Global Affairs

Why You Should Renew Your Passport Right Now

Illustration for article titled Why You Should Renew Your Passport Right Now

Photo: Nuangthong (Shutterstock)

With international travel restrictions expected to loosen this summer (no guarantees, of course) you might already be planning some foreign travel. Before you make plans, make sure you renew your passport first, as the State Department says it’s currently taking up to four months to process renewals. That means if you renewed today, you wouldn’t get your passport until July.

Why delays might get worse 

Last spring, the State Department temporarily stopped processing passport applications due to the pandemic, creating a large backlog of cases that are still being worked on (this also applies to new passport applications, which are facing similar delays). With 87% of Americans intending to travel in the next six months, pent-up demand could make the backlog worse, and possibly extend that 4-month turnaround window as more countries open up their borders (most are still closed to international tourists).

Why you should apply now

Even if you have no intention of traveling, it’s a good idea to renew now. You might change your mind, or, if you used to travel for work, you may find you’ll need to do so again on short notice. Also, keep in mind that some countries only accept passports that won’t expire for least six months past the day of your trip. You do have an option to expedite your passport application if you suddenly need to travel, but that still takes 4-6 weeks, and costs $60—why pay that (and suffer the stress of worrying if your document will be processed in time) if you can avoid it?

How to apply 

You can apply by mail or in-person at local passport facilities in every state, though some offices may still be closed or offering limited services. To renew an existing passport, start here; to apply for a new passport, start here. Also check out this State Department chart, which offers guidance on the best way to send your application based on how quickly you need your passport—including 3-day turnarounds for true emergencies (certainly you shouldn’t apply by mail if you needed the passport that quickly).

Bonus tip: If you’re applying for a new passport, be sure to choose the non-standard 52-page option in your application, as it has the most pages. Some countries require one or two fully blank visa pages to validate your passport, so it can’t hurt to have more space if you’re a frequent traveler.

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