Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.Edward Everett Hale
We’ve been cooped up in the house for a little over a year, and many of us have probably not given a second thought to anything other than overpriced food delivery, mask acne, and Zoom fatigue. Here’s the thing, it’s perhaps time you renewed your passport. If you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to gather all of your docs and get cracking. You might want to pour yourself a nice big cup of coffee. Let’s go!
The World Is Opening Back Up
Several friends have been traveling almost immediately after getting their second vaccination. I don’t blame them! Even though I am not traveling internationally until 2022, time flies, and before you know it, the rest of the world will be ready for us.
According to the U.S. Department of State, your passport should be valid for at least six months after returning home and have two or more blank pages depending on your destination. Otherwise, some countries may not let you in. For example, Europe’s 26 Schengen countries strictly enforce the six-month validity rule. So just in case you think you could pull a fast on them, don’t.
Assuming you are traveling through Canada or the U.K. (which do not have that requirement), your passport must be valid for at least six months, or airlines may not let you board your connecting flight to Europe. Those are the breaks, y’all, so prepare and don’t get stuck.
Applying for a new passport? You needed to start the process like yesterday.
If You’re Not Traveling, Your Passport Can Still Be Used As ID
There was talk about the REAL ID. Once the pandemic hit, the deadline had to be extended to May 3rd, 2023. It is ample time to get a REAL ID, but I don’t know about you; I’m not paying for two pieces of I.D. that essentially do the same thing. Many of us were already traveling domestically with our passports. When I got my first passport back in 2011, I hadn’t realized how useful it would be. A U.S. passport (expired or unexpired) can establish both identity AND employment eligibility. A one-and-done deal. If you live in or near a border town, it helps a lot. Consider getting the passport card, too. It’s easier to carry in your wallet for the “just in case shit happens” situations.
If You Wait Any Longer…
You’ll wait longer. Why? Think about it; everyone and their mama is going to rush to get their passports renewed. Look at what’s happening with flights and Airbnb rentals getting swooped up fast. It’s the same thing with passports and anything travel-related. People have been indoors for over a year, and travelers are ready to explore the globe again. Get in where you fit in.
Can you expedite the process? Yes, for a fee. Sixty bucks, to be exact, and you still have to wait at least four weeks.
Back in 2011, I needed my passport to cross the border for a family funeral. I paid the extra fee but arrived late at the passport office in San Diego. So my advice is if you’re going to get it expedited, make sure you have met your end of the deal because the U.S. Department of State is pretty gangster when it comes to documentation, office hours, and fees. Otherwise, it’s a minimum of 10 weeks. If you need your passport in less than four weeks, restrictions apply.
For life-or-death emergencies, you must show proof of travel and evidence of the qualifying life-or-death emergency. You’re trying to prove that you need your passport within 72 hours due to a life-or-death emergency. For urgent travel that isn’t an emergency, you will need to make your passport appointment, AND the appointment cannot occur more than three business days before your date of travel, or ten days if you require a visa. Whew, that’s a mouthful!
Gathering Your Documents
There is a lot you can do from home, but there are some restrictions.
Can't figure out which form to fill out? There's a survey for that.
1. Download and fill out your form
Application For A U.S. Passport (DS-11), if you're applying for the first time (apply in person).
Application For A U.S. Passport (DS-82), if you’re renewing your passport but must be able to answer YES to the following questions:
- You have your passport to submit with your application.
- Other than normal wear and tear, it’s undamaged.
- Was it issued when you were 16 or older?
- Was your passport issued within the last 15 years?
- Was your passport issued in your current name, OR can you document your name change?
If you answered NO to any of these questions, I’m sorry, but you have to go apply in person.
2. Submit a Good Photo
- Color photo taken within the last six months
- No filters. Clear images only.
- No selfies. Have someone take your photo.
- Take off your eyeglasses for your pic.
- Plain white or off-white background.
I had mine done at the local Walgreens, but PhotoTool on the travel.state.gov website can walk you through their guidelines if you want to DIY it.
3. Provide evidence of U.S. citizenship
- Can be a valid, undamaged U.S. passport (expired is OK)
- U.S. birth certificate
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad/Certification of Birth
- Certificate of Citizenship
- Certificate of Naturalization
Don’t try to show the U.S. passport documentation or evidence of U.S. citizenship on your phone. It won’t work. You’ll need to provide the original AND a copy, which must be legible, black and white, on white 8.5”x11” standard paper single-sided.
Plan Ahead, We’re Still In the Middle of a Pandemic
Get the ball rolling and expect delays. While I have provided information straight from the horse’s mouth, do you own research as your situation may vary. Did you get married? Name change? Gender change? All of them have their unique requirements. Apply early because the pandemic can still throw curveballs at us.