Unfortunately, if your new or renewed passport does not arrive in time for your international trip, you will be unable to leave the country. Customs and border patrol officials check that all travelers leaving the country are valid U.S. passport holders, and will not permit you to cross the border or board a ship or plane without one. However, there are certain measures you can take to ensure that your passport arrives before your departure.
As of October 2009, the U.S. Department of State website listed the turnaround time for applications as four to six weeks. To be safe, submit the application at least two months prior to your departure date.
In the event that you are unable to submit your application two months prior to your departure date, you can pay for expedited service. The fee to expedite a passport application is $60. Use an overnight, traceable delivery service when mailing your passport. The turnaround time for expedited passport applications is between two and three weeks.
Accuracy and Legibility
In order to avoid a delay in processing, make sure you submit all of the proper documents and fees along with your passport application. Additionally, fill in all the required forms legibly and in black ink. If the passport agency cannot read your handwriting, they will return the application and ask you to fill out a new form. Similarly, if the application or execution fees are incorrect, the passport will not be processed.
Appointments and Phone Calls
If you need your passport to arrive in two weeks or less and have not yet applied, contact the National Passport Information Center to make an appointment at a regional passport agency The center can be reached at 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) and is open 24 hours, seven days a week. There are 19 regional passport agencies in the Continental U.S. and one in Hawaii. Depending on your location, you may have to travel a long distance for your meeting. However, officials at the agency can help you obtain your passport in time for your trip. In the event that you already applied for your passport and it has not arrived within two weeks of your departure date, don’t panic. Seven days prior to your trip, contact a customer representative at the National Passport Information center between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. They will check on the status of the application and make sure it arrives in time.
Life and Death Emergencies
In the event of a life or death emergency, contact the National Passport Information Center and ask to speak to a passport agent. Depending on the severity of your circumstances, the agent you speak to may be able to quickly get you a passport or a substitute travel letter that allows you to travel internationally for specific purposes. However, this occurs very rarely and only in the most dire of situations.