camera so the quality was much better than the polaroid pix. AAA's pictures are not free. However, if you need an international driver's license which you can only get at AAA, you may as well have them make 4 pictures instead of 2.
I just paid $140 for a regular renewal passport and passport card.

Posted by
1437 posts

Mari, If you already have your air ticket, make double-sure that the name the ticket is issued in exactly matches the name that you are requesting that your new passport be made for. You cannot, under any circumstances, change the name under which the air ticket is issued under. If you fly with a different name than what appears in your passport, at every point in your journey, you should be denied boarding.