5 Tips to Get Your Passport Fast, Experts Say
Chances are you can still get the vital travel document in time for your upcoming trip.
Sometimes, the urge to take a life-changing trip can strike without notice. And while there are plenty of naturally beautiful and culturally vibrant places you can see right in the U.S., your dream destination might be abroad—which means you'll need a valid passport to get there. Unfortunately, spur-of-the-moment travel might be difficult for those who've never applied or need to renew their expired document, with current processing times taking anywhere from eight to 11 weeks, according to the U.S. State Department. But if you've absolutely got to get away, there are still a few ways you can speed things up. Read on for tips from experts on how to get your passport fast.
Apply in person.
Applying for or renewing a passport typically involves getting all of the necessary documents together and shipping them off to be processed. But if you need to cut down some time, you might want to consider showing up in person.
"If you need a passport ASAP, you should contact the closest Passport Agency or Center," says Brittany Mendez, travel expert and chief marketing officer of FloridaPanhandle.com. "You have to schedule an appointment with them, and typically there are only two reasons that can qualify you for the expedited process: 'Life-or-Death Emergency Service' or 'Urgent Travel Service,'" both of which require documentation of an upcoming trip such as a plane ticket, she explains.
However, this solution may not work for everyone, even if you qualify. "Unfortunately, there may not be an agency where you live, as they are only in certain cities, so you may have to travel to the nearest one," Mendez says.
Pay for a professional passport expediting service.
If you're genuinely pressed for time, getting your document processed quickly might come down to being willing to shell out a little extra cash to let professionals hand it—especially if you have a busy schedule. In this case, Justin Albertynas, travel expert and CEO of the travel company Ratepunk, says you should consider using a passport expediter company.
"These firms are equipped to handle passport processing quickly, sometimes securing them in as little as 24 to 48 hours," he says. "They charge a fee, of course, but for last-minute travel or unforeseen passport issues, they're a lifesaver. The fees get steeper in regards to how fast you want your passport done, but they will save you precious time and stress nonetheless."
However, others point out such services aren't foolproof. "These third-party companies basically do the legwork for you, but remember that they can't secure a new passport on your behalf any faster than you can," says Mercedes Zach, a travel expert at ASAP Tickets.
If you're not truly under the gun, you can still apply for regular expedited service with the State Department for an additional $60 fee. This will take your wait time down to about five to seven weeks, according to the agency's website.
Expedite the shipping.
It's not just the processing that can take time while applying: Postage and shipping can also lag, costing precious days. Fortunately, there's a relatively affordable way to ensure your documents don't spend too much time in transit.
"For faster shipping of your application, it is recommended that you purchase USPS' Priority Mail Express," Laura Lindsay, travel trends expert for Skyscanner, told Thrillist earlier this year. "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 U.S. Department of State for [the] fastest return shipping."
Be sure your photos are correct.
It's your responsibility to get new passport photos taken (they can't be older than six months) and include them in your application. A new report from ItsEasy Passport Renewal & Photo App, however, says that "per the Department of State, the #1 reason passport applications are suspended or put on hold is non-compliant photos."
Some of the common mistakes they cite are having your head take up too much or not enough space in the photo, looking away from the camera, having squinted or closed eyes, or wearing eyeglasses. They also note that head coverings are only allowed in photos for religious reasons, and these photos must be accompanied by a note that states this.
Have your documents in order.
Finally, don't let a simple slip-up delay your passport. Just like a trip to the post office or bank, having your affairs in order beforehand can significantly reduce wasted time.
"The most common delay in passport processing is incorrect or incomplete documentation," says Sam Charlton, CEO of Fast Passports & Visas. "Ensure all your documents are in order and double-check them against the requirements. Having a well-organized plan can save you from the limbo of bureaucratic delays."
Specifically, the ItsEasy report says the second most common "pitfall" is having the information on your application not match your original passport (if you're doing a renewal). For example, you may forget your middle name or have gone through a name change. "If they did this without submitting documentation of proof that may be required, i.e. original birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate or court order, a personal appearance may be required as a result of this mistake or intentional change," the report explains.
For more travel tips sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.