How to Get a Passport Quickly
By Franki Hanke
Of everything you’ll pack into your carry-on, a valid passport is the most essential to taking an international trip. If you’re already within ten weeks of your trip, you’ll need to get a passport quickly with expedited methods.
Be prepared to spend extra money on top of your application fee to secure a passport quickly.
When should you apply for a passport?
Routine passport processing for U.S. passport applications is between ten and 13 weeks which doesn’t account for mailing time and is subject to fluctuation. Add two to four additional weeks to account for mailing and potential delays. If you’re still well ahead of your trip, it’s always best to account for more processing time. The best time to apply for a passport, really, is now.
If you’re less than 12 weeks from your trip, you’ll need expedited passport services.
How to Get a Passport Quickly
Over two weeks away from your travel date, use the U.S. Department of State passport agency’s expedited processing.
But, if you’re closer to your trip, you have two faster options within standard passport services.
- Life or Death Emergency Service (within three days of travel for emergencies)
- Urgent Travel Service (within 14 days of a trip)
Only specific situations qualify for the emergency service, but any travel works for urgent appointments.
These in-person appointments are only held at specific passport agencies or passport centers. You may need to travel to an appropriate facility. Refer to this map for locations. You need an appointment ahead. Urgent services will want proof of your travel plans and travel documents including a flight within two weeks. These appointments may grant you a same-day passport, depending on your application. Increase your chances by being prepared for your appointment with all the necessary documents including printed photos, accepted payment, and proof of your flights within two weeks.
Calling to get an appointment can be a challenge in itself even if you’re near a passport office. Conde Nast Traveler recommends timing your call to start at 7:55 AM so you’re through the electronic prompts right at opening (8:00 AM). Call to schedule a new in-person appointment.
How to Speed Up Processing
Once you’ve started your application process, some travelers have had luck in shortening processing time by contacting local representatives to check their application status and request assistance.
“My wife lost her passport in a move a couple of weeks prior to a trip. Our congressman’s office was able to get the application pulled, processed, and overnighted within a week,” said one traveler in a forum discussion.
You’re more likely to get assistance for business or family emergencies rather than travel plans.
If you’re a first-time applicant…
Special events are held throughout the year for new passport applications (Form DS-11), check for an event near you for a convenient, in-person method.
If you’re traveling for a health emergency or death…
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of State’s qualifications for Life-or-Death emergency passports are pretty specific. Ensure you qualify and prepare for an appointment with their guidelines.
How to Avoid Delays in Acceptance
A mistake in your application can delay your application process, so if you want your passport as fast as possible, follow these tips.
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Be Careful with Your Forms
Use the Form Filler tool to electronically fill out application forms and avoid smudged or illegible handwriting. Complete all sections, and double-check any information you may misremember.
Include All Required Documents
If you’re renewing a passport, submit your existing passport with your application. If your name has changed between renewals, you’ll need to include your name change document whether that’s a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order.
You’ll need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship.
If you were born in the United States, use your previous U.S. passport or your birth certificate. If you have a birth abstract rather than a birth certificate, check that it meets the requirements for a birth certificate.
If you were born outside the United States, use your previous U.S. passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (or Certification of Birth), Naturalization Certificate, or Certificate of Citizenship.
Take a Valid Photo
Invalid passport photos are the number one reason for delayed acceptance. If you’re on a tight timeline, opt to go into an acceptance facility to have a photo taken by someone familiar with the requirements rather than taking it yourself. Use the linked Acceptance Facility Search page and filter by Photo On-site. Many post offices and libraries are acceptance facilities.
Infants have a little more leniency in their passport photos than a child’s passport, but older children have the same requirements as adults.
Pay for Expedited Shipping
If you’re paying for expedited processing, but not faster shipping, you may end up with a late passport. For your fastest delivery, upgrade to one to two-day delivery for an additional $19.53. This is an additional cost to your passport fee and expedition cost.
If you’re applying with form DS-82 via mail, be mindful of the extra time in the mailing system, and use tracked USPS shipping so your items aren’t lost.
Avoid Passport Expediting Scams
The speed of government processing is a universal struggle, which means that some companies try to offer solutions at a high execution fee. Remember that your passport renewal (or application) must go through government processing, so there’s a limit to what a private expeditor can offer. The U.S. government doesn’t endorse any private company or courier for passport services.
If an offer sounds too good to be true in getting your passport quickly, be skeptical. Don’t pay an additional fee unless it’s a reliable offer. Rush My Passport is one of many prevalent offers that I don’t advocate for due to a high number of complaints against the business. Consult Better Business Bureau as part of your scam detection routine.
If you need a passport fast, don’t freak out yet. Start by accessing your timeline to determine the best option for you. If you’re not within the two-week window yet, start expedited processing and plan to get an in-person appointment once you’re within two weeks of your trip.
For the most up-to-date information regarding passports, always refer to the U.S. Department of State’s own website. In addition to your passport, ensure you meet travel entry requirements and have any required visa for your international travel. To avoid extra travel headaches, be sure your carry-on is set to travel with no restricted items.
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