The pandemic has been raging on for over a year now, and since lockdowns have been instituted, there have been a lot of questions regarding the processing of passports. In March of 2020, passport processing was slowed down to a snail’s pace. In fact, applications weren’t being processed at all as postal workers, US Department of State employees, and government offices shut down in accordance with the quarantine.
However, now that we’re more than a year deep into the pandemic and that vaccination has become available to all US citizens, you might be wondering how to go about applying for and obtaining a passport. Currently, the process is still much slower than it ever was in pre-pandemic times, but obtaining a passport is still possible. We’ll be going over what it takes to obtain a passport, what your options are, and how long current passport turnover times are.
Renewal VS New Passport
Before we go further, let’s outline the distinction between a passport renewal and a new passport. Passport renewals can be performed on any 10 year passport that has been expired for less than 5 years. Please keep in mind that this means child passports, as well as lost passports, cannot be renewed. A common mistake that is often made by parents is assuming that child passports can be processed as renewals, this can lead to their application taking longer as the form required for new passports and passport renewals is different.
In order to process a renewal, you must fill out a DS-82 form, provide a check for government fees, and provide a new photo. New passport applicants must provide a DS-11 application, as well as a photocopy of their ID, and a physical copy of their birth certificate or passport, in addition to a check for government fees. New passport applicants must appear in person at an acceptance facility, these locations verify the identity of first time applicants, or for previous applicants who do not qualify for a passport renewal. Those applying for a passport renewal can submit their application on their own, the DS-82 application continues a shipping address that applicants can mail their completed application to.
Applying for Out of Country Residents
If you are a resident of the United States but are currently living abroad, you may not have to worry too much about renewing your passport. The US Department of State has stated that they will be honoring all expired passports until at least the end of 2021. This is to reduce the amount of incoming applications, as well as to give Americans the opportunity to come back home without have to wait long periods of time due to passport processing times.
That being said, if you don’t have a passport at all and are living abroad, you’ll definitely need to get a new one if you intend to re-enter the country. Your best bet would be to visit the nearest US embassy or consulate. These facilities often contain small passport issuing operations that should be able to issue you a temporary passport. This passport is valid for 2 years, and it’s recommend that you apply for a new passport as soon as you return home in order to get the passport’s life extended from 2 to 10 years.
Current Passport Turnover Times
With summer comes the urge to travel, and since passport services opened up for processing earlier this year, the Department of State offices that process applications have been overwhelmed. Eager travelers have been applying for passport renewals and new passports, which has caused a massive back up in the US Department of State’s system. As the agency is currently understaffed, this onslaught of applications has led to long processing times.
Turnover times jumped from 6-10 weeks near the beginning of processing to 12-18 weeks now. This means that if you plan to travel soon, going the traditional route will leave little leeway in terms of receiving your passport back in a speedy fashion. This means that if you intend to apply through a post office (for new passports) or on your own (for passport renewals) you shouldn’t plan a trip within the next 4 months. Not only that, but processing times can increase depending on how many more applicants apply.
Applying for an Emergency Passport Renewal
Perhaps you already have plans booked and 12-18 weeks just won’t cut it. Thankfully, there are avenues to obtain a passport in a faster time frame. However, because of limited availability, the requirements on this process are much more strict. Primarily, you’ll need to be able to show proof of travel within 14 days to even get an appointment. That means if a surprise opportunity to book a vacation has sprung up, you’ll need to book plane tickets (hotel bookings don’t count as proof of travel). This restriction can be a turn off for those who haven’t already booked travel, since even if you do book a ticket, there’s no guarantee that you can even get an appointment.
But where would you even go to get a passport within 14 days? The US Department of State has several offices around the country that can provide this service. Again, due to high demand, obtaining an appointment is very difficult at the moment. You may even end up having to go in the day before your scheduled day of travel to get your passport. On the bright side, if you do get an appointment, you’ll most likely get your passport back the same day that you arrive. This is great for those in a pinch, but not the easiest thing to manage when trying to schedule around work and the Department of State office’s availability.
Other Emergency Renewal Options
If the idea of trying to wrangle an appointment at the Department of State doesn’t sound appealing, there are more options yet. The US Department of State recently reopened its passport courier partnership. This means that private courier companies, much like our location in Miami, are now processing expedited passport renewals. Unlike the Department of State, you won’t get your passport back the same day, but you will be able to walk-in for service and get your passport back in about 3-4 days. The requirements are exactly the same as if you were going directly to the State Department, however you will need to pay an additional expediting fee depending on how quickly you want your passport processed.
So, if you need a passport renewal within 14 days, visit our office in Miami. Our service can rush your passport application so you can be sure to have your passport back in your hands by the time of your departure. You can either schedule an appointment, or walk-in for service!