US passports come in many shapes and sizes… figuratively speaking, of course. Rather, it’s a mistake to think of these travel documents as homogenous ten-year books just for adults, when there are a variety depending on how you travel.
Diplomats get their own special passports. Children under sixteen have ones valid for only five years. If you need a second passport for any reason, this one is valid for four years. However, there is another category of passports of which the general public might not be aware. These are known as limited validity passports.
What is a limited validity passport?
Any passport valid for two years or less is considered a limited validity passport. Because standard passport books and cards are issued as ten-year documents for adults and four-year for children, it’s unlikely most US travelers have held a limited validity passport before.
Temporary or “emergency” passports are one such type of limited validity passport. These documents are usually issued outside the United States after someone’s standard passport book has been lost or stolen. If you have immediate travel plans, the nearest US embassy or consulate can issue a temporary passport good for the remainder of your trip, or just long enough to repatriate yourself.
Such passports are usually given a limit of two days, but exceptions are made on a case by case basis. Although the unexpected loss or damage of a US passport is not entirely uncommon, issuing a temporary passport for US citizens is only done as needed. If you plan on being in one country longer than two weeks, you can pay for expedited processing of a replacement ten-year passport rather than just being issued a limited validity one.
Limited validity passports for gender transition
Those currently undertaking or about to undertake a gender transition qualify for a limited validity passport. Though there is no time limit for the procedure, those who complete their transition within two years and have a statement from their doctor to that effect do not have to pay any fees for a passport renewal. The limited validity passport may be renewed again if you plan on traveling or using your passport as your ID during the transition, but once your transition is completed, you should apply for a ten-year passport book or card.
Limited validity passports for replacing naturalization certificates
US citizens who were not born in the country may need to replace their naturalization certificate before they can quality for a ten-year passport book or card. During this time, two-year limited validity passports are issued by the US Department of State for international travel. Like those going through a gender transition, anyone replacing his naturalization certificate can get a passport renewal free of charge if applying before the two-year document expires.
Limited validity passports for name changes
The fourth and final situation in which a traveler may be issued a limited validity passport is for a legal name change. Unlike applicant undertaking a gender transition or those replace their naturalization certificates, those changing their names are only issued temporary documents valid for one year. After this time, assuming your name change has gone through the system, you qualify for a renewal.
What are the restrictions on limited validity passports?
The fees for limited validity passports are the same as those applying for renewals or first-time documents with Form DS-11 – $110, $60 for expedited processed, $25 execution fee – with the notable exception that no additional fees are required if applicants apply for a renewal before their passports expire.
As for emergency passports, they are generally limited to a few days to get the traveler back to the US. In some cases, if you provide your travel itinerary and reasons for travel, the consular section can make the emergency passport valid for up to one year at their discretion. These cases are rare, and it’s usually best to apply for a replacement ten-year passport if you plan on traveling for a while.
When travelers do use the emergency passport to complete their original trip, the consular officer must list all the countries to which they’re traveling, with specific entry and exit dates; those with loose plans will not be accommodated. In addition, any visas that were present in the lost or stolen passport will most likely need to be reissued.