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USPS Offers Passport Application Tips

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Passports on a map of the world

Passports on a map of the world to illustrate the keys to world travel

Successful traveling begins with a passport

~ Passport information update ~

The Department of State has issued updated passport guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with new safety guidelines, the Postal Service has made changes to its passport application process.

Beginning March 25, 2020, the Postal Service began processing all passport application services by appointment only. As a temporary measure due to the pandemic, please use our online scheduler or a Post Office lobby self-service kiosk to make an appointment for passport services to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. Passport fairs will resume only after it is safe to do so.

Applying for a passport is just a few clicks away

Sky travel is picking up again. A valid passport should be the first item on your travel check-off list. Following are some passport application tips to help speed the process along. Additional information can be found on our Passport Page on usps.com.

The Postal Service has operated as an agent of the U.S. Department of State since the 1970s and works very closely with its Passport Agency.

It’s important to note that the Postal Service does not process or issue passports

The Postal Service accepts first-time applications and offers passport-related products and services at 4,800 Post Offices across the country. Most of these locations can also take passport photos.

USPS is currently holding passport fairs, expanding off-site availability of passport services and extending appointment hours across the country.

Passport acceptance service is offered at 4,800 Post Office locations nationwide. Customers can schedule first-time passport application and Photo Services Only appointments through Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler (RCAS) tool. Customers have the option to schedule these appointments at usps.com on a desktop or mobile device, at a retail counter in more than 17,000 Post Offices or at a self-service kiosk at 2,200 USPS locations.

The USPS Retail Customer Appointment Scheduler application has been updated recently to include the option to schedule Photo Services Only appointments.

Post Office passport acceptance offices

You can find a list of passport fairs at the Department of State Travel Newsroom. Appointments are not required during the fairs, but customers are encouraged to arrive early as applicants will be served on a first-come, first-served basis until the applicant maximum has been reached. During these events, USPS processes first-time passport applications and passport renewal applications for those not eligible to renew by mail. See ‘How do I renew my passport?’ in the FAQs listed below for information on renewal by mail.

In 2007, more than 18.3 million passports were issued. The Postal Service accepted applications for more than half — 9.8 million. Those passports expired in 2017, creating a surge in passport applications and renewals; a trend which has continued each year since. In addition, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (enacted in 2009 that requires a passport or passport card when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and other countries of the Caribbean by land and sea) has added to the surge.

Since Jan 1, 2021, the Postal Service has accepted more than 3.5 million passport applications compared to the 3.2 million accepted during the same period prior to the pandemic. That’s an increase of more than 300,000 passports when doing a six-month comparison.

What to expect

Be timely

Routine passport processing is estimated to take between 4 to 6 weeks. We encourage applicants to apply well in advance of travel plans as we anticipate longer than average wait times for passport processing over the coming months. First-time applicants are encouraged to apply at the nearest acceptance facility. Acceptance facilities do not accept renewal applications, so adult renewal applicants should mail in their application.

Take a new photo

There are new guidelines for passport photos. If you want to renew your passport and your existing photo shows you wearing eyeglasses, you will need to take a new passport photo without them. At some Passport Acceptance Facilities, photos can be taken for an additional fee.

Passport video

Please see our video on USPS TV for a short presentation with helpful passport tips. These include how early to apply for a passport, where to locate a USPS office for assistance, how long a passport is valid, expiration requirements, application requirements and other important information to ensure your passport is ready for travel.

For more than 40 years, passport services have continued to provide convenience for customers as well as a revenue stream for the Postal Service. USPSs proud to work with the Department of State to provide customers with such a convenient way to apply for their passports.

Apply early!

Apply at least six months before planned travel. Give yourself ample time to apply for or renew your passport and have it processed and returned to you.

Most passport applications are sent to the Passport Agency/State Department via Priority Mail. The State Department returns passports processed under routine service to the consumer via USPS First-Class Mail (FCM). For consumers who opt to pay the extra fee to the State Department for expedited service, their passports are returned via USPS Priority Mail Express or other providers (i.e., FedEx or UPS). Customers are always advised to apply for passports as early as possible whether for a first-time passport or renewal.

Passport applications are experiencing delays

State Department processing times for both Routine and Expedited services have increased. Processing times begin the day they receive your application, not the day you mail it. Routine service can take up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day they mail your new passport to you.

