BLUE EARTH - Passports can again be obtained in Faribault County.
Angela Murphy recently was hired to take passport applications from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the Assessor's Office at the courthouse. Until she starts Sept. 2, Clara Vereide will handle applications in the Central Services office, said Sherry Asmus, County Recorder.
Until three years ago, the Recorder's Office could process passports, along with vital records such as births, deaths, marriages and notary documents.
The Federal Passport Agency wanted to split up those duties "because they were concerned about issues of fraud," Asmus said.
"In May of 2011, I had to choose between giving up passports and giving up vitals, and I gave up passports," she said.
Her office had been processing roughly 300 passports annually, meaning locals had to travel to a neighboring county to get a passport, which Asmus didn't like.
"It was hard for us," she said. "I'd gotten negative feedback from people who had a bad experience elsewhere. You just hate to hear that. We couldn't help them, so we had to suggest someplace. We felt bad when they had a bad experience because we sent them there. You hate to hear of people having a bad experience when you'd have been more than happy to help them if you could have."
She continued to fight to get passports back, and stayed in contact with the regional passport director in Minneapolis, who had to approve the return.
"I had to have a definitive plan in place to keep passports and vitals separate," Asmus said.
That meant moving the passports from the Recorder's Office to the Assessor's Office.
Faribault County got the passports back on July 21.
Those wanting a passport will have to fill out an application, which takes about 15 minutes, Asmus estimated. They also need to bring a certified copy of their birth certificate, which will be sent in along with the application. They also will need to provide a passport photo, which can be obtained through photo studios or craft shops. They will need some form of picture ID, such as a driver's license, and it must have their picture, full name and date of birth.
A regular passport costs $135.
People should come in well ahead of their travel plans, Asmus said, because the application process takes six weeks.
"They can expedite, but it's an extra fee," she said.
A passport card is only good for land travel, but it is a little less expensive, Asmus added.
"We do plan to do pictures eventually, but we want to have everything in place and running smoothly before we add another component," she said. "That way it will be a one-stop process."