When preparing for travel abroad, you'll want to give yourself plenty of time to get your passport and other necessary paperwork in order. Standard passport processing time is four to six weeks. If, however, you don't get your passport for some reason at the end of six weeks, or are late in getting your application submitted, all is not lost.

Passport Application Basics

When traveling to most foreign countries, you will have to have a passport. Whether you're applying for a new passport or are renewing an old one, it takes about the same amount of time. Adults applying for a new passport submit must submit form DS-11, evidence of U.S. citizenship, valid identification, a photocopy of their valid identification, a passport photo and any applicable fees. When renewing a passport, the steps are quite similar, except that you fill out Form DS-82 and do not have to apply in person.

Preventing a Delay

Some ways to help ensure that your passport arrives on time include making sure you completely fill out your passport application form and that you include all of the required documents when you mail your application. Once you submit your application, you can track your passport's processing status online; if you notice a delay during the four- to six-week waiting period, you should call or email the National Passport Information Center.

Expedited Processing

If you find yourself in need of a passport within two to three weeks rather than the regular four to six, you can apply for expedited processing. Once you get your passport information handed in, you can track the status of your passport online. It's important to keep in mind as you calculate your processing time that passports cannot be sent to you via overnight delivery. Passports are sent via first-class mail. When mailing your passport seeking expedited processing, make sure you write "expedite" on the outside of your mailing envelope. Expedited processing costs more.

Emergency Processing

In a life-or-death emergency situation where you absolutely must get your passport but are out of time to send in an application, you can contact the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. Travel emergencies should be related by phone only; emails take about 24 hours to get a response. Life or death emergencies are defined by the Department of State as events involving serious injury, illness or death in your immediate family that necessitate your traveling within 24 to 48 hours to a country requiring a passport. You must visit a passport agency in person with documentation of your emergency to receive emergency expedition.