Passports are required worldwide for international travel and identification processes. Travellers and students who wish to obtain a foreign visa are required to present a passport, often months in advance of travel. Passport services are available in standard and expedited time frames, based on your travel needs.
With increased security laws regarding travel, passengers are required to carry a passport when travelling internationally. In the United States, you must apply in person if you are applying for your first passport; if you are under age 16; if your passport was lost, stolen or damaged; if your last passport was issued more than 15 years ago or was issued when you were under 16 years old; or if your name has changed since your last passport was issued. An in-person application can increase the time it takes to obtain a passport, as you will be required to work around government schedules.
The time frame for passport processing varies by country. In the United States, for example, a standard passport application takes between four and six weeks to process. Keep in mind that this processing time goes from the date you submit your completed application form and passport photos; budget extra time to fill the form, submit an official copy of your birth certificate, and schedule a session to get passport-sized photos.
Expedited passport services are available for United States citizens. The government offers an expedited passport process if you need a passport in under four weeks. If you require a passport in under two weeks for international travel or under four weeks to obtain a foreign visa, you must make an appointment with a Regional Passport Agency. To locate a local agency or to make an appointment, call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778.
The length of time it takes to obtain a passport depends on a number of factors. For most people, the standard time frame applies. If you have special circumstances, however, the process may take longer. In the United States, passport acquisition can be complicated by governmental "watch lists," which list people who are potential threats to national security. If your name is the same or similar to a name on the list, you may be forced to undergo special screening.
To avoid hassles, apply for a passport as far in advance of travel as possible. Keep in mind that passport applications tend to increase as holiday travel draws near; this is further complicated by government holiday work schedules. If your travel plans include a departure date that is less than two weeks outside of the standard processing time frame, consider an expedited service.