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Travel Passports

I’m in the process of renewing my passport for a tour in September of 2022. I saw on the news where it is taking up to 18-weeks to receive the passport, a lot due to the postal system. I plan to take my forms, etc. to the post office on Monday to mail.

Has anyone had any passport woes and tips you care to share?

Posted by
564 posts

I just received my pp. The INS blames the post office, but my experience was that the former was slow. Very slow. It took them 2.5 months, for my case.

BTW, you will send your old passport with the application form to a PO Box. Do not use UPS, which does not deliver to PO Boxes. I made this mistake and purchased a shipping label for sending my docs in. Fortunately, UPS issued a refund upon my request.

Posted by
21 posts

I found out UPS does not do PO Boxes when I had to mail some tax documents. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
3405 posts

There are a few active threads on this matter. It is an important topic because it would be heartbreaking after waiting so long to travel again to have to pull the plug due to passport issues.

I mailed mine in 4/30, they officially “received it” 6/9, and it has been “in process” (translate waiting to be processed) since. My trip is December so I think I will be fine. I did not pay for expedited service and now I wish I had.

Posted by
21 posts

I started this thread because it’s more current. I don’t know if the others mention this new wait update.

Posted by
1424 posts

We had already bought tickets to Italy when my husband went to put his CDC card with his passport and discovered it had expired!! I had a total heart attack. Online we paid for expedited service, and expedited shipping for return to him. I took it to post office next morning and paid for expedited shipping to get it there. This was Thursday morning. The following Tuesday it was logged it as in process and Wednesday the check cleared.

Online says still in process and up to six weeks for processing. If it is six weeks or less as promised, he should be ok.

Anyway, the most you can do is pay for expedited everything. We were less than 8 weeks from our trip we he realized his passport expired.

I am not sure at this point whether I am biting my nails over his passport or the delta variant!

Posted by
2064 posts

These past few months passport renewals have become so much more challenging! If you're in a rush, a few options include:

  • You can pay extra for expedited service from the State Department, but there are no guarantees.
  • You can try for an appointment at a passport center (I've used the ATL office a few times), but you may not get one.
  • You can ask your member of Congress to intervene.
  • Or you can hire a private expedited.

Approximately 200 private companies are authorized by the US State Department to obtain passports on behalf of others. These companies handle hundreds of thousands of passport applications a year. I did not know that each company is allotted a quota of daily appointments at specific passport offices - once that quota is exceeded, you have to wait! If you've already started the process, and then reach out to one of these companies for help, most times they cannot "get your expired passport back" to re-start the process. At that point, once it's in the system, your best bet might be to contact your congressional rep.

The worst passport episode I heard of was a family traveling to Costa Rica. Upon arrival, their daughter's passport was flagged as STOLEN (even though she was holding it in her hand). The expiration date was still valid, but she was NOT ALLOWED to enter the country. Thus, she and her mother had to sit at the airport, get the next flight back to the US, secure a last-minute, new passport, and then return to Costa Rica to rejoin her father and brother. There was NO NOTIFICATION from the US Government that her passport was invalidated. They did not know until she tried to enter another country. A painful and expensive experience.

I've started researching how to "verify" if my US passport is valid --- or worse --- invalid.

Posted by
3478 posts

I've started researching how to "verify" if my US passport is valid --- or worse --- invalid.

RnR, please let us know what you find out about doing so.

Posted by
2064 posts

Well, there's this option, as posted on the US Passport Service page:

Can I call the State Department or can I ask a ticket agent to scan it to make sure it is still active?

Yes, you may have the passport scanned by an airport official to check
if it is still valid. You may also contact the National Passport
Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. You may have to try several
times before you can get through -- hold times are very long as there
are limited agents and a high volume of calls.

Granted, the challenge is GETTING THROUGH on the phone to talk to someone. As I live overseas, my passport gets scanned when I depart the Schengen zone at AMS, but the only other option is to call. Given their current backlog, it might take a few efforts to get a "validation."

