It's really much better to plan ahead. If you didn't, or you're pressed for time, these tips will help get a passport in a hurry.|
Getting caught short without a passport (or one that has expired,) when an out-of-the-country trip is imminent is a panic-inducing experience
The usual wait for a passport is anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on how many are in the backlog. An "expedited" passport, using normal procedures, takes approximately two weeks.
If you have an emergency, or are leaving within a two-week period, you can get same-day service but it's costly, disruptive, and harrowing.
For first-time passport issuance, you MUST go in person. There are several passport agencies in most U.S. cities; many of them require an appointment. You must have proof of citizenship, which could be your original birth certificate, a certified copy of the original with a raised seal, or naturalization papers. You must have two identical passport photos, and a form DSP-11 - filled out, but not signed. The fee for a normal first-time passport is $60 for an adult over 16 and $40 for a child under 16.
You can renew your passport by mail if the following conditions are met: You currently hold a U.S. passport that is less than 15 years old, the passport is in good condition, the passport was issued after you were 16 years old, and your name is the same as when it was issued.
You must fill out a form DSP-82, enclose two identical passport photos, and your passport cannot be altered or mutilated in any way. (If your name has changed due to marriage or divorce, you can enclose a certified copy of the marriage certificate or divorce decree.) The cost for this service is $40.
Expedited IssuanceIf you are traveling in more than two weeks but less than six weeks, you need to expedite delivery of your passport. If it is your first passport, you must apply in person, pay an additional $35 for the fast service, and prepay for overnight return delivery. If you are renewing by mail, you have to pay the additional $35 fee, send the application by overnight service, and prepay the overnight delivery for the return.
Immediate, Hurry-Up, I-Need-It-Tomorrow Service
Yes, it's possible, as I recently discovered four days before I took a trip out of the country. My passport had expired and I was stuck.
If you live in a city that does not have a passport agency that can issue passports on the spot, there is no inexpensive, convenient way to resolve this problem. There are solutions, however.
The first is to call the automated service center at the closest sity that can issue one for you. By appointment, as long as you meet all the conditions listed above, you can get your passport issued in one day. You must, however, be able to prove that you need it urgently by providing a copy of airline tickets, itineraries, or a letter on business stationery showing that you will be traveling within 14 days.
The automated telephone system allows you to choose an open appointment time and gives you all the necessary instructions for appearing. Because it's an all-day procedure, you have to have an appointment early in the morning, which may mean paying for a motel or hotel so you can appear on time, and of course there is the cost of gas and the time it takes to make the trip. You MUST choose this option if it is your first passport.
The last option (for renewals only) is an Expeditor Service, which is what I chose. It's expensive, but worth every penny if you value your time. I decided that it was probably equal to the cost of the drive, motel, food and parking. I chose A Briggs Passport and Visa Expeditor Service, which has a listing in telephone book of most U.S. cities.
You have to follow all of their extensive list of rules, including completely filling out the form DSP-82, printing out their release form and signing it, providing the two passport photos (I got mine at Kinko's in about 15 minutes,) sending two checks... one for their service and one for the passport, and you must use Federal Express to send the packet to them (they have an arrangement with Fedex that allows them to pick up the packets before they get loaded onto the trucks.) The cost of the service is $99; it cost me $15 for the photos, $16 to Fedex the packet, $14 to have them return it to me via Fedex, and $75 for the expedited service from the passport agency. The passport was issued the same day; someone from A Briggs called to give me the Fedex tracking number.
I was lucky, but it cost me a total of $219 when, with a little bit of pre-planning, I could easily have paid the $40 fee plus the cost of photos.
Plan ahead. It's the smarter thing to do.
United States Passport Services
Washington, D.C. Passport Agency
A Briggs Passport Expeditor