As a globe trotter, you may be grounded, by Covid restrictions or by choice, so many of you may be turning towards house-keeping matters such as passport renewals. Staycations may be satisfactory temporarily, but you may want to venture off once you feel confident that Covid-19 is behind you. With a passport issued for 10 years at a time, you may want to have it ready for your future travels.
Recently, LHA Travel has received a few inquiries about U.S. passport renewal during the time of Covid-19. We have received reports that passport agencies are still closed and were asked if passports are being issued at this time. We want to take this opportunity to clarify the passport issuance entities and tips on how you may get yours with as little hassle and waiting as possible.
In the passport service space, there are private agencies, the U.S. Postal Service, and the actual U.S. Passport Office (which is under the U.S. Department of State). You can get your new passport from all these organizations; the difference is timing and pricing.
Private agencies in the travel space are typically dominated mom-and-pop shops who act as couriers of passport applications directly to the U.S. Passport Office. They charge a fee for their services on top of the mailing and U.S. Passport Office fee, and their timing is whatever timing it takes to get your application issued from the Office, plus whatever workload they have handling other client’s applications. During Covid-19 restrictions, many of the agencies may have shut down or offer limited services. These agencies usually survive by couriering not just passport applications, but also visa and other related travel documents, so the travel slowdown may have led many to shutter their operations. If you call your “go-to” passport agency, or one you find online, you may be getting a recording that says the office is closed or services have not resumed, but that may be just the agency. The official U.S. Passport office remains open.
The U.S. Postal Service can also assist you with your passport application. It acts similar to the private agencies, except you probably will not pay the higher handling fees that you can expect from a private agency. Many of you may prefer this option because you will get assistance from the post office workers on what is required before you post your application, and the availability of post offices in your area.
Finally, you can get your passport directly from the U.S. Passport Office, which issues your passport. Through a simple google search, you can find the nearest location to where you are, a checklist of what you need to get your passport, and a phone number to make an appointment. If you are renewing your passport, generally you will need your old passport, a copy of your driver license, and a passport photo. You can get the appropriate DS application form online or at the passport office when you arrive (it is better to pre-fill in advance). The passport offices usually accept major credit cards like Visa or Mastercard, so you can make your payments there. Getting back your passport usually takes days, but if you ask and have proof of travel coming up, you may get your passport back the same day.