Helpful Passport Information for 2020

Passport services are beginning to get back to normal following shutdowns of passport agencies due to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.  Passport agencies and centers reopened in phases during the past couple of months and currently all facilities are open and accepting passport applications and most acceptance facilities such as post offices, clerks of court and libraries are also open and accepting applications which is great news!  If you haven’t checked your expiration dates lately, now is a great time – go do it now, we’ll wait!

If you sent your passport in for renewal earlier this year, the State Department says they have finished processing applications received in June and prior months. They are well on their way through applications received in July and some of the passport agencies and centers are already working on applications received in August and September. If you applied before July and have not received your passport yet, they may have sent you a letter requesting additional information to continue processing your application. Please respond to this letter.  You can check the status of your passport online or by calling 1-877-487-2778.  If you have applied and not yet received your passport, you can call and request to add on the expedited service for an additional fee.  We’ve heard some great success stories of people receiving their passports fairly quickly particularly when the expedited service is added.

Let’s get started!

Here are our best tips for passport renewal or first time application:

  • Apply by mail if possible
    • Adults renewing a 10 year passport are able to apply by mail using form DS-82 found online here.
    • Send in the form along with a new photo, your old passport, and payment for the fee
    • Don’t forget to sign the form – this is the most common mistake made
    • If you need to change your name be sure to include a certified copy of a legal document such as a marriage certificate or court document
  • Apply in time
    • Current processing times for routine service are 10-12 weeks according to the state department web site with a fee of $110
    • Expedited service is now once again available for an additional $60 to receive your passport in 4-6 weeks
    • Currently passport agencies are limiting in-person appointments to customers who are traveling internationally in the next 72 hours (3 business days) due to a life-or-death emergency
  • Check your expiration date
    • The state department suggests beginning the renewal process about 1 year before your expiration date
    • We recommend noting this 1 year date on your calendar so that you don’t forget – 10 years is a long time and it’s easy to forget the expiration date until it’s too late
    • Most countries require two empty pages in order to enter so if your passport is filling up consider renewing now
    • Most countries and airlines also require your passport to be valid for six months past your dates of travel so make sure you take that into consideration as well and apply early
  • Take a good photo
    • You should submit a color photo taken within the last 6 months
    • Take a clear photo – do not use social media filters
    • Have someone else take your photo – no selfies
    • Have a neutral facial expression or natural smile with both eyes open
    • Use a plain white background
    • You cannot wear eyeglasses, a hat or head covering, headphones, or a uniform; you can wear jewelry
    • Photo size should be 2 x 2 inches and high resolution – not grainy or pixelated
    • Make sure your photo is not under- or over-exposed or contains a lot of shadows – these are the most common issues people face with their photos
  • Applying for the first time
    • You will have to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility which you can find here
    • We recommend if at all possible going to a facility that takes appointments, it’s worth the extra drive if that’s necessary rather than standing in line
    • You must submit citizenship evidence such as an original, certified copy of your birth certificate along with a photocopy; more information on this can be found here
    • You will also need a photo ID and a photocopy of the front and back of your ID
  • Applying for a child under age 16
    • Use form DS-11 and submit citizenship evidence described above; parents will also need to provide their photo ID along with photocopies
    • Apply in person at a passport acceptance facility
    • Both parents must appear in person with the child; if one parent cannot accompany they must complete one of several different forms depending on the circumstances
  • Applying for a child age 16-17
    • Must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility
    • Only one parent needs to appear in person with the applicant – this is the main difference from applying for children under 16; this parent will need to provide photo ID along with a photocopy
    • You must submit citizenship evidence – either your existing passport if you had one or an original certified birth certificate along with a photocopy
    • If applicant has their own photo ID provide that as well as a photocopy

Whew! If you have any questions about the passport application process, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help. We know from talking to our clients that they are going to want to get back to traveling as soon as possible. If that’s also you, take some time now to make sure your passport is up to date and has at least a year of validity left so you’re not stuck on the ground instead of jetting away!