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December 7, 2023

Need a Passport Fast? Here’s How I Got Mine in Under 7 Hours

Filed under: Fitness — Tags: , — admin @ 10:29 pm

I recently found myself in a passport pickle. I took a travel-writing assignment in the Bahamas (rough, I know), but my U.S. passport was nearing expiration and it was also fresh out of blank pages for stamps. So, instead of canceling my trip and waiting months for a passport renewal with processing backlogs at an all-time high, I took advantage of a little-known service: I got an in-person appointment for an “urgent travel” expedited passport.

Within six hours, I had, in my hand, a brand new U.S. passport. It didn’t cost me much extra, either—a $60 premium for the same-day passport. That’s the same rate the U.S. State Department charges for a standard expedited service of 3-5 weeks. It brought my total cost for a lightning-fast passport renewal to $190.

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On average, it’s taking 7-10 weeks to get a new passport, according to the State Department, which has been pummeled with record applications this year and resulting delays. 

If you’re preparing for a trip, and you pull your passport out of storage only to realize it’s expired, or that you’re traveling to a country that requires your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond your trip date, don’t panic. This urgent travel appointment hack can help you get a passport faster than you’d ever dreamed possible when dealing with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs before you jet out of town.

Going this route is not for the faint of heart, though, because the State Department gives you information in morsels and you’ve got to trust the process. To wit: I called on a Sunday (amazingly, the government agency was open) to make an appointment for a Wednesday and my outbound flight was the following Monday. 

When I asked the representative over the phone if that would be enough time to process my new passport, she said I’d get “further instructions at my appointment.” I showed up promptly for my 8 a.m. appointment and handed over my paperwork, photos, and payment, and showed my flight reservation. I was told to come back after 2 p.m. to pick up my passport.

I was pretty confident that I’d be able to get a same-day passport, which is why I agreed to the international trip knowing my passport would need to be quickly renewed. I’d gone through something like this same process 10 years ago ahead of a cousin’s destination wedding in the Dominican Republic.

While I’ve successfully navigated the expedited passport process twice, most recently in November 2023, I also asked passport expert Sam Charlton, the CEO of Fast Passports and Visas, for his best advice. He’s helped hundreds of thousands of people renew their passports quickly.

Here’s everything you need to know about the “urgent travel” passport so that you can get a new passport or renew an existing one within mere hours or days

Record levels of U.S. passport applications have led to backlogs and delays in 2023. “I called on a Sunday (amazingly, the government agency was open) to make an appointment for a Wednesday and my outbound flight was the following Monday.” It worked. 

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How to Get a Passport Fast

To get a passport quickly, you have to show that you’re traveling internationally within two weeks. You’ll need to print out a confirmation of your flight to show proof of your future trip.

You also need to show up to an in-person appointment. No walk-ins allowed. There are about two dozen of these passport offices throughout the United States. I was lucky because the Colorado passport office was 30 minutes from my Denver home, but there were people in line who I overheard talking about how they’d flown in from neighboring states to get their urgent travel passports. The trick here is having some flexibility with your trip back home: Will you have your passport in hours or within a couple days?

This time, I got my passport within hours. When I went through the same process a decade ago, the passport was available for pick up the next day. A friend who got an urgent passport earlier this year was able to pick his up within two days, but his travel was nearly two weeks out whereas mine was in less than a week.

If you secure an appointment at one of the 26 passport agencies across the U.S., it’s possible to have the passport issued within one day, Charlton says. But the government offices are purposefully vague, so if you’re flying in for one of these appointments or you have an international trip in your very near future, it’s best to provide yourself a little cushion in case your passport ends up taking a couple of days.

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The state department also offers fast passports for life-or-death emergencies. This process grants an expedited passport to people who have immediate family members outside of the United States who have died, are in hospice, or have a life-threatening injury or illness.

But for the urgent travel appointment, it doesn’t matter why you’re traveling, which was a relief to me because a trip to the Bahamas doesn’t exactly sound pressing.

The most common snag for an expedited passport: arriving unprepared. “Make sure that all your travel documents and necessary forms are accurately completed to avoid any delays,” advises Sam Charlton of Fast Passports and Visas. 

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What Do You Need to Bring to a Fast Passport Appointment?

The biggest hiccup people face when they get an expedited passport is not having all of their paperwork, says Charlton.

I was renewing, so the process was pretty simple, as I just needed to fill out the DS-82 renewal application that arrived via email after I made my appointment, bring my expired passport to temporarily turn over (they returned it with a hole punch in it), show a printed flight itinerary, and hand over passport-approved photos. I got mine snapped at a FedEx Office to make sure they were compliant.

If you’re applying for a passport for the first time, though, the agency will send you an outline of what you need to bring to your urgent travel appointment, including the passport application and citizenship documents in addition to the photos, fees, and proof of international travel. Processing times are the same, and the offices accept checks, money orders, credit cards, and debit cards for payment.

The Proof of Travel Loophole

Having an international trip within a week or two without a valid passport is, no doubt, nerve wracking. For this reason, there are likely some people who’ll purchase a flight right before their urgent travel appointment and then cancel it after they’ve submitted their application for the urgent travel passport—taking advantage of some airlines’ 24-hour refund windows, and having a cushion before their travel in the coming months.

Purchasing a ticket solely to demonstrate imminent travel, and then canceling it, is not a practice Charlton recommends. “This approach can be misleading and potentially complicate the passport application process,” he says.

After all, the reason the urgent passport process works so smoothly is because last-minute appointments are actually available to those who really are traveling in the near future. So, whether you exploit this godsent loophole or use it when you actually need it is between you and your travel karma.

The Other Way to Get a Passport Fast: Private Services

If you’re short on time, don’t have an urgent passport office close by, or nervous about navigating the process on your own, you can also work with a private service. Charlton recommends researching any courier companies before signing on with them since you’ll be entrusting them with sensitive identification information and documents. Resources like the Better Business Bureau and chambers of commerce can be helpful.

Processing fees, he says, will vary based on the urgency of your request. The fees range from about $200 for a 20-25 business day turnaround to up to $500 for a quicker 4-6 business day processing time—in addition to government fees. 


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