Due to the varying lockdowns in the United States over the past year, many US passport agencies were been closed down partially or totally. This is due to limited in person services at the agencies that are affected by the local health concerns over the spread of COVID-19. This had caused the passport wait times to increase significantly.
When the shutdown began in late March 2020, the passport agencies were only accepting applications or renewals for bona fide travel emergencies. The emergencies were for issues such as illness or death, or when a traveler needed a passport within 72 hours.
Passport agencies did reopen late last year as Americans did have the option of traveling abroad to a handful of countries.
This spring many Americans are vaccinated, and international travel is slowly reopening. Although the agencies have picked up the pace on processing passport renewals, it will still take some time for the processing time to get back to pre-pandemic speed. As a result, US passport wait times are longer than usual.
At present it currently takes up to three months to receive your passport when you pay the standard fee of $60. For expedited passport services, the fee is $120 and takes approximately four to six weeks.
How to Apply for Your US Passport
Basic Renewals Can Be Completed Online and via US Postal Service
You can start the renewal process online if you are still in possession of your valid passport or a passport that expired within the past 15 years, and if you still have your current name or documentation proving your name change.
A PDF of the form to complete all information is included on the website. You can fill out the form, print it and include in the package. Some passport agencies have the facilities to take passport photos on site. You can also get your passport photos taken at other places including photo shops and even some retail outlets. Send in the application and with all the relevant documents via your US Postal Service to your designated passport agency.
If you still have a valid passport and intend to travel soon, take note of your passport’s expiration date. Many countries require that your current passport is valid for at least six months beyond the time you arrive. Some countries will not allow entry otherwise. If your passport is due to expire in approximately six months, it would be best to begin the renewal process before you make travel plans.
In Person Facility Requirements
You must apply in person if this is your first passport, you are under 16, or if your passport was lost or stolen. When applying in person, you will need proper ID and other relevant documentation.
Depending on your local area, an in person passport acceptance facility can be a US Post Office, some court clerks, or local government offices. Check the website for the locations of the passport acceptance facility near you.
Passports for Children Under 16
If you are applying for a new passport for your child under age 16, you must make an appointment with a passport agency. You will have to bring the child’s birth certificate to the agency to send along with the form and passport photo. For renewals, you still have to apply in person to complete the form and provide a recent photo. Child passports expire every five years, compared to adults which is usually is every ten years, so a new photo will most likely be needed.
Renew Your Passport As Soon as Possible
You should renew or get your passport as soon as possible. Due to the unpredictability of the spread of the COVID-19, the in person facilities are still extremely limited and you must make an appointment. If you are planning a trip abroad, keep the passport processing timelines in mind and make sure you receive it in plenty of time before you depart. You don’t want to go through the hassle of rescheduling your trip if you do not receive your passport on time.
Check Your Passport Status
Be aware that it may take up to four weeks for your passport to be ‘in process’ when you check the application status online. This is a confirmation that the documents were received at the facility and payment was processed.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories