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How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport?

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Question: How Long Does It Take to Get a Passport?
Answer: If you're the one waiting, especially if spring break is nigh, then the answer is always "Far too long!" In actuality, though, passport processing time is pretty standard (unless the US changes it's passport rules*)... and know that it takes far less time to get a passport during "off seasons" (like fall and mid winter) than in March and April when folks are laying the summer travel plans.

So, how long does it take to get a passport? As of September 30, 2012, the US government is processing routine passport applications in approximately four to six weeks from the time of application. If you give it seven, you'll be good. And you can get a passport as soon as the same day that you apply if you are traveling out of the country within fourteen days and can prove it, and in two weeks to a month using the US government's normal passport expediting service.

Expedited Passport Processing Time

As of Sunday September 30, 2012, the guv is processing requests for expedited passports in about two to three weeks door to door, if you request overnight delivery and pay for overnight delivery both ways (to and from the passport agency).

So how's that immediate passport application thing work? Well, if you can prove that you are traveling outside of the country and need a passport in order to go -- "prove it" meaning you have in hand a printed plane ticket, or itinerary from the travel agency -- then you can go to a passport office near you (find your nearest passport office, call for an appointment, and go on in. We had to do this once, and we got our passport that same day, but the office will also offer to mail it to you; generally, the passport office will mail your passport out to you that same day. This is useful information if you must drive a distance to the passport office, and can't hang around (there are only twenty two of the offices in the whole country).

A final note: when you're figuring out how long it is going to take to get a passport, know that passport cards cannot be shipped using overnight delivery -- passport cards are always shipped out to you using regular first class mail.

Already Applied for a Passport? Check Status Online

It generally takes about five to seven days for passport applications to be available to be tracked online. Wait time to start tracking your application online may take be a little shorter if you paid for expedited service, and sent your application by overnight delivery (like FedEx).

Checking passport status online is exceedingly great -- in the past, one just shipped everything off and hoped for the best (which usually, in all fairness, did happen). Since passport rules changed in the 2000's, though, it is now hard to get back into the United States without a passport (you can enter the US without a passport in some circumstances so, without this crucial document, US citizens can no longer return to the US from a casual trip into Mexico or Canada (or Bermuda or most of the Caribbean, though those trips aren't quite so casual for most of us) by air (land and sea may be a different story). And if those countries are in your travel plans and you've submitted a US passport application, you really want to be able to find out what's going on with it well before you travel. Learn how to check your US passport application status:

Check Your US Passport Application Status Online

You can gauge your app's progress by looking online at the Department of State's website:

Be prepared to enter this information:

  • Your last name, including suffixes without punctuation except the hyphen (for 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

The guv says you should know that it is currently (spring 2008) taking 7-10 days to see what's going on with your app online (in other words, wait that long after submitting and before looking).

Check Your US Passport Application Status by Phone

You can also check your US passport application status by phone between 6 a.m. - 12:00 midnight Monday-Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (excluding federal holidays). The Department of State says the best time to call is between 8:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. EST.

    Phone numbers:
    • 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778)
    • TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793

Bon voyage!

More passport reading:

* Good to know: the US drastically changed its passport rules* in the 2000's; if you haven't traveled out of the country since then, there are a few things you need to know:

More info:

Similar stuff: What documents will I need for student travel? | What documents will I need for Mexico travel? | Can I drive to Mexico without a passport? | Passport Deadline History | PASS Card

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