As the pandemic continues, everyone is wondering what to do and where they can go for their summer travel plans. Many airlines such as Delta have already begun to remove restrictions on seating as things begin to ease down with the introduction of vaccines. But all this aside, travel is still restricted outside of the USA as well as back to the USA. On top of that, what if you need a passport renewal before your next trip?
We’ll be going over the most recent updates on traveling during the pandemic. By the end of this article, you’ll have a full understanding of what kind of roadblocks you should expect while planning a trip during the foreseeable future.
Currently, US citizens re-entering the country must submit to a mandatory Covid-19 test to prove they aren’t contagious. This only applies to citizens entering the country from abroad, meaning if you are traveling domestically this won’t be an issue. You should however take this as a warning to heed precautionary measures even if you are traveling to a country with lax pandemic restrictions. Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck abroad for at least two weeks while you quarantine!
On top of re-entry restrictions, you may have to deal with restrictions based on where you’re planning to go. For example, travel to the Bahamas currently requires you to obtain a health visa which verifies that you aren’t at risk of spreading the virus during your stay. Additionally, some countries either have travel sanctions in place created by the US or by themselves. New Zealand isn’t allowing visits from US citizens at the moment, even with proof of a negative Covid test!
While not on the top of everyone’s minds, you might be concerned about health and safety risks of the country you intend to visit. Luckily, the US Department of State has provided a useful directory for finding information regarding the different health and safety risks associated with international travel. The directory can give you a glimpse into the relative risk of traveling to a country, with risk assessment being determined based on the country’s own handling of the virus, as well as vaccine availability and usage.
Obtaining a Passport
Along with various supply chain disruptions that came with the pandemic, the government found itself short staffed. This has led to widespread delays when applying for a passport, whether it be new or a renewal. Currently, the normal turnaround time for a passport is 18 weeks. On the faster side of things, you can expedite your passport application and expect to get it back in between 10-12 weeks. If you’d like to go any faster than that, you’ll need to apply at a US Department of State office near you.
Unfortunately, there aren’t US Department of State offices located in every state. Even worse, most offices are dealing with long wait times for appointments, some are even booked out as far as two months!
So what does this mean? Well, if you plan on traveling within the next two months, your first bet would be to contact the US Department of State to see if you can get an appointment. If you can’t snag an appointment, you should apply for an expedited passport, either at a post office or a passport expediting agency.
If you’re already abroad with an expired passport, and can’t make it to an embassy due to pandemic restrictions, you should still be fine. The US Department of State has said they would be honoring passports that are expired at least until the end of 2021. So if you need to make it back to USA on a recently expired passport, now would be the time!
What Should You Do?
With all this information, it would seem that traveling during the pandemic might be a non-starter. After all, 12-18 week processing times can be prohibitive when planning a vacation. On top of that, the threat of a new variant surge might bring any vacation to an early end with no sign of a refund. While traveling is daunting, it is still possible! Just keep in mind all of the road bumps that you might encounter on your trip along the way.
Looking for Faster Passport Renewal Speeds Without the Long Wait Times?
If you can’t wait 18 weeks for routine service, or 12 weeks for expedited service, but also can’t risk waiting until 13 days within your date of departure to try to nab an appointment at a processing center, what can you do? Luckily the US Department of State has begun reinstating the private passport courier service. This means that private vendors, such as our location in Orlando, are now offering expedited services in as soon as 7-10 business days.
Even better is that private couriers don’t tend to have the long wait times associated with processing your application directly through the government. In total, the submission of a renewal application takes no longer than 30 minutes assuming you arrive on time for your appointment and with all the relevant documentation. We can handle the submission and shipping of your application, we just need to make sure that you have the right information ready!
While this service does come with an added fee, the money is well worth the peace of mind you’ll have in knowing your passport will be prepared by the time of your trip. If you’re looking for a passport renewal in Orlando, then visit The Passport Office today. We accept walk-ins, but you can also call us to schedule an appointment today.