I’m a planner, so it might surprise you to learn that my last two passport renewals in 2008 and 2018 were both last minute, same-day renewals! However, when you say yes to spontaneous travel as often as I do, knowing your way around an expedited renewal can really help, especially when you have less than six months until your passport expires. But why does six months matter?
When planning a trip abroad, there are many things to consider in the planning process. Whether it’s for work or vacation, you have to pay close attention in planning your flights, hotel accommodations, and transportation among so many other intricate details. One important piece of the planning puzzle that can sometimes be forgotten in the midst of preparing and packing is to check your passport’s expiration date!
To travel outside the country, your passport must not be expired, which is typically known by most international travelers. However, a less known but equally important detail is that certain countries also require that your passport must be valid for up to 3-6 months after traveling. This little-known detail can tend to hinder travel plans if a traveler doesn’t know about this stipulation ahead of time; however, while this revelation can be daunting and stressful when you realize that weekend in Mexico might not happen if your passport expires in less than six months, there are options out there to help you renew your passport within days or even hours.
Why does this rule exist?
The reason for the 3-6 month rule usually depends upon how long you’re allowed to stay in the country. If a country allows you to stay up to three months on a visit, they want to make sure you have at least three months on your passport left so you can travel back home should you stay the maximum time allowed. Other countries add a buffer onto that for their passport validity requirements.
Requirements by country
If your passport has less than one year before its expiration date and you’re traveling in the near future, it’s important to check the passport expiration rules of the country you’ll be visiting. The linked US State Department website has a search bar for any given country and will usually list entry requirements for each, but there are some glaring omissions. My aforementioned Mexico example, whereby six months of passport validity is required to enter the country, isn’t explicitly spelled out on the US State Department website. I therefore also suggest Googling “[country name] required passport validity” to be extra sure you’re not surprised at check-in. In general, six months should be enough for almost any destination.
I’ve taken the top ten countries that were visited in 2019 below and given their required or recommended passport validity:
|Tourism Rank||Country||Req. Passport Validity|
|1||France||Three months beyond planned date of departure from the Schengen area|
|2||Spain||Six months recommended, three months beyond your date of departure is required|
|3||United States||Duration of stay for most visitors; six months for others|
|5||Italy||Six months beyond planned date of departure from the Schengen area|
|6||Turkey||Six months beyond date of entry|
|8||Thailand||Six months from date of entry recommended|
|9||Germany||Three months beyond planned date of departure from the Schengen area|
|10||United Kingdom||Duration of stay|
Now let’s say you’ve booked a trip on little notice and you realize you’re within the required passport validity timeline for your destination – are you SOL?
In order to get immediate passport renewal, you must visit a US Passport Agency. There’s one in most major cities in the US; for example, my 2008 renewal was at the NYC Passport Agency and my 2018 renewal was at the LA Passport Agency. First, try to book an appointment online. You can schedule an appointment if you are traveling within two weeks or need a foreign visa within four weeks, but the actual appointment has to be within 72 hours or three business days before your date of travel, or 10 days if you require a visa.
If there are no appointments available, you can visit as a walk-in. Similar to the requirements for appointments, you must be traveling out of the country within the next 72 hours (or three business days) in order to be eligible as a walk-in. It’s recommended you arrive two hours before the location opens so that you’ll be first in line and get your name immediately on the walk-in list. Trust me, the early wake-up call is worth the peace of mind and gives you the best chance of being seen that day when there are cancellations, delays, or free time!
How to obtain a same-day renewal
To successfully obtain a same-day renewal at a US Passport Agency, you’ll need a reason for travel and proof that you’re traveling in the next 72 hours or three business days. The following steps will need to be followed carefully in order to secure a passport renewal within days of travel.
- Check for available appointments at the US Passport Agency you’ll be visiting
- Get passport photo taken at a location such as Walmart, CVS, Walgreens etc – this should only take 15 minutes at most
- Get prepared for your US Passport Agency appointment or walk-in
- Print and fill out all necessary documents ahead of time
- Gather all documents and information you’ll need
- Bring proof of immediate travel plans such as your flight reservations or hotel accommodations
- Bring two copies of your passport photos
- Visit your local US Passport Agency to renew your passport (list of locations linked)
- Attend your scheduled appointment
- As a walk-in, arrive two hours before the place opens. Arriving very early is your best chance that they’ll have availability to see you that day
Please note that even if you successfully complete all of the above steps, there is no guarantee you’ll receive your passport renewal in time before your flight. If you realized your passport was expired less than 24 hours before your flight, you most likely won’t make it; however, if you have a day or two, arrive at a US Passport Agency office early and prepared. You’ll have a good chance at receiving your passport renewal quickly. Be prepared to wait in line for hours especially if you’re a walk-in without an appointment!
Same-day renewal cost
A standard passport renewal costs $110 at a US Passport Agency and is mailed to you within 10-12 weeks. If you’re looking for an expedited renewal service, it costs an extra $60 at the US Passport Agency office. This is the least expensive and most immediate passport renewal route but it can be a bit time consuming to wait in line to be seen.
What if I don’t live near a US Passport Agency?
If you don’t have the luxury of living near a US Passport Agency, there are other options available. There are third-party renewal services that essentially perform the above service for you. You’ll pay a hefty fee to the company who will hand in your required documents for you and then return your passport via expedited service, as quickly as overnight from when they successfully get your passport renewed. You won’t need to wait in line all day or drive a far distance to a US Passport Agency as it will be done for you. While this price is steep, if it saves your vacation, it might be worth it.
FedEx now offers a program called RushMyPassport at its 2,000+ locations with expedited service to receive a new or renewed passport as quickly as one business day. You’ll be able to fill out the paperwork online ahead of time and have your passport-size photos taken at a FedEx location. The cost for a new or renewed passport in 24 hours at a FedEx location is $449. On top of that, there are one-day shipping costs and an expedited government fee of $187. If you don’t need the passport within 24 hours, the Next-day service is $349, priority service is $249, rush service is $169, and the standard service is $119.
Another company that offers a similar service is FastPort Passport which is an approved US Passport Agency partner. You’ll fill out the documents online, send them in, and the company will take care of bringing them in for you and getting the passport renewed in time. The cost for a 24-hour turnaround renewal with Fastport Passport is $449. This does not include the $187 government fee. They have additional, cheaper expedited services if you don’t need your passport within a day.
I’m not affiliated with either option, and you can research additional methods for expedited passport renewals in addition to what I’ve described above. Just ensure if you use a third-party service that it is an approved US Passport Agency partner!
It’s easy to forget to check your passport expiration dates with so many other things to prioritize when planning a trip. If you find yourself with too little time on your passport’s validity, remember to stay calm and go through the necessary steps to renew your passport on an expedited basis. It will cost a bit more money than planned and can take some time but can definitely be worth it if it means saving your vacation. Your best bet is to go to a US Passport Agency 72 hours or less before your flight, fill out all forms ahead of time, and be prepared with all necessary documentation. If you can do all of that, you have a much better chance of making it on your trip!