ADA — The Pontotoc County court clerk’s office acts as an acceptance agent for handling applications for passports which they forward to the U.S. Department of State to process. However, county officials are encountering problems that they say are easily remedied by the public.

“The photos for identification many times are not meeting the standard required by the government to process and we have people coming into the office after 4:30 p.m. without everything they need,” said Ernestine Eubank, Pontotoc County Court Clerk. “We offer aid to the public in completing the applications, but we aren’t required to provide the service. We have applicants come from surrounding counties where the service is not offered,” Eubank said.

The two required photos must be two inches by two inches with the bottom of the applicant’s chin to the top of his or her head, including hair not less than one inch and not more than 1- 3/8 inch. The photographs must be color, clear, with a full front view of the face without a hat or head covering or dark glasses unless there’s a religious or medical reason for wearing them, and printed on thin paper with plain light white or off-white background. Unacceptable photographs are those retouched so that the appearance is changed, full-length photographs or vending machine prints.

“Applicants frequently bring in snapshots that have shoulders and upper body in the picture and they have to be rejected,” said Eubank.

Those applicants that don’t live nearby are encouraged to call for an application, which Eubank said she will gladly mail to them. “The forms are lengthy and require proof of citizenship and identity to go with them for processing. A lot of times people come to the office and they don’t have everything they need so they end up making another trip. We’ll send the forms through the mail so they can be filled out at home and brought completed to our office,” Eubank said.

Because of the time involved in checking the completeness of the form and having children present for identification purposes, Eubank has posted a notice that no passport applications will be accepted after 4:30 p.m. daily. “We accept and forward the applications as a courtesy to the communities we serve. With the length of time it takes for us to ensure it is properly filled out and all the necessary documentation is included, we just can’t ask our staff to stay after office closing time to process the applications. With our limited space in the office, it becomes a traffic jam after 4:30 for those needing regular court clerk services,” said Eubank.

Effective Dec. 31, 2006, a passport is required for all air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Effective Dec. 31, 2007, the passport requirement will be extended to all land border crossings as well as air and sea travel. Even if a passport is not required to visit a foreign country, U.S. immigration authorities require that U.S. citizenship and identity must be proved to reenter the United States. A U.S. passport is the best proof of U.S. citizenship.

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