The year is 2020, stay home is the new go out, Zoom chats are the new passport stamp, a Netflix show called ‘Love is Blind’ is taking over over the world and the US Government has stopped issuing new passports. Somehow, all of those things are nearly true.

Due to public health and safety measures, the US State Department has temporarily halted new passport applications from its in person service centers for the first time in a very, very long time.

With the exception of bona fide “life and death” emergency situations as defined by the US State Department, no new applications will be accepted in these locations, until further notice.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a new passport, it just means you can’t use one of the national passport agencies. Local post offices and libraries which remain open across the country are still taking new applications on an appointment only – no walk in – basis, even if you don’t have a life or death emergency.

Should you use them though? No.

The government is facing a backlog of passports to process and greatly limited resources to do so. Even though these facilities are open and you technically still can get a US passport, exacerbating problems further with unnecessary passport applications isn’t advisable, or encouraged.

Wait until those in greater need get their passports taken care of, and stay home!

If all you need is a renewal, don’t fret anyway – those are just fine. They’ll just take a while, but you should be able to do it all on your own by mail. Simply print out and fill out the form DS-82, follow the instructions and send it off. Ideally without touching anything.

If you were planning on paying that extra $60 to use a fast track “expedited” option, think again. All expedited services for new applications and renewals are currently suspended.

The world is responding to unprecedented times, and accordingly, passport renewals are expected to take longer than the standard 6-8 weeks. Even though local passport application locations like your post office may well be open, there’s no reason to put yourself or the livelihood of those who work in these locations at risk, unless you do have an emergency.

If you need to renew a passport, you’ll want to allow extra time, although it’s not like you can really go anywhere at the moment, anyway. The US State Department issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory for American citizens, which advises against all travel.

Make sure you submit your renewal well before your passport is due to expire.

Countries typically require at least six months of validity left on a passport, as well as a minimum one clean stamp page to allow entry, so if you’re even remotely close to either of those benchmarks, it’s important to initiate a renewal, particularly while grounded. It’s worth checking the US country by country travel resource to confirm.

Even if you previously held a visa to a foreign country, many visas have now been invalidated. It’s absolutely worth confirming the status of any travel authorizations or visas you held before, since they may need some t-l-c. Optimists hope for a temporary summer travel boom as cabin fever sets in across the world, and if it happens to be safe to do so, you definitely don’t want the passport to be the one thing holding you up.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Gib! As usual, you’ve got the facts down pat while the usual suspects just write a post around the click bait headline without actually doing something as simple as skimming the State Department passport website to see what they are publishing is objectively incorrect. As a practical matter, it may not be a big difference given current circumstances, but it’s just a frustrating pattern of misinformation and lack of editorial standards despite these sites’ “success” at attracting a mass audience. Stay safe and keep up the good work!

  2. The State Department is sidetracking and suspending processing of newly received applications unless the received application is noted as being part and parcel to a “life and death” emergency and won’t ordinarily issue passports otherwise. In other words, if you apply and don’t have an application that is tagged as an emergency application, then the application will not be acted upon to issue a passport until some (increasingly later) point in time.

  3. @GUWonder – that isn’t correct. I went last week to get my daughter’s passport renewed. Since she is 16 and previously had a child’s 5 year passport it was considered a new one to get the 10 year version. We previously had scheduled an appointment and were processed normally. We were told it still should be in the 6-8 week range and given tracking info which shows the passport still being processed.

    BTW I agree w the “don’t go if you don’t have to” message. In our case we have a flight to Italy in early August (very questionable if we can go I know) and our daughter’s passport had expired. We wanted to allow time for any delays so felt this was necessary under the circumstances. Again the agency is not sidetracking passport applications (at least not ours). It was submitted and is being processed.

  4. 6 to 8 weeks is normal but my renewal was believe it or not 5 days from the time I sent it in at the post office to receive it I did pay for Express mail for tracking.

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