Problem Solvers, postal workers help student solve a passport snafu

Problem Solvers
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OLATHE, Kan. -- Dustin Phommanivong's bags were packed, but the Kansas State University civil engineering student might not have been able to get on the plane that leaves for South Korea just 24 hours from now.

His passport was stuck in the mail.

"I was devastated because I'd prepared everything and it's now just two things, my passport and visa holding me back," Phommanivong said.

He had mailed his passport to the South Korean Consulate in Chicago so he could get the visa he needed to study abroad at Korea University.

He didn't apply for the visa until mid-January because he first had to wait for admission documents to arrive.

"I was accepted, but didn't have the forms to prove it," said Phommanivong, a junior.

According to the post office tracking information, the consulate mailed the passport and visa back to Phommanivong on February 14 by priority mail. The package arrived in Kansas City's processing plant on February 17.

From there it should have gone to an address in Manhattan, Kansas where Phommanivong is a student. He had hoped to pick it up weeks ago, but the package got stuck in Kansas City another day.

According to the USPS tracking report, the delay was caused by an "undeliverable address."

That's when Phommanivong, who had already started anxiously checking the packages ETA every few hours, called the post office to see what the problem was. He said a post office employee told him his passport would probably be sent back to the consulate in Chicago, since their appeared to be a problem with the address.

That's when a now desperate Phommanivong called FOX 4 Problem Solvers. We called the United States Post Office where communications director Richard Watkins immediately went to work trying to track down Phommanivong's passport.

At 2 the next morning, Problem Solvers got an e-mail from Watkins that the passport had been found. And the news got even better, the post officer offered to make a personal delivery to Phommanivong, who was now living in Olathe with his parents while he waited for the spring semester to begin at Korea University.

We thought this problem was solved, but then another problem was discovered.

The package with Phommanivong's passport wasn't addressed to Phommanivong. It was addressed to Phommanivong's roommate in Manhattan. Phommanivong had used his roommate's name thinking that would assure the package's arrival since the roommate lives in Manhattan full-time, and the apartment is in his name.

But that caused a bigger problem. A passport can't be mailed to someone other than the passport holder and the post office can't give a package to Phommanivong when it's addressed to someone else.

But still determined to help, a manager at the post office agreed to deliver the package as long as both Phommanivong and his roommate were together and could provide identification.

The meeting place was at a Topeka post office, a halfway point for the roommate who was coming from Manhattan and Phommanivong who was at home in Olathe.
Thanks to a Kansas City postal employee who drove to Topeka with the package, Phommanivong had his passport in hand just 14 hours before his flight was to leave.

Note: Besides the efforts of the U.S. Post Office, Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder's office also assisted in solving this problem.

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