NEPTUNE, NJ - If you’re planning a winter break vacation, now is the time to apply for a passport, says Monmouth County Clerk M. Claire French.  Mrs. French oversees the new satellite office of county government, the Monmouth County Connection located in Neptune, which processes passport applications six days a week.

“Under normal circumstances, it takes four to six weeks for your passport to arrive,” says Mrs. French, “so it’s important to apply now if you are traveling this winter or spring break.”

“For last-minute travelers, we can expedite your passport application so you receive it within two to three weeks,” she adds.

The County Clerk’s passport agents are considered the area experts in passport application processing with over 75 years experience.  All agents are trained and certified by the U.S. Department of State, and the office is authorized by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Mrs. French offers the following tips for U.S. born travelers seeking passports:

1. When applying for a passport for the first time, all applicants must have a birth certificate with a raised seal showing parents names (no photocopies).

2. If applying for a passport for a child under age 16, both parents must appear in person with the child. If only one parent can appear, the appearing parent must present a signed and notarized consent form from.  Call the Monmouth County Connection for more detailed information. Parents must also have a valid ID such as a driver license.

3.  Each applicant over 18 must have a valid ID such a driver license.

4. If you have an expired passport and you are over 16, you do not need to bring your birth certificate, just the old passport.

5. Fees vary depending on applicant age and passport delivery, but each passport application must contain a check or money order payable to the U.S. State Department. (The State Department does not accept cash or credit cards.) Call for details on cost.

6. No appointments are necessary.

If you are not born in the U.S. but are a United States citizen, please contact the office for details as to the documentation you must present.

CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATE

If you have a valid passport, be sure to check its expiration date well in advance of your departure to make sure it will be valid throughout your trip.  Some countries now mandate that US Passports be valid for up to six months after the travel is completed. For instance, the State Department advises that you will need a passport valid for at least six months following the date of your arrival to Indonesia.  If traveling to Italy, Belgium and Switzerland, your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires all travelers to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Mexico and Canada to have a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States. For example, although the Bahamian government only requires proof of citizenship and identity in order to enter The Bahamas, the U.S. government requires that Americans have a valid passport in order to fly home. If traveling by sea, U.S. citizens can use a passport or passport card.

The Monmouth County Connection is located at 3544 State Highway 66 adjacent to the Home Depot in Neptune. The office is open from 10 am - 6 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 am - 8 pm Tuesday and Thursday; and Saturdays from 9 am - 1 pm. For more information or to be sure you have all the appropriate documents, call 732-303-2828.  Passports are also available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4 pm at the Clerk’s Freehold office, 33 Mechanic Street.