How to Get Your Passport in Order


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Bob Staake

Heading abroad? Don’t let an expired passport or lack of a visa get in the way of your trip. Forgetting about these essentials is a common mistake, even for frequent travelers, according to Jason Miller, the founder of the Accomplished Traveler, a New York City travel consultancy that expedites passports and visas for its clients. “People get so caught up in planning what they’re going to do at their destination and often don’t think about their passport and visa requirements for the trip until the last minute,” he said.

Below, he shares his top tips on how to have both in order for that coming international getaway.

Apply Directly Through the State Department Despite the growing number of agencies handling passports not affiliated with the government that can get the job done for a fee, Mr. Miller said that renewing directly with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, part of the State Department, is a reliable way to update your passport; it’s also the most inexpensive. “If you have the luxury of time or want to save money,” he said, “there’s no need to spend on a nongovernment passport company.” It currently takes six weeks to get a passport renewed, up from four weeks last year with the bureau.

For renewal within the standard six-week time frame, travelers can fill out the application online, available on the bureau’s site, and mail it in. The bureau also offers expedited service to receive a new passport from eight days to three weeks; travelers can apply for this option either through the mail or in person, with an appointment and proof of immediate international travel, at one of 28 government passport agencies that offer expedited service. Call 877-487-2778 to schedule an appointment. The current fee for adults to renew their passport books is $110. Expedited passports are $170 as well as any delivery costs (there are no delivery costs for standard six-week renewals).

Make Sure Your Passport Is Valid for a Minimum of Six Months From Your Date of Travel It’s not good enough, Mr. Miller said, to have a passport that is going to expire a few months after your trip. “Nowadays, some countries want travelers to have a passport that’s valid for six months,” he said, “and part of the reason is that they allow Americans to travel within their country for six months and don’t want the passport to expire if you are still in that country.”

When to Use a Passport Rush Agency or Travel Concierge If you have a flexible budget but are short on time, a passport expediting company such as RushMyPassport.com or a travel concierge, such as Mr. Miller’s, can help with passport renewals. Some, like Mr. Miller’s company, can get you a new passport in as little as 24 hours, but be prepared to pay at least $500 for the service on top of the $170 expediting fee that the Bureau of Consular Affairs charges.

Visas Can’t Be Rushed the Way Passports Can American citizens need a visa to travel to several countries including India, China, Russia, Brazil, Vietnam and Australia, but getting one in a hurry isn’t always an option. The United States government guarantees travelers’ passports’ renewal within six weeks, but visas have a broader range.

You can hire a travel concierge who may have the contacts to speed up the process (expect to pay up to $500 a person for the service), but the bottom line is that travelers should get started on any necessary visa applications upon booking their trip.

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