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.

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