There’s nothing worse than booking your flight to the Mediterranean only to realize your passport is expiring and your new book hasn’t shown up.
Getting a US passport is a straightforward process on your end: simply get your photos and documents in order, head down to the post office, pay your fee, and wait. But, how long you wait depends on many factors you can’t control.
However, there are a few aspects you can control that affect the waiting time for your passport.
Below are some tips on how you can do your best to avoid a travel nightmare.
When to Get a Passport: What’s the Best Time?
Understanding when to get a passport depends on two major factors: the date of your planned trip and the time of the year. We’ll talk more about the first factor later but for now let’s look at the time of year.
In general, you’d want to avoid peak holiday times that could cause passport applications to surge. Think of all the major travel times to get an idea:
- Spring break: April, May, June
- Summer vacations: May, June, July,
- Labor Day
- Winter holidays: November and December
There’s a good chance you might apply during these times and run into no issues regarding waiting time for your passport. It really depends on the influx of applications and the staff working to process them.
But do you really want to take any chances? Probably not. So, if you’re trying to decide when to get a passport, do it before you even plan a trip – preferably, several months out.
Apply for a passport when you don’t need it and you’ll be glad you have it ready to go.
What’s the Average Waiting Time for a Passport?
Although the application process is very simple, the passport application time is another story.
At the moment of writing this, the average waiting time for a passport is between 4 – 6 weeks. The keyword here is average and even that average is a hefty range when urgent travel plans are concerned.
The State Department’s website should provide an updated figure if applications get backed up and push up the average waiting time. However, don’t rely on this number to plan your trip. During surges, you might find over 10 weeks pass by before you have your passport in-hand.
In some cases, your passport might show up in your mailbox in less than a month. In others, the waiting time for a passport could be upwards of 12 weeks.
If you’re waiting for your passport and starting to get worried, you can check the status with the State Department’s handy passport tool.
What Can You Do to Speed up Your Passport Application Time?
Knowing (or rather, guessing) when to get a passport is half the battle, but you can also take a few measures into your own hands.
Here are a few options that can speed up your general passport application time:
Pay for Expedited Services
The easiest way to decrease the waiting time for your passport is to simply pay the expedited fee when you apply. You don’t need to do anything special when you submit your application: just pay an extra $60 fee. This should ensure your passport arrives between 2 – 3 weeks.
Visit a Passport Agency Center
Sometimes emergencies arise. Maybe you lost your passport, or you simply don’t trust it to show up on-time. If the 2 – 3 week waiting time for a passport pushes you past your comfort level, you can visit a passport agency center.
You’ll need to find a nearby facility and schedule an appointment which you can do online or through an automated system. In order to qualify, you have to show proof of your travel plans such as airline or cruise tickets.
If you’re in urgent need of a passport due to travel plans, this method can help you push the passport application time down to less than 2 weeks. If you’re experiencing an emergency, however, such as a medical problem or death in the family, you might be able to reduce the waiting time of your passport to just 24 – 48 hours.
Use an Expediting Company
Companies like Rush My Passport can help average people drastically expedite their passport application time – even without any type of emergency.
In some cases, you may receive your passport in less than 24 hours. On average, you’ll have that blue book in your hand anywhere from 3 – 5 days after submitting your information.
Make Sure Your Documents are Accurate
The most important thing you can do to speed up the waiting time for your passport is ensure that everything you submit is correct – the first time.
If you need your passport in a hurry, don’t rely on drug stores or print shops for your required photos. Look for a local federal or government building in an urban area: they should have an on-site facility for passport photos.
Make sure your IDs are currently valid and that your check or money order is filled out correctly. If you need a passport for a child, remember that both parents must be present when submitting the application and you’ll need to provide proof of guardianship.
Figure Out If You’re Even Eligible for a Passport
Don’t expect to get that application fee back if you’re denied. Instead, figure out if you’re even eligible for a passport before you apply.
Here are a few reasons your passport might get denied:
- Felony or federal drug charges
- Active probation
- Active warrants
- Upcoming court appearances of any kind
- Owing money in child support
Planning When to Get a Passport
Although the average waiting time for a passport is 4 – 6 weeks, you can never be too sure exactly when it will arrive. Knowing when to get a passport isn’t easy since surges can fluctuate with holidays and staffing issues.
Instead, it’s best to just apply as early as possible – preferably when you have no need for a passport. And when you’re in a pinch, take advantage of speedy expediting services to reduce your passport application time. Just make sure to have all your documents in order.