On Renewing Your Passport (US 2021 Edition)

For those planning trips abroad this year, it is more important than ever to double check your passport’s expiration date! Not only must the passport be valid for your trip, but you must have at least six months of validity past the return date of your trip.

If its time to do some updating, documents for this process can be found here. The documents are pretty straight forward and while you’re able to take your own passport photos, I generally get mine done at CVS to minimize any mistakes. For the well traveled among us, I recommend adding extra pages to your passport book. You can request extra pages for no additional cost and it saves you the hassle of renewing your passport purely because you’ve run out of space.

These days, a passport renewal will run you $110- and an extra $60 to expedite it. Officially, the processing times for routine renewals can run up to 11 weeks and expedited renewals can take up to 7 weeks. In practice, it seems that turnaround time may vary- some people get theirs within a month and other people, like myself, waited a whopping 15 weeks for the new document.

This turnaround time has greatly increased over the last few years and there are a couple of reasons why. First, the US Postal Service has been in dire financial straits since Congress passed its bizarre Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in 2006, inevitably resulting in minimized employee counts that have only dropped in the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those processing estimates don’t account for shipping time! My renewal paperwork was delivered to the processing agency nearly three weeks after I initially sent it out- even with priority shipping.

Of course, the USPS can’t shoulder the whole of the blame- the pandemic changed a lot about how people experience their lives. Not only have there been significant layoffs and decreasing job satisfaction resulting in people just generally having more free time and desire to travel. If this pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we can’t rely on planning for the future. If you’ve always wanted to travel the world, there’s no better time than the present- and that means dusting off the passports to find that they’re in need of a renewal.

Lastly, I suspect that the new US passports have a slower printing process. Having been under development for the last decade, we’re finally receiving our fancy new “Next Generation Passports”. Trust me, I didn’t know about this one either. The passport looks much the same, except for the new polycarbonate data page with enhance security features including a shiny holo stamp and perforated passport numbers. My favorite touch was the tiny little star shape inside all of the letter “A”s.

If you find yourself looking at these processing times and cursing, never fear- there is a backup plan available. If you have proof of international travel within 72 hours, you can make an appointment at a Passport Agency for a 24 hour turnaround on your passport. For those in New York, it can be difficult to impossible to get an appointment so sometimes it’s a good idea to check Connecticut’s Passport Agency for availability.

I’m excited to give my new passport a workout! Does anyone have any fun international trips coming up? Let me know- and make sure to check your passport!

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