If you’re looking to travel internationally in a hurry, whether you’re a working professional who discovers she’s required to be in Shanghai the next week or a retiree eager to start a vacation, there are few facts about the passport application process of which you should be aware. Getting a US passport for the first time or applying for a renewal when time is an issue makes you want to have all your ducks in a row before sending in that application, or even before you get started on the paperwork.
Expediting a passport for the first time
There are a few areas in the passport application process to consider when it comes to the time involved: the processing time required by the US Department of State once your application is received and the time needed to gather all the appropriate documents to submit. First-time passport applicants need to bring Form DS-11, proof of US citizenship – e.g. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, a copy of that proof, a passport-sized photo taken within the last few months, their photo ID, and a copy of that ID.
Assuming you have your proof of citizenship handy, taking a passport photo can take less than an hour at a pharmacy, photo studio, regional passport agency, or one of the Travel Visa Pro offices. The only unknown is whether a regional passport agency will have room to accommodate your appointment. Mail-in applications are only acceptable for passport renewals, whereas first-time applicants and especially those looking to expedite their application must apply in person.
Next to gathering any missing citizenship papers, filling out Form DS-11 and making an appointment at a passport center are probably the most time consuming tasks. Any mistakes on the forms may result in them not being accepted and you being required to return on another day. If your departure plans give you plenty of time, this isn’t a big problem, but many travelers are operating in a crunch.
The exception to this process is if you entrust your passport application to the travel experts at a third-party agency like Travel Visa Pro. Instead of taking time off during normal business hours to wait at a regional passport center, TVP staff can assist you with Form DS-11 in addition to processing the application on your behalf; if you make an appointment with us, we can even do it in as little as eight hours – normally in-person applications through a US Department of State regional passport agency are processed and returned within two weeks.
Expediting a passport renewal
Those who already have a passport and are renewing – assuming it hasn’t been expired for more than five years – have the choice between applying in person at one of the 26 regional passport agencies in the US or any embassy or consulate abroad. Mailing in an application is also allowed, but not recommended if you need your new passport in a hurry. The time needed to gather the documents necessary for a renewal is somewhat reduced, as the expired passport is acceptable as proof of US citizenship, so no birth certificate needs to be included.
If you do need to expedite your passport renewal, it’s best to make an appointment as a regional passport agency. While passport officials may be able to estimate the processing time of your renewal, mail-in applications have very little communication in either direction: mail it in, wait several weeks, and hope it’s returned turned without any errors. Expedited processing is available, and you can choose to include a self-addressed envelope with overnight return service, but even then, your mail-in renewal will more than likely take a few weeks from submission to return.
That’s where Travel Visa Pro comes in – our renewals are only limited by the time you want them to take. In some cases we can process passport renewals in as little as eight hours.
Because many Americans do not live close to a regional passport center or may be unwilling to wait for their documents through the mail, Travel Visa Pro has dozens of pick up and drop off locations in major and minor cities to accommodate these last-minute passport requests.
When do you need your US passport?