One Way to Expedite Your Passport Renewal Free of Charge — But It is Not Without Risk

“Renewing my passport makes me nervous for a couple of reasons” is what Michael Wasserman of Michael W Travels… wrote in this article. “Our next trip is at the end of June. Even with the expedited service, the processing time is estimated at 2-3 weeks. This gives me just enough time to get new passport back in time for the trip.”

One Way to Expedite Your Passport Renewal Free of Charge — But It is Not Without Risk

The Bureau of Consulate Affairs of the Department of State of the United States can require anywhere between six weeks to eight weeks to process the renewal of a passport; and having a new trip scheduled for whatever reason during the time in which your passport is being renewed is certainly not unreasonable — especially if you are a frequent traveler.

If you know that you are leaving on a trip soon, you can elect to expedite the renewal of your passport, as Michael Wasserman has done — but that option will further lighten your wallet or purse by $60.00 in addition to the $110.00 fee to replace your expiring passport with a new one via routine service.

At least you can choose from either a 28-page passport or 52-page passport at no extra charge, which is a policy that has been in effect since Friday, January 1, 2016.

One way does exist through which you can expedite your passport renewal fee without having to pay the extra $60.00 — but it is not for the faint of heart: if you have submitted your passport application at least one month ago and are traveling within two weeks but have not yet received your new passport, you may contact the National Passport Information Center via telephone only at 1-877-487-2778, as the current status of your passport cannot be sent to you via e-mail message…

…but you must first acquire a passport application locator number. To do so, simply enter your last name, date of birth, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and type a CAPTCHA — or Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart — code at this Internet web site which is specifically dedicated to the status of passport applications.

Source: Department of State of the United States.

After you have obtained the latest status of your passport application and passport application locator number, call 1-877-487-2778. Note that you may encounter a significant wait time before you speak to a live person; but you can also opt for someone from the office to call you back when your turn is next in the queue.

Once you are able to talk to an agent live via telephone, inform him or her that you are traveling within two weeks. You may be asked for proof of your trip. The agent should then be able to upgrade the process to expedite the processing of your passport application at no additional cost to you; and you should receive it as soon as two days prior to your departure.

You will also be informed of the option to pay for expedited shipping of your passport for an additional cost of $16.48 if you want the passport to be delivered to you within two days.

Summary

If you are traveling within two weeks and your new passport has not yet arrived, call 1-877-487-2778 as soon as possible. Do not wait, hoping that the new passport will arrive in time. Other than your time via the telephone, you lose nothing when you call as soon as possible to find out what are your options — and you may just receive that expedited upgrade at no additional charge.

I do not recommend that you purposely try to finagle the federal government of the United States out of $60.00 in an attempt to save money. To play it safe, you should renew your passport as soon as possible — especially as a number of countries around the world do not recognize or accept a passport within six months of its expiration date; so consider your passport to essentially only be valid for nine years and six months and not for the full ten years.

I am not sure what is the exact threshold for the upgrade to expedited processing at no cost; but you have a reasonably good chance at it if you sent in your passport application for routine processing well enough in advance of your trip — seven weeks, for example. Your chances of success diminish significantly in shorter periods of time: submitting your passport application for routine processing three weeks before your trip is a bad idea and will likely not get you the upgrade to expedited processing at no additional charge.

When you send in your current passport via the United States Postal Service for replacement, arrive at the post office in person and pay extra to have it tracked in case anything goes wrong. The cost is nominal and should give you further piece of mind during the process. In fact, a trackable delivery method for your passport application is strongly advised.

Finally, ensure that you strictly follow all instructions on applying to renew your passport via postal mail, as any deviation from the procedure can result in your current passport being returned to you — resulting in starting the process all over again.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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