The U.S. State Department’s passport offices are understaffed and struggling to meet the huge demand they are seeing right now. That demand is fueled by the many travelers whose passports expired during the pandemic or are just now coming up for renewal. The application process can take several months, so if your passport has less than a year left, now is the time to start renewing it. (Note also that many countries have a six-month rule—meaning your passport must be valid for at least six months past the end of your trip.)
Here’s what you need to know now about getting or renewing a passport.
How can I apply for a passport or renewal?
First-time applicants must apply in person; most renewals can be done by mail or dropped off at an acceptance facility, such as a post office or library (search for one near you). Make sure you have closely followed the rules for the required paperwork, documents, photos, and fees, whether you are applying for a renewal or a first-time passport. (Many delays these days are caused by incorrect paperwork and photos.)
The State Department has tested a pilot program to renew online, but that program is currently paused. Check here for updates.
How long will it take?
As of this writing, the State Department reports that passport processing is taking 8 to 11 weeks from the day they receive your application (not the day you mail it). Expedited service is available for $60 and reduces wait time to 5 to 7 weeks. You can also add rush shipping for an additional charge, so that you receive your passport 1 or 2 days after it’s printed.
How much does it cost?
Adults 16 and older
Children under 16
Can I apply for a passport or renewal in person?
Generally speaking, adults renewing a current passport may not apply in person. (The criteria to apply in person are listed here.)
There are two exceptions. One is the Life-or-Death Emergency Service, for those who need to travel within 72 hours because an “immediate family member is outside of the United States, and he or she has died, or is dying (hospice care), or has a life-threatening illness or injury.”
The second is the Urgent Travel Service for those who need to travel internationally within 14 calendar days. Documentation is required.
For both types, you can only make an appointment by phone (877-487-2778). There is no longer an option to book appointments online: Third-party companies were using automated programs to book these appointments and then were reselling them at a premium; to avoid that scam, the State Department switched to phone bookings only—instructions can be found here.
No walk-ins are allowed, and you cannot transfer your appointment to another person.
Even if you live in a city with a passport office, there may not be appointments available that suit your timeline. It is not uncommon for urgent travelers to have to go to an office in another state for an open appointment. If traveling to another agency is not possible, look into a third-party expediting service (see below).
Can I use a third-party expediting service?
Yes, the State Department allows expediting services (called “courier services”) to submit passport applications and renewals for expedited processing. Essentially, they get the equivalent of an Emergency or Urgent Travel appointment and drop your application off directly at a passport office.
The service can save you a lot of time, but it comes with a high price tag. For example, Valentina Meehan, president of one such service, Passport Plus Visas, based in New York, says her company can get new passports in 4–6 business days ($550 + shipping, on top of State Department fees). For renewals, Passport Plus customers have an option of next-business-day processing ($750 + shipping, on top of State Department fees), 4–6 business days ($450 + shipping, on top of State Department fees), or 7–10 business days ($250 + shipping, on top of State Department fees).
But no matter which service you need or which company you choose, there’s an important caveat: The Passport Services agency limits the number of daily applications couriers can submit (and that goes for all offices across the country). So, think ahead because you’ll likely have to make a reservation with an expediting service, and they may not have a lot of slots.
In addition to cutting down the turnaround time for the whole process, expediting services come with some additional advantages that may prevent hassle and delays. “We will check and correct your paperwork for any mistakes, which can save valuable time and stress when processing,” Meehan explains. “For example, submitting a photo that does not follow the requirements of the State Department, signing the applications with a different signature that does not match your current passport, etc.—these can slow down the processing by at least one to two weeks, if not more.”
How do I check the status of my application or renewal?
Once you’ve submitted an application, go here to check the status and sign up for email notifications. If you have not yet received your passport and are traveling internationally in the next two weeks, call the National Passport Information Center (877-487-2778).
Will my Global Entry membership still work once I have a new passport?
Your Global Entry expiration date is not tied to your passport, but you will need to update your account with your new passport number, which changes with each renewal; you can do this by clicking “Update Documents” when logged into the Trusted Traveler Program website. (A new passport number can also affect your TSA PreCheck status if you’re flying on a foreign airline that tries to locate your membership via your passport number.)
How can I renew my Global Entry?
There is a relatively new option for Global Entry called “Enrollment on Arrival.” We’ve got details on that here.
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