The Postal Service suggests allowing a few days—each way—for your application to travel in the mail to and from the State Department. Most passport applications are sent to the Passport Agency/State Department via Priority Mail. Priority Mail service includes tracking and delivery in 1-3 business days. Check delivery time estimates on the Priority Mail Delivery Map.

Use online self-service tools

Our Passport Page on usps.com can help guide you through the process. You can get questions answered immediately and also check for your passport status. Customer service representatives will not give status updates over the phone.

Preparing to travel out of the country

First, as you make your foreign travel plans, don’t forget to check your passport’s expiration date. It should be valid for at least six months after you return home and needs to have two or more blank pages. Also, be sure to check your family’s passports.

The passport application process can take several weeks, so it’s important to apply for your first-time or renewal passport as soon as you know you and your family will need them. You can check the current approximate processing time on the State Department’s Travel website.

The good news is that the Postal Service has 4,800 facilities around the country that can accept first-time passport applications on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. It’s easy to find one by using the USPS Locator.

What’s New?

Passport execution fee

The Department of State passport execution fee for submitting your application to a passport acceptance agent (a United States Post Office, state or local government or State Department official) for verification and review is $35. For more information, see details at the Department of State website.

Frequently Asked Questions

We want to ensure your passport application process goes smoothly and that you have the resources you need to begin your travel planning. Here are some common questions USPS passport acceptance clerks are often asked regarding passports.

Q: How do I apply for a first-time passport?

First-time passport applications must be submitted in person at a passport acceptance facility (e.g., U.S. Post Office).

Here’s what you’ll need to do at a Post Office facility:

  • Complete Form DS-11: Application For A U.S. Passport
  • Submit evidence of U.S. citizenship
  • Present state-issued identification
  • Submit a photocopy of the identification document
  • Pay the applicable fee
  • Provide one passport photo. At some locations, you can have your passport photo taken on site for an additional fee.

Q: Can I renew my passport at the passport acceptance facility?

No. Acceptance facilities do not accept renewal applications; they should be mailed in.

Q: How do I renew my passport?

You can apply for a passport renewal by mail if the following apply to your passport:

  • Undamaged and able to be mailed with your application;
  • Was issued when you were age 16 or older
  • Was issued within the last 15 years; and
  • Was issued in your current name or you can legally document your name change with original or certified copy of your marriage certificate or the government-issued document proving a legal name change.

If you meet the above criteria for a mail-in renewal request:

  • Complete Form DS-82: Application For a U.S. Passport by Mail
  • Include your most recent U.S. passport book and/or card
  • Include a certified copy of your marriage certificate or court order if your name has changed
  • Pay the applicable fee
  • Provide one passport photo
  • Mail your application to the address on the form

If none of the above passport criteria apply, then you need to apply in person. See the USPS Locator for a list of Post Office locations that offer passport services.

See more information about passport renewals here: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/renew.html

Q: I’m not currently in the United States, how do I apply for a U.S. passport?

See here to apply for a U.S. passport while outside of the United States: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/applying-for-a-u-s–passport-from-outside-the-united-states.html

Q: I’m traveling in two weeks and need my passport renewed. What are my options?

If you have urgent travel needs (within two weeks), make an appointment at your nearest passport agency by visiting Travel.State.Gov or call our National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

Q: How long does it take to get my passport?

Passport processing typically takes between 6 to 8 weeks, however, if you choose an expedited service, you can receive a faster processing time.

See here for expedited passport application information: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/services/expedited.html. There is a $60 fee for expedited requests.

Note: The State Department is currently reporting delays in processing passport applications, so please allow a little more time for both Routine and Expedited services. They currently suggest 12-18 weeks. 

Q: Where do I find general passport information?

Information, a list of fees and instructions on how to apply for a U.S. passport are available at http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english.html. U.S. citizens may also obtain passport information by phone, in English and Spanish, by calling the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

Or you can always stop in at your local Post Office and ask us in person, we’re happy to help.

Bon Voyage – Aloha – Cheerio – Farewell – Adios!

We would like to wish you and yours happy travels this year wherever your journey takes you.

The Postal Service generally receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Find a Passport Fair office

Information will be updated when passport fairs resume.

New fairs will be listed regularly so be sure to visit the USPS press release page and click on your state.

 

 

 

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