Covid-19 has caused long passport processing delays. In some cases, commercial expediting services may be able to help. However, reputable online processors are currently only accepting applications for passport renewals from those who obtained their passports as adults. The first-time applications are not being accepted. Even when you use a commercial expediter, you will likely face a wait of one week or more.
The U.S. State Department says that routine passport service by mail is now taking up to 16 weeks. You may request expedited processing directly from the State Department, if you can deal with waiting up to 12 weeks to receive your new passport. The $60 expedited processing fee charged by the State Department is low compared to the costs of using a commercial expediter.
If you must travel sooner than 12 weeks, you may be able to use a commercial expediting service such as RushMyPassport.com. Their priciest option provides for processing within 7 business days, though it costs $799. That fee is on top of the $187.56 application fee that you must pay to the State Department and shipping (generally about $20 each way). The site also offers 2 week service for $599 (again, this does not include the State Department’s application fee). Similarly, 6 week service is offered for $189 on top of the government application fee, and 8 week service for $109 plus the application fee.
Even though commercial expediters hand carry your documents to the passport office, they need to secure an appointment on your behalf. Appointments are difficult to secure, especially if you are requesting one or two week service. Sometimes commercial expediters will not refund fees if they are unable to secure an appointment.
Commercial passport expediters hand carry your application to a passport office, and generally include a prepaid courier label for you to get your application to them (though often charge for it). However, it is important to keep in mind that you still need to make sure that your application is complete, and that you qualify to renew your passport through an expediter — and that you qualify for a passport in general.
Critically, you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. national to apply for a passport. Holding a green card does not make you a U.S. national. Rather, the term “U.S. national” applies to the relatively small number of people born in U.S. territories or possessions, such as Guam or Puerto Rico. Even if you are a U.S. citizen, there are certain situations where you may not qualify for a passport — such as owing a high amount of back taxes to the federal government or being in arrears with child support payments. You are responsible for ensuring that you qualify for a passport.
You must include proof of both your identity and citizenship with your completed application. For renewal applications — again the only kind of applications being processed — this is easy, because your prior U.S. passport serves as proof of both citizenship and identity, as long as it is undamaged. You must also include recent color photographs that meet the requirements specified on the passport application DS-82. You cannot apply for passport renewal through an expediter if your passport is damaged, first received by you when you were 16 or under, or if you. You must also include proof of your travel plans, such as a detailed itinerary or letter from your employer if you are traveling on business.
If applying online, it is simply a matter of completing the application, and mailing it along with your photographs and a check for the application fee. The passport expediter will likely provide you with more guidance on the exact process.
If you live near a FedEx Office location, you can have your passport pictures taken there, and receive help with your application. You can also send your application to a commercial expediter that FedEx Office has partnered with. More information is available at fedex.com/passport. This may be the simplest option in many cases.
Even if you don’t need your passport renewed now, the cost of using a commercial expediter should encourage you to double check when your passport expires, and submit your renewal application early.
If you need to renew your passport soon, commercial expediters may be able to help you. But the costs are high and even expedited service may take a week or more.
This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice. Written by Francis Law Center Staff Daniel Lurker