What to Know If Your Passport Expires in the Next Year
Have you checked your U.S. passport lately? Even if you’re not considering international travel any time soon, you may want to take a look at the expiration date. Though we typically recommend giving the government a few months to process a passport renewal, the timeline has, unsurprisingly, become a bit more complicated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently there's a major backlog at the U.S. Department of State, meaning travelers who need to renew will have to allow more time than usual, especially since international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your return date to the United States.
Read on for the advice, based on when your passport
is set to expire.
How long are passport renewals taking right now?
Due to the pandemic, expect delays in the renewal process.
The government updates this page every Thursday with passport statistics. As of September 17, there were 934,000 passports awaiting issuance. Due to the phased reopening of U.S. passport agencies and centers, which began in June, processing time for renewed or new passports may be “substantially longer than usual,” officials say. (It took between six to eight weeks to process passport renewals in 2019, according to State Department officials.)
State Department officials report that they’ve largely worked their way through the backlog created by the COVID-19 shutdown of routine processing, with 97 percent of applications received in April, May, and June completed. Most applications are now being processed and returned to applicants within 10 weeks, they report.
However, as of September 8, only 11 passport agencies throughout the country were open in phase two—meaning services are still greatly reduced, and therefore wait times increased.
What about expedited service?
Pre-COVID, you could pay $60 to receive your passport renewal faster, within about 10 to 12 days. In March, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. As of September 28, expedited service has resumed, with a slower turnaround time of 4-6 weeks.
Do I have to mail my passport in to be renewed?
As of now, yes. Mailing your passport in—with uncertainty over when it may be returned—is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it in, you should be able to track your application status through this page, upon entering your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.
It’s smart to always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal. If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.
My passport expires in less than six months. What should I do?
Simply put: Start the renewal process immediately.
If a last-minute emergency trip comes up, there's an in-person option. Passport agencies and centers are only open to assist customers who need a passport in the next 72 hours for a life-or-death emergency—such as a serious illness, injury or death in your immediate family, including a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, sibling or grandparent. You must make an appointment in advance at a facility near you for emergency service (walk-ins are not allowed).
What if my passport is good for another year?
The experts are divided on this one. Waiting for the country to enter phase three before attempting to renew your passport might be the best bet, as this step will enable third parties to enter passport offices in person.
On the other hand, you should start the renewal process immediately if your passport expires in 2021. If anyone has plans to travel internationally [next year], take the time and apply for one now so it is ready when [you are] ready to travel. It’s a minimum of three months [now] to get a passport and can take up to six months in some cases.
Should I ever let my passport expire?
Never. Ideally, your passport should be good for a full year upon your return from any trip. Considering the status of your passport should now be the initial step before considering any travel plans.
If your passport is expired, you are eligible to renew your passport by mail for up to five years after the expiration date. After five years, you’ll be required to re-apply in person. But considering many of us will be in the skies as soon as we are able and feel safe, you might want to get moving on that renewal ASAP.
We're reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a regular basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.