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How can I rush passports? How can I get one in a hurry?

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How can I rush passports? How can I get one in a hurry? Lyle Leduc/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Question: How can I rush passports? How can I get one in a hurry?
You may also want to learn about new current passport rules, where you need a passport and the PASS passport card and other passport substitutes news; you also may want to know about getting an expedited passport fee refunded.

Answer:

Note: look below to learn how to check on your pending passport application status.

Getting a passport after you apply can take anywhere from one day to ten weeks. Getting it in four weeks or less is usually considered a rush. You don't need to pay an expediting service to rush a passport in two weeks or less.

There are two ways to rush passports. With either method below, you will need to fill out a passport application. With method #2 below, you can probably fill out your application at a passport office, but you may want to practice first, and you will need to bring some application materials with you. If you pay for overnight delivery each way and pay an extra $60 for expedited service through the government, not through an company offering expedited passports service, you may get your passport within four weeks of application. If you make an appointment and go into a regional passport office, you will probably get your passport within three weeks, according to the government (but likely much sooner).

Method #1: How to Rush Passports Yourself

This is how to rush passports if you're not leaving the country within the next two weeks; if leaving within two weeks, see Method # 2.
  • Prepare your passport application materials, including learning what to do if you have no US birth certificate

  • Find out how much your passport fees will be and add a $60 "rush fee" to that

  • Find the passport application address you will need

    • Contact that passport office to ascertain what payment methods will be accepted

  • Put your materials, including payment method, in a manila letter sized envelope, address it to the correct office and write "Expedited" on the envelope, and send it. Depending on your schedule, consider paying for overnight service each way:

    • Take your envelope to the post office or a service center for an overnight delivery service like UPS or FedEx (note that 2:00p.m. is sometimes the cutoff for dropping off material to be delivered overnight, and that some remote locations may not offer you overnight service)

    • Ask for two-way service

Method #2: How to Rush Passports if You're Traveling Within Two Weeks

There is no guarantee that you can get a US passport in less than two weeks. That said, I got one the same day that I drove to my regional passport office and applied.

To get a passport rushed, or within two weeks, you must prove that you are leaving the country and need it fast -- your (paid for) itinerary from your travel agency or your eticket works. And the Department of State notes on its website that you will not be allowed to apply for a passport at your post office or through the mail if you are leaving the country within two weeks -- you must apply in person at a regional passport office.

Here's how to rush passports if you're leaving within two weeks:

  • Prepare your application materials

  • Find out how much your passport will cost and add a $60 "rush fee" to that

  • Find the regional passport agency nearest you -- the phone number is likely to be 1-877-487-2778

    • You'll be walked through an automated process to make an appointment to go into the regional passport office -- you cannot make the appointment unless you are leaving within two weeks of your phone call

    • You'll be given the regional passport office address and a confirmation number with your appointment time

  • Take your application materials, your itinerary and your form of payment and show up at the regional passports office a little early -- you'll probably have to go through security, including a metal detector, at the office

If anything is amiss with your preparation -- you don't have an official itinerary proving you need a passport within two weeks, for instance -- be ready for difficulty; avoid it by prepping a little, and bring your appointment confirmation number

What About Passport Expediting Services?

I can't recommend using a passport expediting service to rush passports applications unless you're not capable of going to a passport office or mailing your own materials for whatever reason. Most passport expediting services will simply charge you a fee to do what you can do yourself by following the steps above. The Department of State notes this on its website* (capital letters are theirs):

    "THERE IS NO CHARGE FOR AN APPOINTMENT AT A PASSPORT AGENCY. CUSTOMERS SHOULD NOT PAY ANYONE OR ANY BUSINESS MAKING SUCH A CHARGE."*

How to Check on Your Passport Status

[o]Note: it is taking up to seven days right now (July, 2009) for your expedited passport application to reach the point where it can be tracked online, and up to two weeks for a regular application.

The government provides an easy way to check on your passport application status -- eases your mind as the countdown to travel approaches. Hop to the government web site where, according to the Department of State, you'll need to enter:

  • Your last name, including suffixes without punctuation except the hyphen (for example: Jones III, Patton Jr, Jackson-Smith, Varela Garcia)

  • Your date of birth in the following format: MM/DD/YYYY

  • The last four digits of your Social Security Number

You can also try calling 1-877-487-2778 between 7 a.m. - 12:00 midnight Monday-Friday.

Learn More About Travel Documents

Learn which travel documents you may need for student travel -- tourism and work visa, id, travel immunizations record and international driver's license -- where and when you'll need them and how to get them.

Learn specifically about Mexico travel documents, about Mexico and Canada travel and the new passport rules, and about the new PASS card and other possible passport "substitutes,", too.

Enjoy the journey!

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