About Passport Processing Times

By Meg Jernigan

Tips to help you get a passport in a hurry

About Passport Processing Times

Your boss tells you that she expects you to be at an overseas conference in a few months, and asks you if your passport is current. You discover it isn’t, or you sheepishly admit that you’ve never traveled beyond the borders before. Don’t fret. Pop your documents in the mail with a form DS-11, or make an appointment at a passport facility.

How long will it take?

Typical processing times for new and renewed passports are six to eight weeks for standard processing, if you go through official State Department channels. Expedited handling takes two to three weeks.

Private companies promise to process your documents and produce a passport in a matter of days, but the charges for this service are markedly higher. Have your documentation ready before you apply. It can take weeks to get a certified copy of your birth certificate, for instance. You’ll need proof of citizenship, proof of identity and a photo. All of these must be current and valid by State Department standards.

Will it help to show up in person?

If you’re in a rush, it does help to show up in person. Make an appointment with a passport acceptance facility either online, or by calling 877-487-2778. Search the online system for the nearest post office, library, clerk of court or local or federal government agency that accepts passport applications. In-person applications are handled in less than two weeks. Make sure you let the agent you’re working with know that you need your passport quickly.

In a life or death emergency, a passport application can be processed in less than 72 hours, but you must provide proof of the emergency. Call 877-487-2778 during business hours, or 202-647-4000 after hours.

Do I have to pay for a passport?

The short answer is “yes.” You can apply for just a passport book or passport card, or both. The passport card is the least expensive option at $30, but it’s for people who cross the border with Mexico or Canada, or travel to the Caribbean or Bermuda, frequently. A passport book is valid around the world and at $110 costs considerably more than a passport card. Note that if you’re a first-time applicant rather than a seasoned traveler renewing your passport, there is an additional execution fee for the book, the card or the combo. Check the State Department's passport fees webpage for the current costs. If you’ve waited till the last minute, private companies promise to shorten the wait, but at an inflated cost.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.