Receiving your U.S. passport can easily take four to six weeks of processing time – longer in cases of unusual backlog. That doesn’t mean you have to wait until you have your passport in hand before you book tickets for international travel. But, because most airlines will require you to enter your passport information before you travel, you do need to go back and provide that information as soon as possible after you receive your passport.
Getting an Expedited Passport
If you need your passport in less than six weeks, you have the option of paying an extra fee for expedited handling when you submit your application by mail or in person. If you’re departing in less than two weeks, or if you need your passport within four weeks or less to apply for a visa, you can apply for expedited handling in person, at a passport agency or center.
Has it been a while since your last trip? If you already have a passport, double-check to make sure it’s still valid and undamaged. If it has suffered water damage or its pages are torn, you’ll need to apply for a replacement.
Life or Death Emergencies
If you must travel within the next 72 hours because of a life or death emergency, you can call the U.S. Department of State and make an appointment to receive an emergency passport. Be ready to prove the genuine nature of the emergency with a translated death certificate, a mortuary statement, or a signed letter from a medical professional or hospital. You’ll also need to provide all the usual documentation required to apply for a passport, including proof of your identity and U.S. citizenship, an application form, the application fee and a passport photo that follows strict photo guidelines. If any children are traveling with you, they’ll need their own passport too.
Passport Validity and Visa Requirements
Sometimes, just having your passport isn’t enough; some countries require that the passport remain valid for up to six months past the planned dates of your visit, and, depending on your destination and the reason for your visit, you might also need to apply for a visa or electronic travel authorization. So before you book your tickets, check the U.S. Department of State’s country information pages to be sure of the requirements for your destination. You may need an electronic travel authorization even if you’re just passing through one country’s airport en route to another
Some countries may also require you to provide proof of your departure plans – for example, a return ticket on the airline – when you enter.