In yet another reaction to measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, the US State Department just announced some new changes to their passport operation. If you got your passport in today or earlier, you will not face these new timelines. For everyone that needed to apply or renew their passports, it is going to be a long wait.
US State Department Suspending Expedited Passport Services
Here is what the US State Department just sent out regarding the expedited passport program (this is for both the Passport Agencies –find out about them here – and expedited passport processing from regular application points) bolding mine:
If you applied and requested expedited service on or before March 19, 2020, we will honor our commitment of 2-3 weeks door-to-door for expedited service. If you applied in-person at a passport agency or center on or before March 19, 2020, the passport agency or center will contact you and ask if you want to pick-up your passport in person or have it mailed to you.
Customers in Puerto Rico should be aware that our San Juan Passport Agency is closed to the public until at least March 30, 2020.
Due to public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some passport application acceptance facilities, which include libraries, clerks of court, and post offices may not be accepting U.S. passport applications at this time. If you need to apply in person for your U.S. passport, please contact the facility directly to confirm if they are accepting applications.
If you are applying for or renewing a U.S. passport on or after March 20, 2020, we will not offer expedited service (2-3 weeks) and routine service (6-8 weeks) may be delayed.
What Happens If You NEED A Passport Quickly?
The State Department has laid out exceptions as to who would be eligible to get a passport quickly.
Due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, we are only able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.
Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g. parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc) that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours (3 days). You must provide:
- A passport application with supporting documents
- Proof of the life-or-death emergency such as a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. Documents should be translated or in English.
- Proof of international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket, itinerary)
To make an appointment at a passport agency or center for a life-or-death emergency, you must call our National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 (1-888-874-7793 TDD/TTY) on Monday- Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm Eastern Time, except federal holidays or on Saturdays, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Eastern Time. Call 202-647-4000 outside of these hours to make an appointment.
What About Embassies?
A little secret that most people never need to find out about is that US Embassy locations (and consulates) are able to process passports very quickly – and without the normal expedite fee. Plus, if you need an emergency passport, you can normally get those in a matter of hours or the next day.
However, US Embassies and Consulates in hotspots (virus hotspots) are drawing down their staff numbers and limiting the services provided. This means normal passport application services as well. So, even this will likely not be an option for most.
Due to the border closures and airline suspensions of routes all over the world, it is doubtful that many were going to need a passport soon. However, it is good to know that, should you be applying for a passport or renewing the one you have, you will be waiting a very long time. The routine service that says 6-8 weeks can often be earlier than that or squarely inside of that range. With the cutback of services, it is likely that that time will add many more days to when you would receive it back.