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Is your U.S. Passport Travel Ready? | What You Need To Know

If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent quarantine following travel Instagram’s, pinning new destinations, and scrolling through your old vacation photos. With vaccines becoming more readily available, it’s time to stop dreaming and start planning for your next adventure. That means you need to get your passport in order. Whether you’ve never applied for one before, or it’s been a few years since the last time you went through the process, we’ve got you covered.

Where do I get a U.S. passport?

If you already have a passport, you can simply print out the forms and mail them in. This is the best option for those whose passports have expired or those looking to renew. For everyone else, you have to apply in person. Acceptance facilities can be found in most government-funded buildings like post offices and libraries. Most places are processing applications by appointment only, and many are closed to the public. Your best bet is to find your closest location online.

What do I need?

Everyone looking to get a passport needs to fill out a DS-82 that can be found on the State Department’s website. For those looking to renew a passport or replace an expired one, you’ll need to send in the old passport. For those getting a passport for the first time or replacing a lost or stolen passport, you’ll also need an approved passport photo which you can get at your local CVS or Riteaid, and a photo ID. Also, be prepared to pay the application fee. 

How much does it cost?

It depends on what you need. If you plan to drive into Canada or Mexico or plan on taking a cruise, you only need a passport card that costs $30. If you plan to fly to any international destination, you need a passport book that costs $110. If you need it expedited, that will cost an extra $60.

How long does it take?

Usually, it takes about 12 weeks to get a passport back from when the State Department receives your application. If you are mailing your application, you can expect further delays as the postal service is still recovering from the Covid-19 related influx of mail. The State Department suggests sending your application through US Priority Mail Express and to make sure you get the tracking confirmation.

If you need your passport before then, there are some options to hurry the process along. Paying the extra $60 to expedite the process can cut your waiting time down to four to six weeks, though you’ll have to make an appointment and apply in person. With so many public facilities shutting their doors to the public thanks to the pandemic, appointments can be challenging to come by, and you may need to travel further than you’d expect to get into the earliest slot. 

Some emergency situations can get your passport processed in 72 hours or less. These circumstances usually consist of medical emergencies or the death of a family member abroad, and you have to have all of the necessary paperwork to prove that the situation is an emergency and requires you to leave the country.

What else should I keep in mind?

Even with new cases dropping and more people getting vaccinated, we are still in uncertain times. It often takes more than a passport to get into a country now. Most flights require a negative covid test before you board the plane in either direction. With the daily changes in travel restrictions and guidelines, it’s more important than ever to work with travel professionals to ensure your vacation is successful. 

Image courtesy of Canstock.