You’ve got your trip booked, you’ve been looking forward to it for months, you have it all planned, down to the hour. (Not down to the minute, since you’re planning to be flexible.) You’re packing your bags a couple of weeks early (you’re excited), and that’s when it happens. You pull out your passport and put it with your bags, since you definitely don’t want to forget that, and you casually flip through, reminiscing about past trips and fun times. Except…
It’s expiring. It’s full. It’s damaged. Oh, my! You need a new passport, but there’s no time! So, what do you do? Here’s what.
Why You Might Need Your Passport Fast
No matter how organized you are, it could happen to you! It happened to me a few months ago, in fact, despite being both a professional traveler and probably the most overly-organized person I know. Here are some of the more popular reasons you might need a rush on your passport.
- It’s expired. If you don’t travel very often, you might not be keeping track of your passport’s expiration date. If you happen to look at it and realize it expires before your trip starts, that’s better than finding out at the airport! I’ll wait while you go check the date on yours now.
- It’s expiring in less than six months. There’s this pesky rule that seems to always shock people: You cannot begin a trip if your passport will expire within six months. I know! It’s ridiculous, and I don’t understand it either. It’s supposed to be good for 10 years, but really, it’s 9.5 years.
- You’ve run out of room. Whoops! This one happened to me. Passport stampers, unfortunately and rudely, do NOT stamp in an orderly fashion. I didn’t realize that I had so little space left for stamps until it was too late. I missed out on a trip to Jordan because I only had half a page left, and their visa takes up a full page. Don’t let this happen to you!
No, you’re technically not allowed to have stamps or visas on top of other stamps or visas. And also no, you can no longer have pages added; you have to simply get a new passport book.
- It’s a true emergency. I’m sorry, but missing your family reunion in Tahiti, while epic, is not a true emergency. An emergency, as defined by the State Department, is a life-or-death emergency. If an immediate family member has died, is dying, or has experienced a life-threatening injury or illness, you can use the emergency reason to get your passport quickly. Click here for more information.
- Your passport is damaged or lost. This happens probably most often of all the reasons listed here. Passports are pretty durable, but if they get too wet, torn, bitten/eaten by a beloved pet, or otherwise damaged, you won’t be able to use it for travel. If it’s lost (or stolen), you can report it online here. Your passport will be cancelled immediately, so no one can try to use it, and apply for a new one here. Click here for more information.
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to Passports
How Fast Can You Get It?
Well, that all depends! It could take up to seven weeks to get your passport back through the mail, even after paying the $60 Expedite Fee. The passport office has the ability to create your new passport in one day, but it depends on your timeframe whether or not this is an option for you.
- Expedited Application by Mail: 5-7 weeks
- Apply in-person if your destination requires a visa: 4 weeks
- Apply in-person if your destination does not require a visa: 2 weeks
Keep reading: What to Do If You Lose Your Passport
How to Make it Happen
If you find yourself in need of a passport within three months, here’s how to make it happen!
Call This Number
The only way to make an appointment with a passport office is to call 877-487-2778. You will talk to a live person who will tell you where you can go to get your new passport, book your appointment, and give you a list of the items you’ll need to bring with you. They can also answer any questions you may have and give clarification of the sometimes unclear rules of the process.
Read next: The Ultimate Harsh Truths about Travel
Gather Your Paperwork
This is so important, because if you forget something, or don’t bring the correct forms, you will be turned away and have to start the process over again. If you already have limited time, you definitely don’t have time for that! Make sure you have these items with you:
- Completed passport application and citizenship document(s). Please refer to the application form for the specific documents required.
- Passport photo. You can have this done at any U.S. post office (appointment required), CVS, Walgreens, UPS, and other locations. Do a quick Google search for the closest options for you.
- Passport fees. ($130 for passport book only as of 2023), plus the $60 expedited service fee. They accept checks, money orders, credit cards and debit cards for payment. (Quick Link to passport fees: Passport Fees)
- Printed proof of international travel. This could be your airline ticket receipt, itinerary from a travel agent, hotel reservation, etc.
- Proof of Life or Death Emergency (if applicable).
Read next: How to Apply for Global Entry
Show Up for Your Appointment
Set an alarm, set a reminder on your phone, tell people to remind you. Whatever you need to do, make sure you go to your passport appointment if you need to go in person! You may need to go through a metal detector or other security screenings. Once you’re in, though, the whole process is very streamlined and well-organized.
If you have enough time between your appointment and your trip, you may have your new passport mailed to you. If your trip is within the next couple of days, they do have the capability to make your passport the same day, but it all depends on their processing times and availability. Good luck!
Also helpful: 9 Habits of Successful Travelers
Want more? Get all my passport tips and guides on my dedicated Travel Tips Page!
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