If you’ve been dreaming about traveling the world but haven’t yet gotten your hands on your passport – or even started the process – it’s important that you understand what you are getting into, at least as far as the passport timeline is concerned.
A lot of people (understandably) operate under the impression that they are going to be able to get their passport in just a couple of days after applying.
And while some people are definitely able to do that (we highlight how in just a moment), the overwhelming majority of people are going to have to wait quite a bit longer than that.
Below we dig deeper into the ins and outs of the passport application process, specifically breaking down about how long you should expect it to take (on average).
We also highlight a few things you might be able to do to speed things up a little bit, and even recommend a great service to handle your mailing needs while you are out of the country.
Let’s jump right in!
How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport?
Right out of the gate, we can tell you that it is (almost) always going to take you longer to get your passport than you expect.
For starters, the application process is a little bit longer and a little bit more involved than what most people are expecting to begin with.
There are a lot of documents, a lot of photographs, and a lot of information that you have to gather before you can even begin the passport application process.
On top of that, you need to make sure that you are applying for your passport at an official Passport Acceptance Facility (like a post office, a library, or government office that works with the State Department) – and finding one of them can be a challenge, too.
Then you have to remember that you are (at the end of the day) working with the US government here.
There isn’t anything that the US government does quickly!
First time US passport applicants are going to want to give themselves plenty of time ahead of their scheduled departure date overseas to get their passport.
The US State Department itself recommends that travelers apply for their passport at least three or four months in advance of overseas travel, though they also say that the “average wait time” for a passport now takes between 4 to 6 weeks.
That includes application time, approval and acceptance time, and mailing the passport directly to your home.
Some people are going to be able to get their passport although bit faster than that, but most people say that it’s going to take about 4 to 6 weeks (at least) to land your passport after you have applied.
Remember this, too. Applying for your passport in the springtime is the “busy season” for this kind of travel documentation, with everyone getting ready to do a bit of overseas travel during the summer season.
If you can, apply for your passport in the summer, fall, or winter and you’ll be able to avoid that “passport crush” and possibly shorten the amount of time it takes to get your documents back from the State Department.
People that already have a passport and want to renew it are going to (generally) have a shorter wait time, if only because the renewal process is far more streamlined and far more straightforward.
You don’t have to go through the same application process, you don’t have to visit official State Department affiliated locations or offices, and you don’t have to wait for all of your first time documents to get looked at and approve the way you did with your original passport.
Instead, all you have to do is fill out the DS 82 form, include your old passport in the package you are sending to the State Department, and include updated passport photos and money to cover the renewal fee.
After that everything is going to go whole lot faster, with your average passport renewal process taking about 2 to 3 weeks.
The State Department has said things have slowed down a little bit in the last few years, though, and recommended that individuals get their passports in for renewal between four and six weeks ahead of their travel time (just like first-timers).
An interesting little wrinkle with passwords that need to be renewed, however, is that they often “expired” ahead of their literal expiration date.
A lot of people are under the impression that they’ll be able to travel with a passport right up until the day that it is technically no longer valid, but that’s not the case in a lot of places around the world.
In fact, there are a lot of countries that will not allow you to land if your passport has an expiration date that is anywhere between three and six months away from your arrival date.
That’s definitely something you want to look into.
It may not be a bad idea to get your passport renewal process started six months before it officially expires, just to guarantee that you have your passport in hand – ready to rock and roll – without any trouble whatsoever.
Is There Anyway to Speed Up the Process?
Though the State Department does recommend that most people try and get their passports in through the “traditional” application process, there are a few things you can do to expedite things along if you in a hurry.
Just expect to pay a little bit more (sometimes a lot more) to get your passport expedited.
Here are some of the options you’ll have available if you want to speed things up a little bit.
Have Your Documents and Pictures Ready to Go
The easiest way to speed up the process for getting your new passport in your hands ASAP is to make sure that your documents and passport photos are ready to go before you send them in.
You’d be amazed at the amount of people that have their initial passport application rejected or returned because of small errors on the application process.
We are talking about things that weren’t spelled correctly, things that did not match up with the rest of your documentation, and spots on the application that were left blank (even unintentionally).
You also be amazed at the amount of people that do not take the time to get official passport photos taken, but instead decide to DIY them or go in a different direction.
