Need a passport in a hurry? The US government has you covered! If you need to replace your passport or get one for the first time, you can do it in a flash.
While you can replace or renew your passport at designated US embassies and consulates abroad, I decided to go the expedited route at the Los Angeles Passport Agency. It was super easy, and I had my passport in hand in less than one week.
On a mad dash out of town? Here is what you should do to expedite your US passport renewal.
Check Your Eligibility
The US Department of State doesn’t want everybody rushing the application process, so you have to meet a few requirements.
If you are traveling internationally in less than two weeks or have to get a foreign visa within one month, you are eligible. To prove that you’re urgently traveling, you’ll need to bring in printed proof (such as a plane ticket). Of course if you have a true life-or-death emergency, you can contact them here.
Helpful Tip: I’ve found that the people at the passport agency really do want to help and will find a solution for you. If you have a printing error on your new passport, you can show up at the passport agency and the representative will sort everything out (no appointment needed).
Make an Appointment
Before applying for your expedited passport, you have to make an appointment. You can do this online with the Passport Agency Appointment system or by phone at 1-877-487-2778.
When you get your time slot, you’ll be given an appointment confirmation number. It’s essential that you hang onto this. Write it down, and then take a pic of it with your phone. The person at the passport agency will ask for this number when you arrive.
Get the Essentials Together
Before your appointment, you’ll want to go through the checklist of essentials. It’s all about speedy service at the expedited passport agency, so if you show up disorganized and missing paperwork, you’ll be booted out.
Have These Items Ready:
- Your Appointment Confirmation Number: Don’t lose this one! The number you get after you book an appointment is your only confirmation.
- Printed Proof of International Travel: Bring printed copies of every confirmation that you have. This can include plane tickets, hotel reservations, cruise tickets, or international car insurance for cross-border trips.
- Application Form: You can find all of the passport application forms on the US State Department website. If you aren’t sure what you need, use the official passport wizard. It’s a super handy tool that will lay it out for you.
- Passport Photo: You need a standard 2 x 2-inch photo for your new passport. I’ve heard tales of people getting turned away with professional pics (for example, from CVS or Walgreens) that don’t meet the standards. Familiarize yourself with the photo requirements, and double check the pic before you bring it in.
- Application Fee: A new passport book costs $110, and expedited service is an extra $60. For passport cards, delivery, and other services, you can check out the exact fees online with the fee calculator. You can pay with credit card, debit or check card, check, bank draft or money order, or cash. If you go the cash route, bring exactly what you need because the passport agency doesn’t give change.
- You Can Apply for a Large Passport with Extra Pages: Even if you don’t plan to travel as much as someone like me does (though you never know what could happen in the next 10 years!), you can no longer add pages to your passport after the fact as of 2016. You have to go through this entire process all over again if you fill it up. So it’s definitely worth it to go for the passport with more pages when you’re renewing– it’s a much bigger hassle to apply for a new passport when you run out of space than to pay a little extra for the max pages when you renew. Trust me!
- You Will Get Your Old Passport Back: I was so stressed out that they would keep my old passport that I photographed every single page so that I could still have the memories. Don’t worry. They return it with your new passport! (But, if your passport is your most prized keepsake like me, I’d still recommend taking pictures of your stamps– just in case)
Helpful Tip: If you’re ever abroad and lose your passport, contact your nearest embassy ASAP. You can get an emergency travel document that will get you home the same day. Once you’re back on US soil, you will be able to replace that document with a normal passport.
What to Expect
I renewed my passport at the Los Angeles Passport Agency. You’ll need to arrive 30 minutes before your appointment. You’ll get in line for security outside of the building.
After verifying my appointment number and passing through a metal detector, I entered the agency. This place is packed every day, all day.
Since you’ll have all of your paperwork organized (just like me) you can get straight into the first line. Once you get to a representative, they will ensure you have everything you need for the application.
Then, they’ll print you a number for – wait for it – another line…
Once I got my number, I was instructed to sit tight in one of the chairs in the room until I was called. I’m sure this wait time varies depending on the day, but I waited about 45 minutes until my number appeared on the screen.
Honestly, I thought I would wait a lot longer. The next window was simply a payment window where she filed all my paperwork. Overall, the entire appointment took about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish.
My new passport arrived in the mail just three days later!
They cut two small holes through the cover and identification page of my old passport, but it was returned to me as well.