COVID-19 has changed U.S. passport renewal.  In the past, U.S. citizens could renew a passport by mail if their current passport was issued on or after their sixteenth birthday and within the last 15 years, or apply for an initial passport or renew in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility (including many local post offices) and expect to receive their new passports within six to eight weeks.  There were even ways to expedite the processing if the passport was needed more quickly.

But now, passport operations are extremely limited and if you apply or renew (or if you applied prior to March 19, 2020) you will likely experience significant delays of several months before you receive your U.S. passport and have your citizenship evidence documents returned (even if you requested expedited processing).  It is not even possible to check on the status or your previously filed application as that information is not being updated until regular passport services resume.

The passport service is asking that individuals wait to apply for passports until normal operations are resumed, unless there is a life-or-death emergency.  If that is the case, below are the steps to take.

  • You must need to travel within 72 hours due to a life-or-death emergency which is a serious illness, injury, or death in your immediate family, including parents, children, spouses, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.
  • You must provide a passport application with supporting documents including proof of the life-or-death emergency such as a death certificate, mortuary statement, or signed letter from a medical facility.
  • Proof of life-or-death emergency documents must be in English or translated into English.
  • Proof of international travel for the emergency is also required.  This includes documentation such as a reservation, ticket or itinerary.
  • To make an appointment for an emergency passport, the you must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY), Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time. Outside of those hours, call 202-647-4000.  At this time, some passport agencies are completely closed to the public.

If you are considering international travel, keep in mind that some countries require that you have a passport that is valid for six months beyond the proposed travel dates and may also require that you have several blank pages left in your passport.  It is also recommended to check the Department of State and Center for Disease Control websites for travel advisories.  You should also plan to check on travel restrictions that may have been instituted in the country or countries you are hoping to visit.