The US State Department is very clear about the kinds of photos that they will accept in the kinds of photos that they will deny, and they stick to these rules and regulations like glue.
Make sure that you double check all of your documents and get photos from experts that specialize in passport pictures and you’ll have a lot less to worry about.
It might not even be a bad idea to fill out your passport application one day, leave it to sit for a day or two, and then returned back to it just to double confirm that everything is good to go. That extra bit of space and delay will help you look at your application with fresh eyes, catching things you might not have picked up on initially.
Use an Expediting Service
Secondly, there are quite a few expediting services out there that promise to help you move through the US passport application process a little faster than you might have been able to on your own.
Some of the services are fantastic, actually deliver quality results, and are not going to cost an arm and a leg to take advantage of.
Other services, however, really only streamline the application process itself and can actually expedite you getting your passport any faster than if you had done heavy lifting of the application process on your own.
Make sure that you know exactly what kind of expediting you are connecting with before jump right in.
It isn’t at all advantageous to pay extra for a service that isn’t going to get you your passport ASAP.
Contact the US State Department for (Really) Fast Service
Finally, you can always contact the US State Department for significantly faster service – especially if you are willing and ready to pay a bit of extra money to expedite things along.
The easiest way to do all of this is to fill out your application, get all of your documentation ready to go, and drop your passport photos inside of an envelope addressed to the State Department with EXPEDITE clearly written on the envelope itself.
You also want to make sure that you add an extra $60 on top of the passport fee you are paying (fees for a first-time passport or a renewal can be found online without much effort), as well as another $15.89 (as of early 2021) to cover overnight shipping for your passport when it is approved.
This is how the State Department likes to handle expedited passport applications it is guaranteed to get things to move quite a bit faster than it would have otherwise.
Now, granted, you may only be able to speed things up by a couple of weeks (turning 4 to 6 weeks into 2 to 3 weeks) but it will speed things up quite a bit.
Finally, you can also reach out to the State Department directly to find a regional passport agency for extremely fast service.
This kind of approach is only ever useful if you are in an emergency situation (you lost your passport, you have to travel overseas for an emergency, the trip was very short notice, etc.) but the State Department is prepared to move things along in these situations for sure.
At these regional Passport Agency offices they can turn passport applications around inside of 24 hours (and sometimes even faster than that).
Just know that you are going to have to bring all of your passport documentation and your photographs, as well as proof of international travel scheduled in the immediate future for this kind of process to shake out.
Using US Global Mail to Keep Connected – Even While Living Overseas!
After securing your passport and traveling the world, though, you may notice a major challenge a lot of ex-pats have to deal with that they were totally unprepared for – and that’s managing your mailbox while you are as far home as it gets.
Managing your mail overseas used to be a gigantic problem, though it isn’t quite as big of an issue any longer thanks in large part to services like US Global Mail.
One of the top virtual mailbox services in the industry today, US Global Mail has a legendary 20+ year reputation for streamlining and simplifying how US citizens manage their mail from anywhere on the planet.
As a client, you’ll gain access to virtual mailbox services, mail forwarding and mail scanning, and even check depositing options that you won’t be able to take advantage of anywhere else.
This goes far beyond what you be able to do with a PO Box from the USPS, that’s for sure!
Instantly Check Your “Home” Mailbox – From Anywhere on the Planet
Thanks to the virtual mailbox components of US Global Mail, you’re going to be able to have each individual piece of mail you receive at this address (physical street address, no less) digitally scanned and uploaded to your secure dashboard almost instantly.
That lets you see your mail – not just the envelope, but your actual mail – from anywhere on the planet through an internet enabled device in real time, only a few moments after it arrives in your mailbox.
Forward Physical Mail to Your Address (For Almost Nothing!)
If you find something in your virtual mailbox that you’d like to have physically mailed to you that process is super simple and straightforward thanks to US Global Mail, too.
All you have to do is select the mail group like to have forwarded and US Global Mail handles the rest of the heavy lifting for you – all at dramatically reduced shipping costs (up to 80% off) you won’t be able to take advantage of anywhere else.
Get Set Up with US Global Mail Today
If you’d like to learn a little bit more about everything that US Global Mail and their virtual mailbox has to offer, check out their website today!