Photo: Evgenia Parajanian/Shutterstock

How to Renew Your Passport in Less Than Two Weeks

by Nickolaus Hines Jun 24, 2024

By the first couple of months of 2023, my now-wife and I had finished planning for our upcoming summer wedding in Italy. Yet in the midst of all of that planning I had overlooked one major component: My well-worn passport was nearing its expiration date. I wouldn’t have the required six months before expiration for entry into the country, and I was also supposed to be traveling far sooner than the expected renewal processing time that was still catching up from pandemic-related delays.

It turned out that adding an earlier last-minute international trip was the best solution.

Passports for United States citizens are good for 10 years. Regular international travel toward the back half of those 10 years meant I never really a chance to wait on the ambiguous standard or expedited renewal processing times because the next trip was always around the corner. Passport renewal horror stories about how long even expedited service can take had me (and possibly to an even larger extent, my wife) worried for our Italy trip, to say the least. Then, after opening a new browser tab for every expedited passport application service I could find, I came across the Department of State’s urgent travel renewal option.

The urgent travel service is designed for people with booked international travel in the next two weeks. It requires proof of international travel (like a flight ticket and receipt) in that time window, a little extra paperwork, and an appointment at one of the 26 passport agencies across the country. Living in Denver, I luckily had a passport agency just a few miles from my home.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Make an appointment at your nearest passport agency with the online passport appointment system (there is no walk-in option)
  2. To qualify, you must have proof of travel within 14 calendar days of your appointment
  3. Print and fill out the standard passport renewal documents to bring to your appointment (as well as your previous passport), proof of travel, and a short list of extra documents sent over email
  4. Explain your travel and passport needs to the agent at your allotted appointment
  5. The agent assigns a pick-up date based on need
  6. Wait for the confirmation email that your new passport is ready for pick-up a few business days later

I wasn’t prepared to test out the urgent renewal process for our Italy trip with a wedding on the line, so I booked a cheap flight to Mexico for a weekend a month out and started looking for an available passport agency appointment time in the 14-day window. The appointments book up fast and the office is only open for a limited number of hours, so some scheduling flexibility is needed.

After a lot of waiting in line past my appointment time and a quick interview with the agent, I was sent home with the promise that I’d have a pick-up time confirmation within five business days. The confirmation came via email even faster than expected. I had my new passport in hand a few weeks after booking my flight and a few days before I was scheduled to head to Mexico.

There are some notable caveats for anyone in need of a passport fast. The biggest is the location of passport agencies. Most are in major cities on the coasts and borders with Canada and Mexico. Denver and Hot Springs, Arkansas, are an exception. If you don’t already live in one of those cities, it would require spending at least a week in a city that has one. Booking an entire extra trip for a passport is pricey even for affordable destinations, but at least it’s an excuse to use more vacation days, which Americans desperately need to do (people with a higher uncertainty tolerance could skip that step and only plan around their main trip, though). Appointment times are also only available in the middle of the work day, and there’s no guarantee an appointment with be available at a time that’s convenient to you.

The benefits, however, outweigh the costs if you’re in need of a passport fast. There are no extra fees for the appointments, unlike the private passport expediting companies that can charge hundreds of dollars for basic services. Speaking directly with someone in person also gives a whole lot more peace of mind than mailing important documents and hoping for the best.

All in all, it’s better to be prepared far ahead of time. The nightmare days of passport renewals that take months to complete that followed the height of the pandemic are mostly over. The State Department is trialing online passport renewals, and a series of passport fairs offer faster service.

But when you need a passport fast, urgent travel renewal is the best way to go.

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