Yes, the rest of the world is banning the United States from tourist travel because of the horrendous response to COVID-19. And yes, you might think you have plenty of time to renew or apply for a passport when the rest of the world decides we’re mature enough to re-enter the travel space. But no, it’s not that easy, in fact, it’s nearly impossible.
Did you know that the pandemic has a backlog of 1.7 million passports? One. Point. Seven. Million. That means there can be waits of up to eight weeks to renew or apply for a new passport through traditional methods. The State Department just reopened 11 passport agencies, and they hope to process 200,000 applications a week, but that’s if the pandemic stays as is or gets better. Many of those offices might have to close back down.
Did you also know, that if your passport is set to expire within the next six months, there are a myriad of countries that won’t allow you to enter, so having a current document is of the utmost importance (you know, if you’re ever allowed to leave the country again in the first place)?
Now, if you need a passport as fast as possible, like within three days, you can apply for a passport under a Life-or-Death Emergency provision with the U.S. State Department, but you better have proof. Otherwise, back of the line with everyone else who thought a giant government bureaucracy could handle the worst plague of our lifetime. (Again, masks. It’s literally the least you can do.)
At some point, the rest of the world will say “yes” to U.S. travelers again, and when that moment arrives, you’ll want to be prepared by having a fresh, new passport
With that said, there is still a pandemic going on, and typically, getting a passport means waiting in long lines, indoors, with dozens of other people who may or may not be sending COVID fumes through the air. Who wants to run that gauntlet?
Luckily, there’s an app for all of this, and some online resources that can also really help. If you want a disease-free, fast, and efficient way of getting or renewing a passport, these are the apps and sites for you.
First, and probably cheapest, is the ItsEasy Passport Renewal & Photo App. For just $35, you can get new passport photos and have your documents hand-delivered to the nearest passport agency. This does not include government fees which are over $100. But with this app, you can take your own photo at home, fill out your application, and not have to get within the socially-distant comfort of another human being. And really, can you even put a price on that? Yes, $35.
If you’re uncomfortable with a new-ish company handling your most valuable documents, you can always go to FedEx, which offers rush delivery, 24/7 assistance, and tracking of your documents. The downside, you have to get your picture taken at a FedEx location. Yuck. It’s also more than $100 before government fees. But again, it is FedEx.
Then there are the online sites offering fast, easy renewals at the click of a button. There are PassportRenewal.com and FastFilings which both promise online renewal services with low processing fees and rushed delivery. FastFilings will send you a package in a day or two that includes a comprehensive checklist for everything you’ll need and documents you need to fill out. Do all of those things, slip it back in the mail, and wait two months for your new passport. PassportRenewal, meanwhile, has a $79 fee, promising a passport in 8-10 weeks and no trips to the post office either.
Lastly, you can go to the State Department website where they list every passport agency for every state. There, you can find out whether the nearest agency to you is even open for business and accepting customers for applications. Or, you can see if you can apply through the mail, but you have to meet certain criteria to do that: You need to have a current passport, that passport cannot be damaged in any way, you were older than 16 when you first got the passport, it was issued within the last 15 years, and it was issued in your current name. If you cannot meet all those criteria, you’re out of luck and will have to go in person to apply. Again, yuck.
At some point, the rest of the world will say “yes” to U.S. travelers again, and when that moment arrives, you’ll want to be prepared by having a fresh, new passport to get away from those COVID-filled, mask-hating ‘mericans. So, review your options, find the one that’s right for you, and get ready to fly again…in six to eight months.