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Are you planning an international vacation in 2024? If so, go find your passport — right now. Is it still valid? If so, good for you. If not, you’re like my husband. He’s not a frequent traveler and hasn’t been out of the country in the last six years. So we shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that his passport was about to expire — just as we were ready to book a winter trip to Puerto Vallarta.
We did what you’re probably doing: We panicked. It turns out that wasn’t necessary. We used the State Department’s expedited service and got his passport back in less than 3 weeks.
Here’s what we did and everything you need to know to get your US passport FAST, from application to proof of identity to photos and expediting fees.
Passport processing is finally recovering from the lengthy delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. These days, the State Department says it takes 7-10 weeks for routine processing and promises that expedited processing will take no more than 25 days. Check here to see the most updated processing times.
Note that the clock starts ticking when your application arrives at the processing office. So do what we did: pay extra to have the post office deliver your application in 1-3 days and then pay again so the State Department returns your new passport in 1-2 days.
Here’s what we paid for hubby’s passport renewal:
- $130 application fee
- $60 expediting fee
- $19.53 express mail delivery fee
If you’re applying for your first-ever passport, you’ll also have to pay a $30 “acceptance fee.” Also, the application fee for a child’s passport (ages 15 and under) is reduced to $100. All other fees — expediting, express mail and acceptance — remain the same.
Read More: Travel easier with our Ultimate Packing List.
How to Learn the Status of Your Passport Application
If it’s getting close to your departure date and you still don’t have your passport, don’t despair. Take a deep breath, then check online to see where your application is in the process.
The first step is to check the Online Passport Status System. You’ll get an almost instantaneous response. You also can call the passport processing office at 1 877 487-2778 (TTY 1 888 874-7793), but expect to be on hold for a looooong time. Note: It takes 7 to 10 business days for your passport application to be trackable.
If you used a third-party service to expedite your passport, your first call should be to that company. If that’s unavailable, use the Online Passport Status System or call 1 877 487-2778 (TTY 1 888 874-7793).
SheBuysTravel Tip: Send all passport applications via USPS Priority Mail with a tracking number or use FedEx or UPS so you have a receipt to know when your application arrives at the passport office.
Steps to Get Expedited U.S. Passport Service
- Fill out the DS-82 (U.S. Passport Renewal Application form) online and print it out.
- Get new passport photos taken. (You can save money on passport photos by taking your own photos or head to the local CVS or Walgreens for quick and easy passport photos.
- Write a check for the total amount — in our case, it was $209.53, to cover the application fee, expediting fee and express mail fee.
- Package the application, photos, check and your old passport and head to the local post office to mail it via USPS Priority Mail.
Types of Expedited Passports
We used the standard expedited passport service, so there was no need to prove we planned travel. But there are two situations when you will have to prove you have travel planned:
Life or Death Emergency for Immediate Travel: Call the State Department at 1-877-487-2778 (Mon-Fri from 8am-8pmET) or 202-647-4000 after hours and on weekends and holidays. You’ll need to provide proof of the emergency, such as a death certificate or doctor’s note. This process kicks in when an immediate family member, such as a child, parent or spouse, has had a serious illness, injury or died and you are required to travel internationally within 72 hours. If you are outside the US when you get the call, head to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.
International Travel with the Next 3 Weeks: Call 1-877-487-2778 to make an appointment at a passport agency or center. Appointments are limited. Since I live in Chicago, it’s very hard to get an appointment at my local agency. I heard about one man who got a plane and flew to Detroit, where he was able to secure an appointment. You will need to provide proof of your planned travel, such as a plane ticket.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The State Department does not charge a fee to make an appointment at a passport agency office. If you call and someone wants you to pay, you’ve called the wrong place.
My Passport is Expired and I Leave Tomorrow
After saying a few choice words, it’s time to get busy. First, cancel your calls; getting your passport within 24 hours will take a more concerted effort. Next, find a registered passport expediter like OnlineExpeditors or Rushmypassport. These are private companies and not part of the US Department of State.
For expedited 24-hour service (not same day), you will still have to collect all the same information as any other U.S. passport renewal. Proof of citizenship, proof of identity and passport photos are all required. And you have to pay all of the same government fees, plus the private company fees.
Private Expedited Service Details
With a private expediting service, you are hiring a person to hand-deliver your application to the closest passport office that issues same-day passports. Then a person will retrieve and overnight your new passport back to you.
