In the US, more people than ever have a passport. I recently did a survey that surprised me. 84% of respondents said that they hold a valid passport. A strikingly high number said that they planned on immigrating to a new country. What? Maybe I phrased that last question wrong, since in my experiences nowhere near 35% of Statesians have told me they want to move abroad permanently.
Even so, most respondents said that despite their passport, they never travel abroad.
I have several How To Guides for visas and immigration on this site. My international life seems to be full of them. At this very moment, my very own passport is in the hands of the Chicago Consulate for the People’s Republic of China. I had run out of pages in my trusty 2007 passport, and had to renew it very quickly this February.
According to the Department of State, renewing or obtaining a passport takes some time.
If you are planning a trip abroad, you should begin gathering documents to apply for or renew your passport at least two months ahead of time.
But sometimes even the expedited service isn’t fast enough. What happens if you need to travel internationally in an emergency? What happens if you must obtain a visa for your trip?
This is the guide for how to obtain a US passport as quickly as possible. Be aware that most passport agencies will only allow you to apply this way if you have an imminent international departure.
Use this handy quiz from the US State Department to determine which way to apply is best for you!
Step 1: Find Your Local Passport Agency
It’s easy to find a passport agency in your area. Be advised that these are government offices, and not for-profit passport companies. I have never used one of those, but it might work for you depending on the circumstances for renewing/obatining a passport. Determine whether it is feasible for you to travel to the passport agency.
Step 2: Make An Appointment
You should make an appointment by calling the National Passport Information Center.
You will hear an automated appointment scheduling service. Make certain that you have paper and pen to write down your confirmation number. You must have the confirmation number with you when you go to the passport agency in your area.
From the NPIC website-Life or Death Emergencies: If you have a life or death travel emergency outside of normal business hours (after 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, weekends, and holidays), please call (202) 647-4000.
Step 3: Gather Documents
Every passport agency will have a list of documents that are required for applications. Confirm the list using the website for your specific agency. I applied at the Colorado Passport Agency, and I supplied the following.
- My old passport
- A professional, non-smiling passport photo
- The forms provided on the travel.gov website (click here to determine costs and fill in forms)
- A credit card for payment (Visa, MasterCard)
- Appointment Number (!!!!!!!)
You may need a plane ticket or proof that you will be obtaining a visa in the near future. I brought my confirmation for my new job in China, and my original birth certificate as well. These were not required, but it was helpful to know that I had them.
Step 4: Go To Your Appointment
Arrive early. You will have to go through a metal detector and security. Be aware that no weapons whatsoever are allowed at passport agencies.
When you are through security, they will send you to a window for check in. The person at the window will confirm your appointment number and take a look at your application. If anything is out of place, they will ask you to correct it. You will receive a number and take a seat.
When your number is called, approach the window indicated for processing. They will ask you a few questions and take your forms. You can make payment and make sure you take your receipt. My passport agency allowed me to request a mailed return, so that I didn’t have to drive back to Aurora.
If you have a valid passport that you are renewing, they will invalidate it by punching holes in it. This may cause any visas in that passport to become invalid! Check with the countries for which you hold visas to figure out what to do next.
Step 5: Receive Your New Passport!
I got mine in the mail about two days later. My experience at the passport agency in Colorado was fantastic; This office is easily the best I’ve ever had to deal with in terms of immigration/visa stuff.
You should always retain your invalidated passport. Some countries required that you show the old passports at the border.
2 thoughts on “The Fastest Way to Renew or Obtain Your Passport”
It’s sort of the same situation here in Australia. Quite a number of people that I’ve met here don’t have a passport and only decide to get it when they want or have to travel. It’s easy getting a passport here, though. Just fill out some forms with witnesses signatures, drop it off at the post office with documents and wait for it to be verified. No need for an appointment.
In Malaysia where my Chinese-Malaysian parents are from, it’s a similar situation too. Go to the passport agency, queue up, fill out forms, wait for half a day and you get your passport.
That sounds like it would be better in some ways!