Here's How to Get Your Passport as Quickly as Possible
A travel expert shared some behind-the-scenes tips and tricks.
Listen, I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but that's my preordained fate as a journalist. Today's snippet of discouraging news: Those lengthy passport processing times aren't getting any shorter. In fact, every few weeks it seems like the wait time is getting longer (the latest figures predict 10 to 13-week wait times). That's bad news for the last minute planners out there who are hoping to travel internationally this summer.
But, as I present problems, I also like to present solutions. I asked Laura Lindsay, Skyscanner's resident travel trends expert, to share some of the best insights into getting a passport as quickly as possible this late in the game. Here are ways to get your passport as fast as possible, so that hopefully you can still have the European Summer everyone on TikTok can't stop posting about.
What is the best way to complete passport paperwork quickly?
"Fill out the necessary paperwork and get your passport photo well ahead of your expected travel date," Lindsay advises. "Travelers are advised to apply for their new passport several months in advance. This will ensure that you avoid any unnecessary delays in the processing time."
In reality, if you are reading this post, you've likely not completed that "months in advance" part. That means you should gather all of the required information and materials all at once, and work on getting your passport photos taken ASAP.
"Passport applications can no longer be submitted online if you did not start or submit an application on or before March 8. You will have to do it either by mail or in person. You can only renew it in person at a passport agency or center if you meet certain requirements," Lindsay shared.
How can I get my passport application processed faster?
You can submit an expedited application, which traditionally meant you could receive your passport in five to seven weeks. That expedited process is now closer to seven to nine weeks. This will cost an additional fee of $60. The processing times also do not include mailing times.
"Shipping can oftentimes be a driving factor in passport delays," Lindsay told Thrillist. So that seven-week start date begins the day the passport agency receives your application, not the day that you mail it or submit it at an acceptance facility.
If you are mailing in the application, you can include the $60 extra fee in the check you are mailing in.
How can you speed up the shipping of your passport? Is there a fastest way to submit your passport paperwork?
"For faster shipping of your application, it is recommended that you purchase USPS' Priority Mail Express," said Lindsay. "The price for this service varies depending on the area of the country. You can also pay an extra $18.32 for one to two-day delivery of your completed passport. Simply include this sum with your passport fee in your check or money order payable to the US Department of State for fastest return shipping."
Lindsay added that if you're renewing a passport card, it will come via First Class mail. Passport card-only applications don't use one or two-day shipping services. Also be prepared to receive your passport and the supporting documents submitted with your application in separate packages.
What is the difference between urgent and emergency travel? What should travelers who have urgent, or emergency travel do?
Lindsay explains that there are two types of in-person appointments: Life-or-Death Emergency Service and Urgent Travel Service. Both require appointments at passport fulfillment centers.
You can choose a Life-or-Death Emergency Service if you have an emergency that requires international travel within 72 hours (3 business days). If you have non-emergency international travel plans within five business days, you can opt for the Urgent Travel Service, where restrictions often apply.
The State Department advises that for urgent travel, "if you have not applied, your appointment at a passport agency or center must be scheduled within 14 calendar days of your international travel date. If you have already applied, your appointment must be scheduled within five calendar days of your international travel date." Urgent applications are considered for travel happening within nine weeks.
As a note, it is difficult to get an appointment at one of these locations. While they exist in every part of the country, in 2022 the only appointment I could find before my work trip was in Puerto Rico. I live in New York City. You can only make an appointment by calling 1-877-487-2778.
If you haven't submitted your US Passport renewal yet, is summer travel abroad still possible?
"You cannot travel to Europe if your US passport expires in three months," Lindsay explains. "The six-month validity rule is strictly enforced in all of Europe's 26 Schengen countries. Even if you're transiting through Canada or the UK, which don't have that rule, your passport has to be good for six months. Otherwise, airlines may not let you board your onward flight to Europe."
In nearly all cases, you will not be allowed to enter another country if your passport is within three or six months of expiring.
Are there any "hacks" to get your passport back faster?
"If you can secure a walk-in appointment at one of the regional passport offices, you might be able to get one in less than 24 hours. However, you need to be able to prove that you have a trip in less than two days or need an international visa within a certain amount of time. Also, this has to be done in person which can be difficult for some as there are only 26 offices in the US," Lindsay explained.
Last summer, I was advised by a passport issuing agent that if you call and can't get an appointment, keep calling back—appointments open up often.
Don't worry, if you don't get your passport before summer ends, there are still plenty of amazing trips you can take in the US and maybe you can take advantage of a fall trip out of the country instead.
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