How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport? US passports on american flag piaharrisphotography/Shutterstock

Depending on whether the passport is for a minor or adult, needed in a hurry, is a renewal or a first-time passport, and other scenarios will impact how long it takes to get a passport.

This simple question, how long does it take to get a passport, has a myriad of answers.

A first-time passport

So you want to travel outside the country—awesome! Here's how long it takes to get a passport: You should begin the passport process in person at a passport center or passport acceptance agency at least ten weeks before your scheduled departure, to be safe (although the earlier you start the U.S. passport process the less stress you'll feel as your trip approaches.) Per the USPS, "routine passport processing is estimated to take between six to eight weeks." Of course, you will want to be mindful of holidays and possible government shutdowns as those days and events will impact passport processing time. If you're in a rush to receive your passport, there are ways to speed up the passport application process.

Expedited service for when you need your passport in a hurry

The answer to how long does it take to get a passport when you're in a hurry differs depending on how much time you have on your side. The State Department offers an expedited passport application which will have your passport in your hands within two to three weeks as opposed to the six to eight week normal timeframe. Of course, you'll pay for the increased speed—an extra $60 fee per passport.

What if I need my passport even sooner?

For life and death emergencies and other urgent situations, you can make an appointment at a passport agency or center and bring with you proof of your urgent travel to receive expedited passport service for an additional fee.

For personal assistance in the case of emergencies and last-minute travel out of the country, there are services like Swift Passport that, for additional costs, promise to deliver your U.S. passport to you in one day or within 12 days.

How long does it take to renew a passport?

The costs to renew a passport are cheaper than first-time applicants (currently $110 vs $145) but the processing times remain the same. Expect a six- to eight-week wait once you have completed the passport renewal application, which, in addition to a new passport photo and payment, requires you to send away your most recent passport (fear not, you should get that back to save all your previous passport stamps.) Of course, expedited service is available to renew a passport too. From Chile to Japan, here are 15 places to visit this year and put that passport to good use.

How long are United States passports good?

For adults age 16 and older, U.S. passports are good for ten years.

Little kids will need more frequent passport renewals

Because their faces are changing so rapidly, passports for children under the age of 16 are only good for five years. Note: Every person, regardless of age, traveling outside the country needs a passport book or passport card. This means that your child could have as many as four passports before they turn 16. Processing time for children's passports is the same standard six- to eight-week timeframe, with the same expedited services outlined above available.

What happens if you lose your passport?

According to USA Today, "If you lose your passport in the United States, you must report the loss to the State Department immediately to prevent the fraudulent use of your passport and to start the process of obtaining a replacement. If you are outside of the United States you must contact your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate." Getting a replacement passport book will cost you at least $135, with expedited service starting at an additional $60 and overnight delivery from $15. In short, keep your passport in a safe and secure location to avoid a financial hit and infinite stress, phone calls, and paperwork. This does not, however, mean you should carry your passport with you at all times.

What is a passport card?

While both the traditional blue passport book and wallet-size passport card are proof of citizenship, the how, when, and where they can be used is very different. A passport book is acceptable for all international travel, but a passport card is good only when entering the United States at land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The other difference is the price: passport cards cost less than half that of a full passport book, however processing time and lengths of validity are identical.

My passport is expiring this year but I'm fine to travel still, right?

Actually, probably not. According to Afar, many countries require that your passport be valid at least six months after arriving. Additionally, some countries want you to have at least two blank pages for visa stickers and stamps. If your passport is within six months of expiring, you should start the ball rolling on the passport renewal process before departing. See above for the details on how to renew your passport and how long it will take to get your new passport. Here's why a valid passport might be "expired" in certain countries.

Do people who travel a lot get different passports?

If you expect to give your passport book a workout with many international trips over your passport's decade of life, there's a checkbox on the passport application that you absolutely must put an X in to get a slightly different passport. Always check this box on your passport application.

What is Mobile Passport?

At 27 U.S. airports and four cruise ports currently, the free Mobile Passport smartphone app service (with a premium upgrade option) will speed up your journey through customs and immigration by allowing you to use designated Mobile Passport Control lines—separate, faster lanes in the inspection area. Use your passport to take advantage of some of these last-minute winter travel deals this year.

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