Passport Processing: What are my options really?
By Brittany Dismuke, on September 15, 2018
Even as a seasoned traveler processing your passport application can be a pain. Whether it be in the completing of the application itself, understanding what forms to submit, or the number one reason for application suspension, an incorrect passport photo, human error occurs, and it can be costly.
Do you need a passport book or just a
card? Should you get additional pages or is the standard fine? Not only can the
application be hard to navigate, figuring out which processing options are
available or right for you can be another task alltogether. Is your travel
happening quickly? Do you also need a visa? These are important questions to
keep in mind when choosing the best processing option.
If you are planning to travel by land or sea, from the US to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda, then a passport card is an easy and inexpensive choice. It can also be used as an alternative proof of citizenship and is acceptable for access to military bases. Should you plan to fly internationally, the card will not get you anywhere, and a passport book would be required.
The passport book does not have any of the restrictions of the card but is a bit more expensive. If you are a frequent traveler you can request at renewal, the larger 52-page book for no additional charge. This is important because the Department of State no longer allows you to add pages to your US Passport. If you fill all your pages before your ten years are up, you could be paying the passport fee again sooner than expected!
After you have decided on the type of passport you want, the next most important factor is how quickly you need to travel. Check the Department of State website to find out if the country you are visiting will require a visa. This will help to determine how much time you will need to process the passport, as you will need to factor in your visa processing time. Your visa application will not be able to be submitted until after your passport has been received, so make sure to give yourself enough time for the processing of both before your trip.
There are a few different options for processing your US Passport application, self-applying, Passport Acceptance Fairs, passport acceptance facilities, or third-party expediting services.
The Department of State’s website has the list of the requirements that you will need to process your US Passport book or card yourself. If you are renewing your passport, the process is fairly simple: complete the application online, print the PDF it creates, combine it with other required documents and the application fee and now you are ready to ship to the address provided on the form.
If this is your first time receiving a passport or if your previous passport was lost/stolen or issued when you were a child, you will need to visit a passport acceptance facility to have your documents verified by an agent and sealed. There is an easy search tool for you to find the facility closest to you, and they will mail the documents off to you. When self-applying you have two options for processing speed: standard or expedited. Standard will allow you to receive your passport in 4-8 weeks and expedited will allow you to receive your US Passport in 3 weeks.
This is where the type of passport you are applying for and the time frame you are working in becomes very important. If you chose a passport card, this is not a process that can be expedited. The Department of State is offering Passport Acceptance Fairs throughout the country to assist citizens in processing their applications. These fairs kicked off on September 6th and continue through the end of the year. These events allow all passport types to come in, mainly without an appointment required, to complete their US Passport applications.
But what if you need it sooner than 3 weeks? The US Department of State has multiple Passport Agencies throughout the country to process and expedite US Passport applications. If you need to travel within two weeks, need a foreign visa within three weeks, or have a life or death emergency, you can get an appointment at Passport Agency. The fees are the same as expedited self-applying, but it is possible to get a passport same-day with a same-day international travel itinerary. While there are multiple locations throughout the United States, the United States itself has plenty of rural areas and there can be hours from one Passport Agency to the next. Not only can the agencies be inconveniently located, but appointments also may not be available.
Third-Party Passport expediting services, like American Passport and Visa International, Inc. help to fill this need. Third-Party services submit your passport application to the State Department’s Passport Agencies for expedited processing and can receive your passport as early as the same day for a fee. APVI can not only expedite your passport in under three weeks, but we also provide you with step-by-step instructions and personalized service and review by an experienced Passport Specialist. If you do have an error in your application, we work with you to provide any additional documentation and corrections to receive your passport and on your trip as soon as possible.
Whether you are in a hurry or not, you travel frequently or only plan to cross the border, there are plenty of options to fit your situation and your needs.