Jessica Sanchez’s grandmothers are going to be thrilled.
The first grader from Chula Vista hasn’t been able to visit them very easily in Mexicali, Mexico because she’s never had a passport. Her parents have taken her to Mexico without one but they’ve “had a lot of problems,” her mother Karla Sanchez said.
On Thursday, the family traveled to the Clerk of the Board’s office in downtown San Diego to apply for Jessica’s first-ever passport. With that, the six year old became the 100,000th person to apply for a passport at the County since the service began in 1998.
Clerk of the Board staff celebrated the occasion by putting up balloons and offering vanilla cake—with red, white and blue decorations on top–to the public. Clerk of the Board Thomas J. Pastuszka even presented Jessica with a framed certificate of congratulations.
“When we started, I don’t think we ever imagined these numbers,” Pastuszka said. “It’s a testament to our staff. We’ve become really the primary place for folks to come in San Diego County to apply for a passport and for folks to receive service immediately.”
Over the past few years, demand for the service has soared. The department processed nearly 25,000 passport applications during each of the last two fiscal years, up from about 10,000 in fiscal year 2009-10 and less than 5,000 in fiscal year 2006-07. Pastuszka and Assistant Clerk of the Board David Hall largely attribute the growth to travel requirements that citizens crossing the U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada borders now show a passport.
They also pointed to the fact that their office is one of the few in San Diego County that still offers walk-in service. Because customers can obtain other documents such as birth certificates in the same building, the location is a one-stop-shop of sorts.
Pastuszka said his office has kept up with exploding demand without adding new staff by cross-training employees to be able to handle passports in addition to other duties.
Standing in line Thursday afternoon to apply for a passport for their 14 year old daughter, Francesca and Juan Moreno of San Diego said a friend had recommended they go to the County because of what he described as relatively short lines.
“It’s not that bad, maybe 20 people or so,” Juan Moreno said, scanning over the line just before 2 p.m. “I think service is the best here.”
Specifically, Juan Moreno said he liked not having to make an appointment in advance and the photo service onsite and he said the staff has been helpful.
Jessica Sanchez smiled sweetly and stuck close by her parents as she was recognized for being the 100,000th customer. Her mother Karla Sanchez said Jessica planned to hang the certificate on her wall, along with a mini American flag that had topped a piece of cake.
Karla Sanchez said having a passport for Jessica would allow the family to go to Mexico and see her grandmothers with less trouble. It’s been two months since their last visit to Mexico to see them.
“Two months—it’s a lot of time for them,” Karla Sanchez said of the grandmothers.
For more information on how to apply for a passport at the County Clerk of the Board’s office, visit www.sdpassports.com.