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How to Renew Your Passport During the Pandemic

by Billie Cohen | February 28, 2022

As more and more countries open and travel resumes, it’s time to make sure your passport is up to date. Many countries have a six-month rule—meaning that your passport must be valid for at least six months past the date of your trip. So do yourself a favor right now and check the expiration date on your passport. Whether you have a trip planned or not, you’ll need the extra time to get it renewed, so start now.

During the height of the pandemic, the U.S. State Department closed many of its offices as part of the lockdown effort to protect workers. The good news is that all of its them are now open, and have been tackling the backlog that was piling up, and wait times are nearly back to what they were pre-covid. However, there are some new rules and information applicants need to know.

Expedited service, which had been suspended for many months, is now available again; a fee of $60 will get you your passport in four to six weeks.

Here’s what you need to know now about getting or renewing a passport.

Can I apply for a passport or renewal now?

Yes. All applications and renewals are being accepted. If you previous submitted an application, you can check the status here.

Applications can be dropped off at official passport agencies, as well as at most acceptance facilities, such as a post office or library (search for one near you). However, the State Department recommends mailing in applications because that is a safe, contactless option. Make sure you have all the required paperwork, documents, photos, and fees, whether you are applying for a renewal or a first-time passport. Note that adults with a 10-year passport can renew by mail.

How long will it take?

The State Department says they can get your passport processed in 8 to 11 weeks from the day they receive it (not the day you mail it).

They recommend applying at least 4 to 6 months before any trip you have planned.

How much does it cost?

Prices for standard applications and renewals increased in December 2021. They are now:

Adults 16 and older

  • First-time application: $165 ($130 application fee + $35 execution fee)
  • Renewal: $130

Children under 16

  • must apply in person
  • $130 ($100 application fee + $35 execution fee)

Can I pay to expedite it?

Yes, expedited service is now available again, after having been suspended earlier in the pandemic.  It costs $60 and reduces wait time to 5 to 7 weeks.

Can I apply for a passport or renewal in person?

There are only two types of in-person appointments available now at a Passport Agency or Center, and there are strict qualifications for both.

The first type is called Life-or-Death Emergency Service, and it is for customers 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 type of in-person appointment is called Urgent Travel Service for those who need to a foreign country within 3 business 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. The State Department website explains that 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.

Can I use a third-party expediting service?

Yes, the State Department is allowing expediting services (also called “courier services”) to submit passport applications and renewals for expedited processing. The service can save you a lot of time, but it comes with a high price tag. Valentina Meehan, president of one such service Passport Plus based in New York, says her company can get new passports in 4–8 business days ($950 + shipping, on top of State Department fees). For renewals, Passport Plus customers have an option of 4–8 business days ($770 + shipping, on top of State Department fees) or 15–20 business days ($420 + shipping, on top of State Department fees).

But no matter which service you need or which company you choose, there’s an important caveat to know: The Passport Services agency is limiting the number of daily applications couriers can submit (and that goes for all offices across the country). So think as far ahead as you can, 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?

Check the State Department website for the latest information on passport applications, offices, and services. You can check the status of your application online or call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

 

This article was originally published August 2020 and has been updated several times since then. The latest update was February 28, 2022.


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4 Comments

  1. Annie

    Traveling to Portugal with my 17 year old son. His passport will be valid but expires 10 days after our return. Does he have a grace period because of covid since they usually want 6 months?

  2. Natalie

    What if my passport expires during the passport renewal process? (ex. About to submit application but mine expires in March). should I apply for a new one or a renewal?

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