Everybody knows that you should renew your passport early, well before you intend to travel, yet things do not always go as planned. Time passes, procrastination rears its ugly head and suddenly you're in a bind. You'll be relieved to learn that you can renew your passport in just a few weeks if you expedite it. In fact, in cases of true, life-and-death urgency, you can get a new passport in 24 hours. You'll be less happy to know the price tag for speeding up the process.
Passport Renewal by Mail
Renewing your passport by mail is not an option, it's mandatory. If you want to renew a passport, you must fill out form DS-82, U.S Passport Renewal by Mail, collect any necessary documents, and then mail in the package. You'll need your old passport and it must be in reasonable condition, issued no more than 15 years ago when you were at least 16 years old. You'll also need a new passport photo and a check or money order to pay for the renewal, currently over $100.
Once you prepare the application, you have to mail it to the passport agency and wait four to six weeks for the new passport to arrive. Wouldn't it speed it up to take it in personally? No, it wouldn't, since passport acceptance facilities will not process renewals. But you can expedite the process.
Expediting a Passport Renewal by Mail
You can speed up the processing time on your passport renewal by mail, and it's not a hard thing to do. No need to come up with lengthy explanations of why you need it fast. Simply write "EXPEDITE" on the envelope, send it to the address for expedited renewal application, and enclose a check for the extra fee, currently under $100.
You'll get your passport back in less time, sometimes as little as two weeks. But you don't get a guarantee of when that document will arrive. You can speed the time up just a bit by paying for overnight delivery service. If you want to use overnight service to deliver the application, just arrange and pay for it at the post office. If you want the passport returned to you by overnight service, enclose the extra fee, currently under $20, in addition to the renewal fee, in the envelope. This won't speed up passport processing, but it will speed up transportation time.
Getting a Passport Even Faster
If renewal in two to three weeks is just not good enough, you'll have to forget renewing and fill out a DS-11 form, the same one you used to get an initial passport. Call to make an appointment at a passport acceptance facility. Bring in all of those documents you needed to get the original passport, like original identification and proof of citizenship, plus copies of both sides of those documents, the photo and the fee for an initial passport plus the extra fee for expediting the application.
Plus, you need to explain the urgency. If it is based on a planned trip, you'll have to bring proof that you have tickets to ride within two weeks or within four weeks to somewhere you need a visa. If it is based on a life and death emergency (like serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family that require you to travel outside the United States within 72 hours), you'll need to provide proof of the issue.
It's also possible to use one of the private companies that help you get expedited passports. This is an even more expensive option, since you have to pay the passport fee, the expedition fee and a fee to the company, but it saves you the trouble of going to the passport acceptance center. And during a stressful moment, the fee may be well worth it.