Tag Archives: passports

U.S.A. passport and rubber stamp on page of passport.Travel concept

How to Renew Your Passport Now

Passport processing times, which were painfully long during Covid, are currently the shortest they have been in years. Why not seize the moment? Many countries have a six-month rule—meaning that your passport must be valid for at least six months past the end of your trip—so if your passport has less than a year left, now is a smart time to start renewing it.

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 also been testing a pilot program to renew passports online; a limited number of applicants are accepted each day. The criteria for eligibility in this program are listed here; expedited service (see below) is not currently available for online renewals.

How long will it take?

As of this writing, the State Department reports that passport processing is taking 6 to 8 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 2 to 3 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

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

Children under 16

  • Must apply in person
  • $135 ($100 application fee + $35 execution fee)

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.

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 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 and renewals as quickly as the next business day for $750 plus shipping, on top of the State Department fees.

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.”

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.

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 convenient option for Global Entry called “Enrollment on Arrival.” We’ve got details on that here.

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.


Boarding Pass with Global Entry Card and USA Passport

How to Apply for, Or Renew, a Global Entry Membership

Global Entry makes your return to the U.S. quick and easy (and it’s getting even easier, with the gradual rollout of a new app that allows you to skip the in-airport kiosks). The Global Entry application process, however, is anything but quick and easy. The interviews required for new applications are hard to come by: Travelers can start the application online but then might have to wait weeks, months, or even longer to land an interview slot. (Similarly, passport renewals were backed up for a while during Covid, but turnaround time has improved; see more on how to renew your passport.)

Here’s what you need to know about applying for, or renewing, a Global Entry membership.

If you’re applying for the first time

The first step is to apply online for a Trusted Traveler account. Once you’re conditionally approved—which may take 90 days or more—you must have an in-person interview. These time slots are often booked months out, but there is a relatively new, much more convenient option called “Enrollment on Arrival.” This means that you can have your interview when passing through customs and immigration after a trip abroad, with no appointment necessary. You must go through the regular immigration line first, and then go to the Global Entry counter for your interview; click here to find out which airports offer “Enrollment on Arrival.”

Customs and Border Protection is also testing a new “Enrollment on Departure” option, which allows conditionally approved applicants to be interviewed without an appointment on their way out of the country. So far, this option is only available at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport.

Before heading off on your trip, consult your Trusted Traveler account for a list of documents to bring to your interview; often, a passport and driver’s license will suffice.

If you’re renewing an active or expired Global Entry membership

You can renew your membership even if it has already expired. Log into your Trusted Traveler account and click Renew, then follow the instructions, answer the questions (eg., countries you’ve traveled to since you first applied, any change of contact info, etc.), and pay the fee. Typically, renewals don’t require another interview.

Don’t bother renewing early: As long as you apply for a renewal before your membership expires, it will remain active for up to two more years after you’ve submitted the application.

You can find more info in the Homeland Security Department’s FAQ.

Global Entry vs. TSA Pre

Think you don’t travel internationally enough to warrant a Global Entry membership, but you want TSA PreCheck for domestic trips? Consider the math: A new, five-year PreCheck membership costs $78-$85, depending on which enrollment provider you use, whereas five years of Global Entry—which includes PreCheck—costs $100. (The Global Entry fee will increase to $120 on October 1, 2024.)

Make your entire trip hassle-free

If you’re the kind of traveler who wants to avoid lines not just for U.S. Customs and Border protection but throughout your trip, the trip planners on our WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts can make that happen not just in the airports—where they can frequently arrange fast-track entry into foreign countries—but at busy museums, monuments, transit hubs, restaurants, etc. They’ll custom-tailor a private itinerary exactly to your trip goals and travel style, get you before- and after-hours access to iconic sights, and mastermind all the trip logistics so you don’t have to. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip.



Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

old fashioned cameras by Vladimir Morozov/Flickr

Passport Photos Are Expensive, But They Don’t Have to Be

Passport photos are some of the ugliest photos we ever take. And ironically, they are some of the most expensive too—you have to buy them in pairs that can cost as much as $15. And if you need more, you have to fork over another $15.

I was very frustrated by this recently because I’m preparing for a three-month trip in Asia and I needed to renew my passport and get photos for several visas (I also like to carry a few extra in my luggage just in case I need one at the last minute). And then I read about ePassportPhoto.com. The site offers a few solutions to the problems mentioned above.

First, take your own photo.

ePassportPhoto.com lets you take your own photo, and then sends you multiples for cheap.

ePassportPhoto.com lets you take your own photo, and then sends you multiples for cheap.

