How Long it Takes to Renew Your Passport — And What to Do If You're Traveling Soon

Don't miss out on the cost of your entire trip because you forgot how long it takes to renew your passport.

An American passport.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you’re planning a trip abroad, there are so many elements to consider — Where is the dollar strong? How will you get around once you’re there? Is travel insurance worth it? Do you need to know any basic phrases in another language to get by? — that sometimes, it’s easy to forget you need to consider one key point: how long it takes to renew your passport. 

The Department of State said in a press release in early October that processing times will now be two weeks faster than before, and in November, they announced even shorter times. Keep in mind, though, that it's still a handful of weeks to get a renewed passport. We'll get into the details below. This is a big change from March, when the Department of State warned there were higher than average wait times to renew your passport.

"Our dedicated staff have worked countless hours to reduce passport processing times," the October press release said. "We are investing in supporting and modernizing our technology, increased staffing levels by ten percent, and have hundreds of additional staff in the hiring pipeline. We remain focused on lowering processing times, and this reduction is an important first step."

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However, the U.S. is again facing a new government shutdown deadline, which could disrupt travel plans. The State Department has said in its contingency plan that passport and visa services "will continue during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits." But it's important to keep in mind that with limited staffing across government buildings, it's still possible processes could slow down.

You don’t want to waste dollars and miss out on the cost of your entire trip just because you were unable to get your passport back in time, so here’s what you need to consider when renewing a passport for your trip.

When you need to renew your passport

Passports expire after 10 years, so it’s not a process you’ll need to do particularly often. You should keep in mind, however, that there are some countries that will not let you enter them if your passport is expiring within six months of your travel dates — so it’s good practice to renew beforehand. This is a requirement for many countries in Asia or South America, for example. 

If you are traveling with someone who got their passport before they turned 16, keep in mind their passport will only last five years before it expires.

How long it will take to renew your passport

Typical passport applications are processing in seven to 10 weeks, the State Department said in an updated notice in early November. If you opt to spend the money to expedite your passport (an additional $60 on top of the usual application costs), you will get it earlier, but it’s still a wait: three to five weeks.

Keep in mind, the State Department does not include mailing times in that estimate. It can take up to two weeks for it to receive an application in the mail, as well as up to two weeks for you to receive your finalized passport back in the mail.

The State Department also noted in its November statement that they are seeing "unprecedented demand" for passports this year, but they are taking efforts to tackle that demand.

If you want to avoid the stress of waiting or the extra fees associated with expediting your passport, we recommend applying for your passport as early as you can if it’s near expiration date, or if it has been lost or damaged.

What to do if you need a new passport and you’re traveling soon

Sometimes, life just happens and you’re unable to get a passport in time for your trip. Don’t worry — you do have options.

If you don’t have a viable passport and you’re traveling abroad within two weeks, you can try to make an emergency appointment at a passport center. You’ll have to call 1-877-487-2778 to schedule this appointment and bring proof of your imminent travel with you. Then, you’ll be able to get a passport in time for your trip. 

You can also use this service if a life-or-death emergency comes up and you need to travel internationally within 72 hours.

Passport processing times are daunting right now, so your best move to avoid anxiety or extra costs is to handle any passport needs while planning your travel. Still, it is possible to get a last-minute emergency passport, so don’t worry too much if that ends up being your situation — you’ll be relaxing on your vacation abroad soon enough!

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Becca van Sambeck
Contributing Writer

Becca van Sambeck is a writer and editor with experience in many fields, including travel, entertainment, business, education, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in outlets like NBC, Oxygen, Bravo, the University of Southern California, Elite Daily, CafeMom, Travel For Teens, and more. She currently resides in New York City.