You've seen the ads for passport expediting services who will get your passport rushed for a fee. But you can actually do that yourself. There are two ways to rush your passport application and fortunately, they're both simple to do yourself.
If you pay for overnight delivery each-way and pay an extra $60 for expedited service through the government (not through a company offering expedited passports service) you will most likely receive your passport within four weeks of application. If you make an appointment and go into a regional passport office, you will probably get your passport within two weeks, according to the government (but likely much sooner).
Method #1: How to Rush Passports Yourself
This is how to rush your passport application if you're not leaving the country within the next two weeks; if you're leaving within two weeks, see Method #2.
- Prepare your passport application materials and, if necessary, find out what to do if you don't have a U.S. birth certificate
- Find out how much your passport fees will be ($110 with a $35 acceptance fee as of 2018) and add a $60 "rush fee" to that
- Find the passport application address you will need
- Contact that passport office to ascertain what payment methods will be accepted
- Put your materials, including payment method, in a manila letter-sized envelope, address it to the correct office, write "Expedited" on the envelope, and send it. Depending on your schedule, consider paying for overnight service each way for peace of mind.
- Take your envelope to the post office or a service center for an overnight delivery service like UPS or FedEx (note that 2:00 p.m. is sometimes the cutoff for dropping off material to be delivered overnight, and that some remote locations may not offer you overnight service)
- Ask for two-way service.
That's all there is to it! Sit back, relax, and wait for your passport to be sent out to you.
Method #2: How to Really Rush Your Passport Application
You can get a passport quickly, especially in a "Life-or-Death Emergency." According to the Department of State, "Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family that requires you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 business days)." In this case, you will need to supply the application documentation and, in addition, proof of an emergency which can include a letter from a hospital or medical professional, a translated death certificate, or letter from a mortuary.
Whether it's a life-or-death emergency or not, you can get a passport quickly and you will need to go to a passport office in person rather than mailing in your application documents.
To get a passport rushed within two weeks, you must prove that you are leaving the country and need it fast. Your (paid for) itinerary from your travel agency or your airline e-ticket will work and is perfect for proving this. The Department of State notes on its website that you will not be allowed to apply for a passport at your post office or through the mail if you are leaving the country within two weeks—you must apply in person at a regional passport office.
Here's how to rush passports if you're leaving within two weeks:
- As above, prepare your application materials and make sure you have everything you need.
- Find out how much your passport will cost and then add a $60 "rush fee" to that.
- Find the regional passport agency nearest you—the phone number is likely to be 1-877-487-2778.
- You'll be walked through an automated process to make an appointment to go into the regional passport office, and you cannot make the appointment unless you are leaving within two weeks of your phone call.
- You'll be given the regional passport office address and a confirmation number with your appointment time.
- Take your application materials, your itinerary, and your form of payment and show up at the regional passports office a little early—you'll probably have to go through security, including a metal detector, at the office
If anything is amiss with your preparation—you don't have an official itinerary proving you need a passport within two weeks, for instance—be ready for difficulty; avoid it by prepping a little, and bring your appointment confirmation number. It should be a fairly simple process, though.
Passport Expediting Services
It's not necessary to use a passport expediting service to rush passport applications unless you're not capable of going to a passport office or mailing your own materials for whatever reason. Most passport expediting services will simply charge you a fee to do what you can do yourself by following the steps above. The Department of State notes this on its website (capital letters are theirs):
"THERE IS NO CHARGE FOR AN APPOINTMENT AT A PASSPORT AGENCY. CUSTOMERS SHOULD NOT PAY ANYONE OR ANY BUSINESS MAKING SUCH A CHARGE."
It really is a simple process, so don't feel that you need to pay an agency to help you out.
How to Check on Your Passport Status
The government provides an easy way to check on your passport application status, which definitely helps to put your mind at ease as the countdown to your departure date approaches. Go to the government website where you'll need to enter:
- Your last name, including suffixes without punctuation except for the hyphen (for example Jones III, Patton Jr, Jackson-Smith, Varela Garcia)
- Your date of birth in the following format: MM/DD/YYYY
- The last four digits of your Social Security Number
- You can also call 1-877-487-2778 between 7 a.m. - 12:00-midnight Monday-Friday.
Other Travel Documents You Might Need
Your passport is the most important document you'll need for travel, but there are several others you may need to apply for before you leave. Find out which travel documents you may need for your upcoming trip—visas, ID, travel immunization records, or an international driver's license, for example.