People often dread the renewal of their passports as it seems like just another long, bureaucratic process that involves too many steps and a lot of waiting in line.
Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case anymore. These days, there are a number of things that you can do to speed up and streamline the process so that it is not only less arduous, but actually somewhat enjoyable. This article will provide you with several steps that you can take to make the process easier.
Apply well before any planned trips
Passport waiting time has always been significant, but since the pandemic, it has become essential that you give yourself at least six weeks from the time you apply before any international trips that you might make. Ideally, you should give yourself even more time than this, just to be sure.
Bureaucracies all over the world have gotten backed up with requests since Covid, and the US is no exception. If you have to get your passport at the last minute, you could end up either paying through the nose, or – in some cases – missing out altogether as the system simply won’t be able to process you. Don’t put yourself at risk of this.
The process can be made easier by sending your documents through the mail. You first want to be sure that you have all the necessary components in order, though.
Make sure you have the right photo
The government has very specific requirements for passport photos. You can review these requirements at FedEx online. Nowadays, we have the luxury of being able to get our photos taken digitally. Therefore, we can review the final product before it becomes an immutable part of our lives for the next ten years.
However, you want to be sure that you follow the rules, or you will have to start over. First of all, you need to meet requirements in terms of size, shape, and background. Your photo should be two inches square and of a high-quality number of megapixels. It should also be taken against a white background. If your lighting is insufficient, your photo might be rejected because it should provide an adequate depiction of your face and match what customs officers will see in reality.
Gather all the necessary documents
Regardless of whether you choose to mail in your documents or do it in person, you want to be sure that you are prepared with all the necessary documents. This includes the following:
- A form DS-82, which is the application for renewal. It should be printed, signed, and dated.
- Your Social Security number
- Proof of US citizenship. For this, you can use any government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, military ID card, or a state-issued ID card. You can also provide a certified copy of your birth certificate.
- If you have an existing passport, you will be required to submit it at the time of renewal
- Your passport photo
- A payment of $130 (you might be able to do this online)
Become familiarized with the different kinds of passports
Depending on the amount that you expect to travel, you might consider different kinds of passports as some have more pages than others. For security reasons, the State Department no longer adds additional pages to existing passports. So in the case that you run out of pages, you will have to get an additional book.
Track your application
If you send your documents through the mail, you should use a high-level service that will give you insurance and provide you with a tracking number. Use a prepaid, trackable envelope that the State Department can send you back your new passport in.
If you have a tracking number, you can check day by day to see where your passport is at any given moment. This should ease the stress of waiting for you.
Be sure to check travel restrictions!
A lot of people think that the pandemic is over because it is less of a focus in the news. This is hardly the case, though. New waves of the virus are coming out all the time in different parts of the world, and this affects travel restrictions in big ways.
You might find that your intended destination enacted new vaccination requirements right before you set off on your journey. Or that they require a PCR test 24h before your arrival. Be sure to double-check the requirements of both the country(~ies) you are going to, as well as any others that you might pass through along the way, right up until the day you fly. It could make a big difference in your travel plans.
Follow the rules, and breathe easy
As long as you follow the rules of passport renewal, you should be able to rest assured knowing that your passport will come in time for your trip. Be sure to be diligent about reading the fine print, though. Leave as much time – or preferably more – than the government suggests for processing. Also, double-check your form, as well as your required documents before you send them in.
Finally, stay on top of the whole process, as well as the details of your travel plans, so that nothing goes awry. You don’t want to go through the whole thing, only to find out at the last minute that your plans have been ruined by a last-minute change in the rules. Stay on top of things, and you should be in good shape.