There’s an Easy New Way to Apply for Passports—Here’s What You Need to Know
With passports in high demand and wait times at historic highs, the State Department is offering a solution
It seems like everyone is looking to get their passport stamped lately and head off on that grand adventure. While we saw a significant reduction in travel during the pandemic, those with the wanderlust bug are ready to hit the road (and skies!) and check off those bucket list vacations. However, with so many travelers booking long-awaited getaways (and easier access to TSA pre-check), there seems to be an unprecedented demand for passports at the moment. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of State is making life a bit easier for first-time passport users.
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What’s the current wait time for a passport?
As of March 2023, the State Department announced that routine processing for both new passport applications and passport renewals is taking 10 to 13 weeks. You can pay an extra $60 to have the process expedited, but the wait time will only shorten to 7 to 9 weeks. Keep in mind that this does not include mailing time, which can add several weeks to the timeline.
The reason for such long wait times? This past winter, the State Department received more than 500,000 passport applications, surpassing historic volume surges from 2007 and 2017. With such a high demand for passports, processing is taking longer than usual.
What is the new way to apply for a passport?
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If you’re looking to renew an expired passport, the State Department says you will still have to do this by mail. However, if you’re a new passport applicant and need to submit an application for yourself—or if you have a child in need of a passport—there’s a new solution that eliminates some of the mailing time. Called Special Passport Acceptance Fairs, these in-person events will be set up by the State Department at post offices, libraries and local government offices across the country to help travelers complete their application process.
Held throughout July and August, these fairs will take place mostly in California and New Jersey, but also in Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Connecticut and Georgia as well. If you’re in these states—or in surrounding areas—you can use their online facility search tool to find out if a passport fair is happening near you. The full event list is also available. Some fairs will require appointments, so be sure to check before you go.
Who is eligible to get a passport in person?
Unfortunately, these acceptance fairs are only being held for citizens looking to get new passports or children needing passports (using the Form DS-11). All passport renewals will still need to be done by mail—and keep in mind wait times if you have travel planned. Not doing so is a common travel mistake (along with forgetting to check this box on a passport application).
What other options are there to get a passport quickly?
If you can’t make it to a fair and the expedited process isn’t going to be fast enough for you, the State Department does offer the option to book an appointment at their passport agencies or centers. This is for anyone with urgent international travel happening within the next 14 days or anyone traveling with a visa within the next 28 days.