It is expensive. This expedited service costs hundreds of dollars, depending on the company you choose. For example, Swift Passport Services charges $399 on top of the government processing fees and cost of the passport photos to get your passport to you in one business day.
The good news? Most expediters take credit cards and your package includes tracking information.
The process starts when you fill out the expediter’s online application. Print out the completed application with the required documentation and photos and ship it to the nearest expediter’s location.
You’re Leaving in 2 Weeks
So your boss hands you a plane ticket for a meeting in London and your passport is expired.
First, grab the tickets, then make an appointment for the next available date at the nearest U.S. Passport Agency that issues same-day passports. Gather and complete all requirements, then take passport photos. In addition, remember appointments are necessary and often fill up days in advance.
Same-Day Passport Agencies Across the U.S.
- Arkansas Passport Center in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- Atlanta Passport Agency in Atlanta, Georgia
- Boston Passport Agency in Boston, Massachusetts
- Buffalo Passport Agency in Buffalo, New York
- Charleston Passport Agency (mail only)
- Chicago Passport Agency in Chicago, Illinois
- Colorado Passport Agency in Aurora, Colorado
- Connecticut Passport Agency in Stamford, Connecticut
- Dallas Passport Agency in Dallas, Texas
- Detroit Passport Agency in Detroit, Michigan
- El Paso Passport Agency in El Paso, Texas
- Honolulu Passport Agency in Honolulu, Hawaii
- Houston Passport Agency in Houston, Texas
- Los Angeles Passport Agency in Los Angeles, California
- Miami Passport Agency in Miami, Florida
- Minneapolis Passport Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- National Passport Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
- New Orleans Passport Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
- New York Passport Agency in New York, New York
- Philadelphia Passport Agency in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- San Diego Passport Agency in San Diego, California
- San Francisco Passport Agency in San Francisco, California
- San Juan Passport Agency in San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Seattle Passport Agency in Seattle, Washington
- Vermont Passport Agency in St. Albans, Vermont
- Washington Passport Agency in Washington, D.C.
- Western Passport Center in Tucson, Arizona
How to Get Your First Passport
All adult passport applications for U.S. residents require the same information, expedited or not. Hopefully, you have this information in a secure place in your home, like a fire safe.
First, download the correct form from the U.S. Department of State (DS-11) or pick one up from your post office. Then gather the required information and get photos taken.
If it’s your first passport (or you’re under 16 or have a lost/stolen passport), you will be required to appear in person. Usually the local post office processes passport applications with required documentation and photos.
First, call to confirm your post office takes passport applications. Then arrange an appointment to submit your application. Follow the U.S. passport application instructions carefully.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Don’t make these mistakes when applying for your child’s first passport.
Proof of U.S. Citizenship
To prove your citizenship, most applicants use the following:
- Previous passport issued less than 15 years ago. (Passports that have been expired for five years or longer cannot be renewed. You will need to apply for a new passport.)
- Official certified birth certificate, with full name, date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed and seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records (state, county or city or town office) and the full names of your parents.
Proof of Identity
Along with proof of U.S. citizenship, you will be required to submit proof of identity. If you already have a valid passport, it can also be used for proof of identity.
Another option: Submit an item that contains both your signature and a photograph, like a U.S. passport card, a driver’s license, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, military identification or federal, state or municipal government employee identification card.
Temporary or altered documents will not be accepted and names must match exactly.
Color Photograph for Passport
A recent photograph (six months or newer) is required according to the passport specifics. You can take it yourself, though it’s easier to head to a photo processing place, like your local drugstore or grocery store. Most places charge less than $20 for two photos.
If you’re in a rush, there are some ways to take these photos at home. If you’re not in a rush there are definitely some free options for passport photos.
Helpful Tips for Filing Your Passport Application
- Since the U.S. Department of State is a stickler for details, fill out the application correctly. Double-check all applications.
- Only use black ink on the passport application. Using any other color could get it denied and sent back.
- Be sure to read all guidelines for passport photos. You cannot wear glasses in photos. Don’t do anything to get your photo rejected.
- If you find the passport requirements confusing, hire a service to renew your passport.
- Mail all passport applications USPS Priority Mail with a tracking number or use FedEx or UPS.
- When you get your passport back from the U.S. Department of State, store all important documents in a fireproof safe.