Before you hop on this journey to passport renewal utopia, let’s just say it’s rather on brand for me to take some out-of-the-box measures to get shit done (I play by the rules, but this passport renewal experience isn’t necessarily the vibe for everyone). Tl;dr: if you have a real thirst for international travel, some extra airline miles, and friends with couches in various major US cities, this could be the solution for you!
As you might imagine, I didn’t do too much international traveling in the last year-ish. I was lucky enough to post up in Bermuda and work remotely last fall with an old Bermudian college pal, Caitlin (and holy smokes, shout-out to all my night owls—being 1 hour ahead of ET, when you work east coast hours, was a game changer). Whilst in Bermuda in October 2020, my passport was expiring, and there was an impending hurricane ahead of my return to NYC, so I was able to go get an emergency passport (valid for 1 year) issued at the US consulate on the island, in order to get home to Brooklyn.
Fast-forward to September 2021, Labor Day weekend for Caitlin’s wedding in Bermuda. I had not even thought about my passport since I was last in Bermuda, thanks to, you guessed it, COVID. For US citizens, Bermuda merely requires that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay. So, my lil emergency issued passport, expiring in October 2021, worked just fine for me to take my 90-minute flight from NYC to the island.
A few days into my trip, I received a call… from Paris. And, when Paris calls, you answer! This full story is for another time, but I was in the thick of some *virtual* discussions for an exciting new project, and needed to pop to France the following week to talk shop, IRL.
Unlike Bermuda, most countries require 3-6 months’ passport validity beyond your arrival date in order for you to enter their country (basically, so they don’t have to deal with you getting stranded on their turf). France requires 90 days. Meanwhile, I had just over 30 days validity left on mine…
Before COVID, there were third party services that you could pay a fuckton of money (~$400-$1000) and they’d help rush you a passport in 24 hours to a week’s time. Those services are no más—you now need to work directly with the US government to renew that bad boy.
Pro tip: If you have any interest in getting it renewed in this lifetime, do NOT mail it in via the standard renewal process. AND before you waste 30-60 minutes of your life calling to make an appointment, ensure you’re eligible for expedited renewal. You either need proof of an emergency or urgent travel (aka a booked international flight that’s within 72 hours of your (hopefully) soon-to-be passport renewal appointment).
To Get Your Passport Renewed In 72 Hours or Less, Follow The Steps Below:
- Pull up your confirmation email for your upcoming travel
- Call the national passport information center: 8774872778
- Wait on the phone for like 45 minutes—it sucks, but it’s worth it
- Explain your situation (i.e. your passport is about to expire and you need to travel abroad on X date). Just get to the point; there’s no need to embellish (also that’d be illegal and bad karma).
- The rep will ask for your date of travel, destination and booking confirmation code. If they don’t have an appointment available in your city, ask if any other offices in the US have availability. (This is the step where you have to be particularly committed—I flew from NYC to Houston, as it was the only office in the country that had an opening due to a cancelation.)
- Once your appointment is confirmed, they give you a confirmation code (write it down! And don’t lose it). They will give you a courtesy call 24 hours before your scheduled slot to remind you.
Prepping For The Big Day
You’ll need the below items for your appointment. I was able to take care of all of this down in Houston one day in advance:
- Passport photos
- Most CVS/Walgreens stores offer this. Check their website, but also (and I know this is hard) give them a call first, because they may have changed the services offered due to the you-know-what.
- Completed form DS-82
- Application fee (this varies slightly—mine was $60). They accept exact cash or major credit cards accepted on site
- Here’s a handy dandy fee calculator 🤓
- Printed proof of your international travel (aka flight confirmation)
- Your existing passport book (aka expired or soon to be expired passport)
The Big Day!
Just like any important meeting, show up a little early! The appointment is inside a government building—bring your ID and all of the aforementioned items, but travel lightly if you don’t want to get slowed down checking in with security (you’ll have to remove electronics, jewelry, etc).
My passport renewal appointment was scheduled for 9/8 at 8am. I showed up at 7:30am, and met some new pals on the security line who had similar stories as I. One dude was a fellow Brooklynite who was as wild/curious/reckless (call it what you will) enough as I to fly down to HTX to get things sorted for his upcoming trip to Mexico City.
After bidding farewell to my electronic cigarette at security, I headed upstairs and was ushered to a counter where I submitted my docs, paid the fee, and was given a receipt stamped with a pickup time of that same day at 1:30pm.
Depending on when your travel date is, your pick up time will be either that same day or the following days ahead of your travel. When you return to pick it up, they’ll have you verify that all the info in your passport book looks good—then you’re good to go!
Sure enough, 1pm rolled around, and I had a brand new, crispy passport in hand for my 9/9/21 flight to Paris!
Here’s the thing: best case scenario (which is what happened), I got my passport in time to cross the pond. However, worst case scenario, if things didn’t work out (i.e i forgot one of my forms, etc. etc., who knows), I was able to explore Houston, a new city I’d never been to before.
Images: Manu Prats / Stocksy; Jaime Getto