Posted by
3405 posts

It took 3 weeks of calling 3-4 times a day at different times to get anything other than a busy signal at the passport office. When I did get through, there was a 50 minute wait, but I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

Posted by
5297 posts

Sharon,

You are a Year+ out, so relax. I do support you renewing sooner rather than later, some people try to wait until about the last minute, thinking it gives them a few more months expiration on their new passport, but that is silly, if you know you need to renew, do it.

You do not need to pay for expedited service or go to a passport center, you have time, and they may reject you using that service if you do not have tickets in hand for a soon to be departure. Don't bother calling your Congressman, all that will do is cause a staffer to "officially" call the passport office, get no information, and send you a form letter saying they have contacted the appropriate office.

What you can do is spring for registered mail or priority mail. That way you have record as to when they received it, and can check periodically on progress.

You will have your passport back in plenty of time.

Posted by
3405 posts

I am going to suggest going for the expedited service even if you have plenty of time. I wish I had…..

Posted by
2064 posts

Sharon, I agree with Paul that you have plenty of time - you're 13+ months out. I have reminders set on my calendar for 6 months prior to our passport expiration dates, even though that's years from now. Generally, we've seen travelers use expediters when they realize their passport will expire - usually AFTER they've made their travel plans. So yes, it's a good idea to verify your passport's expiration date when you START planning an international trip - part of our "best practices." I've only seen the Congressional Rep option used twice - both were THIS WEEK scenarios, with extreme/unusual circumstances. Pleased to say, both situations were resolved successfully, but that is the last and least effective option.

Posted by
3405 posts

RNR there is a difference between expedited service (offerred by the passport agency) and expediters (private companies). I would encourage going for the expedited service. Sadly, 6 months before expiration is now too late to start the process. The rules that have worked well for years, are now out the window. I think that is why there are so many threads on a seemingly typical topic. Passport renewals are going so slowly and the passport office is so difficult to communicate with, that people need to allow for extra time. I started my process 9 months out from my trip and I am glad that I did since it is now almost 3 months and it lists as "being in process." It took a month for them to acknowledge receiving it and cash the check.

It doesn't matter if "cousin Joe" got his in 8 weeks or someone has never had a time delay in the past. What only matters is how long they take on "your" application and that seems to be quite different for people.

Posted by
21 posts

I know I have plenty of time for my Passport, I was just putting this out here after seeing info on the News. Passport renewing is not my first rodeo, this will be my fourth renewal! I do plan to use USPS Priority with tracking.

Posted by
21 posts

My Passport check has been cashed so this lets me know my application is in a pile on somebody’s desk :)

Posted by
3465 posts

I think you are worrying too much. :-)

My renewal took 42 days from the time I mailed the application until I had my new passport in hand. Forty-Two days. Nothing expedited or rushed in any way. Just regular old Postal Service. Much faster than the reported time frame, especially from what is being reported in the news. Yes, some others have reported a much longer processing window. Most of these seem to be those who sent this paperwork to the Philly office. Of course, YMMV.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/how-long-my-passport-renewal-took

Hope you let us know how long your renewal takes.

Good luck.

Posted by
3405 posts

Currently at 108 days and counting.

The problem is that no one knows if you are going to the lucky 42 day person or the unlucky ??? day person. I think the key is leave yourself plenty of time and pay for the expedited to increase your chances.

Posted by
76 posts

sharon- a very smart move doing it so early!! Kudos to you! For the average person (getting a passport in their late 20s and they travel into their late 70s) if they renew every 9 years instead of waiting until a few months before it expires they may need 1 extra passport renewal in their entire lifetime. One. That is $175 spread out over an entire travel lifetime. People who 'wait' on renewing to 'save money' are operating under a false sense of economy.

Posted by
56 posts

It took me 19 weeks to get my new passport--mailed April 5 from Houston certified receipt--i did not do expedited--i recommend you do--still have NOT received my old passport back (after 3+ weeks of getting new passport) and very difficult to find out why--no one ever answers the phones!