Kathleen Crislip is a freelance writer who has covered backpack travel adventures for students and other young travelers.
Updated on 01/21/22
Fact checked by
Fact checked byJillian Dara
Jillian Dara is a freelance journalist and fact-checker. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Michelin Guides, Hemispheres, DuJour, and Forbes.
Applying for a passport to travel internationally can be an exciting, yet frustrating, experience, with the frustration lying mostly in the wait time. Before you fill out the correct form (a first-time application, a renewal form, or a child passport form), you might be wondering: Just how long does it take to get a passport?
For starters, you'll need to figure out which document you want to apply for, which varies according to where you want to travel. The U.S. government requires international travelers to carry passport books, and to show this documentation before they depart the country on a plane. A passport card, on the other hand, is accepted if you'll be arriving in the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda.
First-time passport applications need to be processed in person, as do child forms for anyone under the age of 16, as well as those who have had their passport lost or stolen. To do so, visit travel.state.gov to fill out and download your form. Next, you'll need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship by showing your birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, among other acceptable examples. Then, make a photocopy of the front and back of your ID or driver's license and get your passport photo taken (many office supply stores offer this service). Take all of these materials to your local acceptance facility after calling to verify its hours of operation. There, you will take the oath, sign the papers, and pay for processing and shipping.
Standard Passport Processing Times
The U.S. government generally processes standard passport applications within eight to 11 weeks including mailing, but there are a few issues that could hold things up. Incorrect information, or information that does not reflect what's on your ID or proof of citizenship forms, can delay the process, as can submitting passport photos that are cropped to the wrong size or that don't adhere to passport photo standards. Make sure each one you submit measures 2-inches by 2-inches in size and is taken against a white background. Also make sure you are not wearing jewelry or eyeglasses in your photo. Delays can also happen if you submit the incorrect amount of money ($130 application fee and $35 execution fee for a passport book, $30 application fee and $35 execution fee for a passport card, or $160 application fee and $35 execution fee for both).
If possible, try to apply for your passport during slower travel seasons like fall and mid-winter for faster processing times—not in March or April when most people are making summer vacation plans, as delays can occur and may disrupt your trip.
If you ever lose your passport, you must report it as lost—either over the phone by calling1-877-487-2778,or by filling out Form DS-64 on the government's website—before you can apply for a new one. Standard processing times also apply to lost passports, so you'll have the option to pay for expedited service if you need it faster. Replacement passports cost the same as regular applications, while expedited shipping is extra.
How Long Does It Take to Renew a Passport?
If you're renewing your passport, keep your old one handy. The renewal process takes the same eight to 11 weeks turnaround time and requires you to complete a passport renewal application, submit a new passport photo, and send in your most recent passport, which will later be returned to you with a hole-punch indicating its expiration. Expedited service is also available for renewals at an extra charge.
Note that passport expiration timeframes are shorter for kids than they are for adults. Child passports are only good for five years and require a new photo with each renewal.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport Expedited?
If you want or need your passport, or a passport card, sooner than 11 weeks, you can apply for an expedited passport, which typically takes between five and seven weeks. There is an additional $60 fee on top of the regular application fee, as well as an extra $18.32 fee if you want your passport returned to you within one to two days after processing is complete. Note that your passport will likely be sent without the supporting documents if you choose this option, though they will be returned by first-class mail at a later date. Standard delivery is available at no extra charge, but your passport can take up to five business days to reach you. Passport cards cannot be sent via overnight delivery and are always shipped back using regular first-class mail.
In non-emergency cases where urgent travel is necessary, your passport can be processed in approximately seven business days or less, but there will be an additional $60 fee and you'll have to call ahead and make an appointment with a government passport agency to submit the application in person. In order to be eligible for this ultra-expedited processing, you'll be asked to provide proof of international travel within two weeks (or within four weeks if you also need a visa). There are only 27 passport agencies in the United States and appointments cannot be guaranteed, so this should be used as a last resort.
You can also apply for an emergency passport with a three-day turnaround, but only in extreme life-or-death circumstances, including the serious illness or death of someone in your immediate family that requires you to travel abroad. You'll need to have numerous documents in hand, like a death certificate (potentially translated into English), a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. This type of passport application also requires calling to make an appointment with the U.S. Department of State.
Apply for an expedited renewal by mail by filling out and printing the DS-82 application, including all your documents and payment ($60 plus your passport renewal fee) in the mailer, and clearly writing "EXPEDITE" on the outside of the envelope. Select USPS Priority MailExpress, available for an extra $18.32, for faster, trackable 1–2-day shipping (this is not included in the $60 expedite fee).
Third parties can sometimes promise a 24-hour turnaround for expedited services, though this privilege often comes with a hefty price tag of $300 to $400. Companies like rushmypassport.com will babysit you through the process, making sure all your documentation, fees, and photos are just right. Some may even send a representative to the passport agency to present your documentation for you.
How to Check the Status of Passport Applications
It generally takes two weeks after application or renewal for your passport to be trackable online. It could, technically, be a little shorter if you paid for expedited service and sent your application via overnight delivery. You can gauge your application's progress by looking online at the Department of State's website. Be prepared to enter personal information like:
- Your last name, including suffixes without punctuation, except for hyphens (example: Smith III, Crislip Jr, Jones-Smith)
- Your date of birth, in the following format: MM/DD/YYYY
- The last four digits of your social security number
You can also check your application status by phone at 877-487-2778 (888-874-7793, for the hearing impaired). This service is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., eastern time, excluding federal holidays. This number also gives you access to a 24-hour automated service for receiving passport information.
Why is it so hard to get a passport? ›
Passport appointments are hard to get
There are several reasons for the delays. State Department offices were closed for several months last year during the worst of the pandemic, and some people decided to hold off renewing their passports since most travel was on lockdown.
As of September 16, 2021, routine passport processing times can take up to 18 weeks if you try and obtain your passport through the government. This is due to the number of passports that are backlogged. Luckily, you can avoid long passport processing times if you choose Swift to obtain your passport.What to do if your passport doesn't arrive in time? ›
Our processing times begin the day we receive your application at a passport agency or center, not the day you mail your application or apply for a passport at a local acceptance facility. If you did not receive your passport in this time period, you can request a refund of the $60 expedited service fee.What is the quickest time to get a passport? ›
- Routine: 8 to 11 weeks*
- Expedited: 5 to 7 weeks and an extra $60*
- Urgent Travel: Must make an appointment and have international travel in the next 14 calendar days.
For standard passport processing service, the State Department anticipates eight to 11 weeks for processing. Then, budget another six weeks for mailing times (that's both submitting your application materials and receiving the passport).Which passport is the hardest to get? ›
- #1. Qatar.
- #2. Vatican City.
- #3. Liechtenstein.
- #4. Bhutan.
- #5. Saudi Arabia.
- #6. Kuwait.
- #7. Switzerland.
- #8. China.
You cannot travel while your U.S. passport application is still in pending or in process. The only way you can get a passport issued sooner is by applying in person at a regional agency. These agencies require an appointment. Your appointment date must be within 3 business days of your travel date.What is the hardest passport to get in the world? ›
The most difficult countries to obtain citizenship include Vatican City, Liechtenstein, Bhutan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Switzerland, China, and North Korea. If you have ever submitted an application for citizenship, you will know just how difficult the process can be.