Getting Your US Passport as Easily (and Quickly) as Possible – Forbes

Whether you’re a regular world traveler or are planning your first adventure out of the country, you’ll need the same thing: a valid US passport. Getting a passport can be easier said than done, though, especially if you’re on a time crunch with upcoming travel. So, what’s the easiest way to get a new or renewed passport?


Luckily, there are a few options available to you. Let’s take a look at the simplest (and quickest) ways to get your hands on a valid passport book or card, and how much you can expect to spend.
First and foremost, you need to decide whether you are submitting a new application or if you need a US passport renewal. This will determine your application options.
If you’ve never had a passport before, you are obviously submitting a new application. That one is easy. But what if you have an expired passport, need to change your name, or have lost your original book/card? The answer lies in the details.
Yours is essentially a “new” application, and you are required to apply in person for your passport, if any of the following are true:
However, if you have an expired passport in-hand, which is not too damaged or mutilated and was issued less than 15 years ago (after age 16), you will renew by mail.
Renewing by mail is the easiest way to get your next passport. In fact, renewing by mail is actually required if you meet the criteria and don’t need to apply in person for a new passport.
Renewing online requires you to utilize Form DS-82. You can use this form if your most recent passport book/card:
If all of the above is true, you can easily renew by mail. You’ll need to include your most recent passport, Form DS-82, an updated passport photo, payment for the new book and/or card, and any documentation to support a requested name change.
Fees for a standard, renewed passport are $110 (adults)/$80 (under 16) for the passport book, $30 (adults)/$15 (under 16) for the passport card, and $140 (adults)/$95 (under 16) for both the book and the card. Keep in mind that the passport card cannot be used for air travel; it is only valid for land/sea travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.
Renewing by mail is by far the easiest method, but it does take some time. The average passport renewal requires about 4-6 weeks for routine service. However, if you need to get your passport in hand even sooner, you can choose the expedited option on your Form DS-82.
If you are renewing by mail but want/need your passport in-hand faster than the typical 4-6 weeks, you can have your application expedited. This involved extra fees, but will get the new book or card to you in about 2-3 weeks.
To expedite by mail, you’ll follow the same process as above, for renewing by mail. In addition to your normal processing fees, though, you’ll need to include a $60 expedite fee along with your application. You should also write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of your envelope when mailing off the package. To get it there as fast as possible and start the renewal process sooner, you can overnight your envelope to the passport office.
If you want to speed up the process even more, you can include another $15.89 for overnight return service. This ensures that once your passport is ready, it will be sent to you via Overnight service rather than normal mail. This could potentially trim another few days off the time it takes for you to receive the new passport.
If you are forced to apply in person, you will be using Form DS-11. Applications can be completed at an acceptance facility. These are located at many post offices, public libraries, municipal offices, and clerks of the court. To find the acceptance facility nearest you and make an appointment, search here.
If you are applying in person, you will need to bring a few things with you. These include:
When applying at an acceptance center for your passport, you’ll pay additional fees. You can expect to pay $145 (adults)/$115 (under 16) for passport books, $65 (adults)/$50 (under 16) for passport cards, and $175 (adults)/$130 (under 16) for both a book and a card.
As with renewals by mail, applications for a passport in person can be expedited. This requires the same expedite fee of $60, which will speed the process from 4-6 weeks to about 2-3 weeks. If you want to upgrade to overnight delivery once your passport is ready, you can also pay the expedited shipping fee of $15.89 at the time of application.
If you are traveling internationally in less than two weeks, or have a life or death emergency that requires you to travel out of the country immediately, there are ways to speed the process along even faster. Of course, it’s going to cost you.
Traveling in less than 2-3 weeks and can’t wait for the standard expedited passport service? Then, you’ll need to apply in person at a passport agency or center. There are a number of these across the country, and they will be able to help you get your passport book and/or card before your trip.
You’ll need to bring the same documentation as the original application or renewal, as well as your applicable fees (including the expedite fee). You’ll also need to provide proof of immediate international travel in order to have the agency or center process your application as soon as possible.
If there’s been a life or death emergency and you need to travel outside of the country immediately (within 72 hours), it is possible to get your passport in as little as 24 hours. You will need to call the U.S. Department of State to make your emergency passport appointment. Their number is 877-487-2778, or 202-647-4000 if calling after hours.
For your emergency passport service, you’ll still need to provide the same documentation and fees as the expedited services mentioned above. You’ll also need to bring along proof of the emergency. This can include a:
If you want to take some of the stress out of getting your passport (especially if you need it expedited), and don’t mind paying an additional fee to do so, look into passport services. There are a few available that guarantee your passport to you in as little as 24 hours.
The processing times through the U.S. Department of State are still the same. However, these passport processing companies will take all of the legwork out of the process for you; some, like are located in Washington, DC and are authorized by the U.S. Passport Agency.
Services can run anywhere from $89 to as high as $250, and that’s on top of the State Department’s processing fees.
There are also companies that aim to make your passport renewal process even easier.  One company, ItsEasy, makes it truly simple. You can use your smartphone to take your passport photo through their app. The app will size your picture appropriately and everything, offering both digital delivery or print-and-ship service.
The app will also help you pick the correct application form, navigate the questions, and provide a prepaid/trackable shipping label. Then, they will check all of your documents for you to ensure that nothing was forgotten or left out. Once they’ve done their part, they’ll securely deliver your documents to the State Department for processing.
The fee for a service like ItsEasy ranges from $89-$269 per passport application.
There are a number of ways to go about getting a valid passport. Whether you renew by mail, get emergency processing in person, or anything in between, there are plenty of options available. If the standard 4-6 week processing is too much for you, you can even get your hands on a passport in as little as 24 hours. Then, you’ll be ready for your next international adventure!


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