In local visit, Guatemalan Consulate assists nationalsWORTHINGTON — At 4 a.m. Saturday, while most of the town was still asleep, Maria Felix, a Worthington resident of five years, was standing in line outside of St. Mary’s Church.
By: Alyson Buschena, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — At 4 a.m. Saturday, while most of the town was still asleep, Maria Felix, a Worthington resident of five years, was standing in line outside of St. Mary’s Church.
Surprisingly, she wasn’t the first one there. In front of her where people who had arrived at 3 and others who showed up at 2.
Braving hours in the cold, they were all there to see representatives of the Guatemalan Consulate, during its mobile visit to Worthington Saturday and Sunday. The Rev. Jim Callahan said it was the second time the mobile consulate has visited Worthington.
“Last time we had between 2,500 and 3,000 people and had someone come as far away as Colorado,” he said.
Last year demonstrated the high need for the Guatemalan mobile consulate to visit Worthington, and Callahan said the church is hoping it becomes a yearly event. He added that St. Mary’s first requested the mobile consulate come to Worthington when it realized the large number of Guatemalans living in the area.
Callahan said that while St. Mary’s included information about the event in its bulletin, people found out about it primarily “through word of mouth.”
“We have over 1,000 people at mass a weekend, and when you have 1,000 people, it spreads quickly,” he said.
Based in Chicago, the mobile consulate helps Guatemalan citizens renew or apply for passports and identification cards, and also allows parents to apply for Guatemalan birth certificates for children born in the United States to Guatemalan parents, according to Vice Consulate Enrique Garcia.
The mobile consulate is split into three teams, said one of the contracted consulate workers who asked not to be identified.
Guatemalan Consulate personnel handle all of the scheduling and logistics. They select communities to visit and secure facilities to host the mobile consulate, as well as process all fees associated with applying for government papers – in this case $25 for an identification card and $65 for a passport.
The other two teams are both private companies hired by the Guatemalan government to expedite the process. One handles identification card applications, the other passport applications.
After six and a half hours of waiting, Maria Felix passed through the identification card and passport stations fairly quickly. A worker asked her basic questions, verifying her name, address and other details. Felix then signed her name digitally, and allowed personnel to scan her fingerprints and take her photo.
Sergio Cardona, a representative from TSS USA, the company hired to process the passport applications, said the information collected Saturday and Sunday will be sent to their headquarters in Miami.
“They will receive their passport in about six weeks and ID cards in about 10 days,” he said, adding that most people apply for both.
The only difference between the two stations, he added, was that when people submit a passport application, a ticket is printed out, allowing workers to verify information before it is sent to the Guatemalan government.
When a passport application is submitted - whether in Minnesota or Germany, Cardona explained - the information is first sent to Guatemala to be verified by the Guatemalan government. Once approved, it is sent to TSS USA in Miami, where the passport is printed and then sent to the address indicated by the applicant.
The Guatemalan government has 12 consulates across the United States, and each one has a mobile consulate that is sent out each month.
“For example, this weekend, we have people in New York, Jamaica, Boston and New Mexico,” Cardona said.
Cardona’s company began working with the Guatemalan government on Dec. 1, 2012, he said.
For a short time, the government had tried to process all the applications itself, but soon found the shipping costs to be much higher in Guatemala.
Cardona estimated that consulate workers spend about five minutes with each person, adding that if someone wasn’t able to attend the mobile consulate this weekend, he or she would either have to travel to Chicago or wait until next month, when the mobile consulate will be in Ohio.
“It’s not an easy task for people,” he said. “Consider they have to pay $90 for the paper work, plus transportation and time off work.”
Felix, the mother of a 5-year-old daughter, said she was glad the consulate was in Worthington and that she didn’t have to travel to Chicago to complete the application process.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at