We always recommend allowing ample time for passport renewal, but sometimes even the best laid plans don’t work out the way we’d hoped. If you somehow missed the “sooner rather than later” memo on passport renewal, we also don’t think you need to fly into a panic when you’ve put things off.
Even if you’ve procrastinated and your travel dates are a bit too close for comfort, there are ways to expedite the process so you can be sure to have your new passport in time for that all-important international trip. Here’s what you need to know:
3+ Months in Advance
10 weeks is the estimated wait time for normal processing in 2017. Just renew as early as you can if your trip is on the horizon.
You can also pay a fee (usually an extra $60) to receive your renewed passport back sooner.
Just how soon depends on the circumstances involved:
If you have a serious illness, injury or death in your immediate family that requires you to travel outside the country within 3 days, you can call the U.S. State Department and go straight to the front of the line:
Phone 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793
Monday – Friday 8am to 10pm EST
Saturday 10am to 3pm EST
After business hours 202-647-4000
2-3 weeks in advance
You will need to make an appointment at a passport agency or center and submit your application in person. This link can help you find your nearest passport center and explain all of the finer points of application and expedited delivery (which includes a separate processing fee).
6-8 weeks in advance
In your case, you can expedite at an acceptance facility in person or expedite your renewal by mail. Find your nearest acceptance facility and all the details about the forms needed to apply by mail.
Don’t forget to submit the proper documentation with your application
If you’re going to the trouble of expediting your passport renewal, please don’t sabotage yourself by not having your documentation ducks in a row. To apply for a passport, you need to submit a completed passport application, proof of citizenship, proof of identity and a passport photo. Children have additional requirements. You can find a list of all acceptable documents on the State Department website.
Should you take a passport photo with your phone?
We don’t recommend it. The list of requirements for an acceptable passport photo is long and exhaustive. We believe the hassle of taking your own photo and making sure it meets exacting requirements is more trouble than it’s worth. You can take a quick and easy passport photo with all of the appropriate requirements at many drugstore chains for a nominal fee.
Special considerations for the kiddos
Families requiring passports for children should know that parents should both be present to apply in person to show consent. It can get complicated quickly for divorced parents, those under custody agreements and/or for persons owing back child support. If your family circumstances fall into one of these categories, you should allow extra time to get appropriate advisement, processing and to complete the required paperwork.
Don’t forget the 6-month rule
Most countries require your passport to have at least 6 months validity past your travel dates upon entry. This rule protects the country you’re traveling to from travelers overstaying their passport validity. It’s mainly an administrative concern so that travelers are not put in that awkward position of trying to wade through bureaucratic red tape while on the ground in a foreign country. Since most countries now enforce the “6 month rule,” so do make sure your current passport covers you for six months after your final day of proposed travel. If it does not, you’ll want to renew it as soon as possible.
We’ve also heard rumors of a new renewal platform scheduled to debut sometime in 2017 according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This online option might streamline and expedite renewals, but the details have not (as yet) been publicized as of this publication date.
As always, happy travels!