Lamar County is making it easier for travelers to obtain their passports to visit outside of the country, with the Lamar County Circuit Court recently becoming a Passport Acceptance Facility.
The Circuit Clerk’s office began accepting passport applications on July 29, and is now a one-stop shop for all things passport-related, including applications, other paperwork, and identification photographs.
“I’d had a couple people ask me why we had never offered passports here, and so we started looking into it and had some communications with the regional passport facility down in New Orleans,” Lamar County Circuit Clerk Martin Hankins said. “I know here in the Hattiesburg area – and Lamar County and Forrest County – everybody’s always gone to the post office, and technically that’s right at the line at Forrest County.
“So technically, we never had a facility here in Lamar County for any of our citizens who are traveling abroad, to be able to get their passport in our own county. They always had to go to the post office – and the post office does a great job – but we just felt like there was an opportunity to offer our citizens in Lamar County and surrounding counties with their needs when they’re preparing to travel abroad.”
Those applying for passports can either bring paperwork with them or pick it up at the circuit clerk’s office. Applicants will need one form of ID – such as an in-state driver’s license or current passport – along with a photocopy of that ID.
The cost for a passport book for persons age 16 and older is $110 for application fee and $35 for acceptance fee, while a passport card carries a $30 application fee and a $35 acceptance fee. A passport book and card runs $140 for application fee and $35 for acceptance fee.
Passports for individuals 15 years and younger are slightly cheaper, and expedited passports are available for an increased fee. Expedited passports are usually available within 14 to 21 days, while regular-fee passports generally take about 28 to 35 days to come in.
All fees and necessary documents can be viewed online at www.travel.state.gov or www.lamarcountyms.gov.
“I know there are other circuit courts around the state (that serve as Passport Acceptance Facilities) - like I know Pearl River County does it – but we just wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to offer that service,” Hankins said. “Some (circuit courts) do and some don’t; it’s just a matter of whether they have it in place. So we just felt like there was a need for it here.”
Although the measure is relatively new to Lamar County, officials have already noticed high interest from residents.
“It’s been good,” Hankins said. “In the past couple of weeks, we’ve asked them how they found out about us.
“Some of it was a little bit of word of mouth, and some of it was going and visiting travel.state.gov and seeing that we offered it.”