There’s no reason to pay so much money to have a bad photographer take a bad picture of you in front of a white screen. Seriously, so bad. I went to a local drugstore and the employee used a fish-eye lens, arguing that it was the best way to get the right proportions. I would argue differently.

Luckily, anyone who has a phone or a digital camera can take their own photo these days (and keep taking it until they get a good one). The State Department even provides very detailed directions on its site so that you can be sure you take one that will be acceptable for passport use. Just stand against a white wall, look directly at the camera, try not to smile, and snap away. If you use ePassportPhoto.com you have even less to worry about: They’ll let you know if the one you took is acceptable and then size it for you.

Or upload an existing one you already have.

If you prefer to have your photo taken professionally, or if you have a leftover professional passport photo (and since they usually come in pairs, that’s likely), you can still use ePassportPhoto.com to save some money on multiples. Just scan in the one you have and continue with the next step.

Next, print it for cheap…or free.

Go online to ePassportPhoto.com and choose the country for which you need a passport or visa photo. Next, decide whether you want the final result mailed to you at home; printed at a CVS, Walmart, or Walgreens; or if you want to print them at home yourself. Then just upload the photo that you took (or scan in the professional one you had taken), and decide how you want to receive them.

If you choose the print-at-home option—which is free—the website has an easy-to-use cropping tool to help you tailor your photo to the passport or visa you specified. Then you’ll just click download and voila! You have a single sheet of four images, which you can print out as many times as you need.

Four of my mug shots, tiled on one easily printable sheet by ePassportPhoto.com. I could print this at home, have it mailed to me, or have it printed at a local drugstore.

Four of my mug shots, tiled on one easily printable sheet by ePassportPhoto.com. I could print this at home, have it mailed to me, or have it printed at a local drugstore.

If you don’t have a quality photo printer (I don’t), you can opt to have a drugstore or ePassportPhoto.com do the printing for you. In those cases, the website will take care of sizing the image, and then it will create a tiled sheet of the photo—meaning it’ll fit four passport photos on a regular-sized 4×6 photo sheet (you’ll get two sheets total).

I chose to have my order routed to a local CVS for printing. When they’d been sent on to CVS, I got an email from one of the ePassportPhoto.com staffers, who reminded me not to mention the words “passport photo” when I picked them up. As far as CVS knows, you ordered regular 4×6 prints online, and they’ll treat your order the same way as if you’d ordered pictures of your dog.

The ePassportPhoto.com order of eight pictures—eight!—cost me just $8.99, plus about 20 cents that I paid when I picked them up at CVS, for the actual printing. That’s less than I would’ve paid for two passport photos at CVS if I’d used the traditional route. And if I’d printed them out myself at home, they would’ve been completely free.

The final step: Grab a pair of scissors and cut the sheet into separate little passport photos…and use the money you saved to buy yourself a little something for your trip.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Great Wall of China
Don't take off for China without checking your passport—it needs to be valid at least six months past your departure date.

The One Tool You Can’t Travel Without: A Valid Passport

Go check your passport right now. Go on, we’ll wait.

Do you have more than six months between the date of your next trip abroad and the expiry date? If not, then you are asking for trouble.

Everyone thinks that their passport is good for ten years, but that’s not really true. Your passport is good for about nine and a half. That’s because various countries require that you have anywhere from three to six months left on your passport in order to enter. If you don’t, they might not let you board the plane or get through immigration once you land.

Terry McCabe, a travel agent with Altour, reminded us of this essential travel tip just the other day. “A friend called me last night from the airport almost hysterical because she couldn’t get on the flight,” Terry said. “And just now I was on the phone with friends who traveled to France for a month; their daughter was not allowed on the flight back home because her passport was expiring in three months.” In both of the above cases, Terry had not been the one to book the airline tickets; if she had been, the travelers would have certainly been reminded to renew their passports.

Since the acceptable time window can vary widely from country to country, bookmark the passport section of the State Department’s website, where passport-validity rules are listed by destination. Your passport must be good for six months past your departure date if you want to visit China, Russia, and the U.A.E., for example, but if you’re spending time in the U.K. your passport only needs to be valid during the time you’re there. And then there are the 26 Schengen Borders Agreement countries: If you’re entering any one of these member states (which include Austria, Italy and Norway; see the whole list here) for short-term tourism or a business trip, then your passport must be valid for three months past your departure date. But once you enter one Schengen country, you won’t have to show your passport again when you cross the border into another.

If you’ve just checked your passport and realized that time is running out, the State Department site also has information on how to renew—it usually takes four to six weeks but can be rushed in three weeks, and in some cases eight days. My younger son’s passport expires next May, we’re flying to Europe this November, and you can bet I’m renewing it right now.