Oh man, guys. Remember a little over a year ago when I didn't realize my passport was expiring less than six months after I would get back from India? And that's a requirement for getting an Indian visa? And I had two weeks before I had to get said visa?
And I literally cried from anxiety?
I'm here to tell you how to get your passport in a hurry, from experience, because R. and a few friends have only very recently realized their passports are already expired or about to expire, and we all have international trips planned in the next couple months.
First off, read the government website "How to Get a Passport in a Hurry," because that will have the most up-to-date information on it. But, here are the easy steps I followed that got me a passport in basically no time flat!
1. Figure Out What Kind of Expediting You Need
If you have foreign travel within 2 weeks or you need a foreign visa within 4 weeks, you can apply for in-person processing. If you have travel within 8 weeks, you can expedite through mail or at an acceptance facility (most post offices are acceptance facilities). If you have more than 8 weeks, good on you! You can just renew your passport as normal with no trouble. Now, go fill out your paperwork and stop reading. The rest of this is for us panicky people who wait until the last minute to check these things.
You're going to need to go to a passport agency. If you need a passport agency but live in the middle of nowhere, you might be surprised to find one near you! I, for example, was surprised to find one in Vermont and in New Hampshire, when I would have thought the closest one was Boston. Look up your closest one, and if it isn't close to your place of work, take a day off. You are going to need it.
Also, a thing that wasn't totally clear to me when I did this was that you get your passport on the same day you go into the agency, or the next business day, depending on the time of your appointment. In my mind, I had to drop things off and then wait for them to mail it to me (and if you know mail in NYC, you know how nerve wrecking this was for me). However, they must have a little passport factory in the basement, because I and many other people were able to pick up a passport right in that office. It makes a lot of sense now but wasn't totally intuitive from their website.
2. Make an Appointment at Your Passport Agency (Or Don't!)
If you have reservations for foreign travel in the next few weeks, call 1-877-487-2778 as soon as you possibly can. You'll make your appointment at the nearest passport agency this way, and it's automated, so you can make the appointment after you finish crying on a Sunday afternoon.
This is super important: before you get on the phone, make sure you have a note pad, working pen, your expired/ing passport, and a calendar in front of you. You'll make an appointment, ideally the next available one, and then you'll need to write down your confirmation number. SERIOUSLY, write it down. You do not get a copy of it anywhere else, and if you lose it, you are just shit out of luck. Don't lose it, guys. Don't even think you might have lost it and then cry while frantically tearing apart your house while you look for it. Just don't lose it in the first place. I say this from experience.
Or, don't! Don't bother making an appointment. Just walk into the passport agency on its next open day with all your paperwork (see below). You will wait literally all day, and it will not be fun, but it was something that nothing online told me I could do, so I thought I should tell you that it's possible, if you find this one day while crying because you lost your confirmation number. If you make an appointment, your day will go SO much faster, but you can just walk in if you can't get an early enough appointment.
Just go to the agency as soon as you can. The earlier you get there in the morning, the better. I got to the office 40 minutes before it opened, and there were already about 75 people waiting on line outside the building. Almost all of them, after security, were sorted into the waiting line, but I got to go right to the counter because I had an appointment. Either way, do what you've got to do. I will not judge you. Just get that passport, friend.
3. Fill Out Your Paperwork
At this point, you want to start a little folder with all your necessary paperwork. First things first, put your confirmation number in there, along with a black ink ballpoint pen because it turns out those things are like gold at government offices.
Get your passport photos taken. Go to CVS where they are overly expensive but will do things correctly. Here is a coupon to make it slightly more affordable. At this point, you should not be cheap about things. Just get things done, correctly, on the first try. If you're a lady, wear mascara and earrings. That is my trick for looking like the goddess I do in my passport photos. (See above.)
Follow these directions to correctly completely your paperwork. Follow them to the letter. Only by doing everything exactly as it says online will do get out of there in a single day with your passport. Probably you need a DS-82, but seriously, check this all out online and make sure you've got it in order.
Bring your supporting documents: your travel documentation that you are traveling immediately (I brought a print out of my India flight tickets and a print out of the website saying when I needed my visa by), your expired/ing passport, and your passport photos.
I brought two copies of everything, and made photo copies of the first page of my passport. I don't know if I needed them but I was very glad to have them, just in case.
You'll also need to pay up. The expediting fee is, IMHO, totally reasonable at $60. (This is especially reasonable considering that paying an outside agency to do this whole thing for you can cost up to $600.) At the passport agency, you can pay by credit card, check, money order, and exact-change cash. I also brought two methods of payment, and was glad to have them even though I only needed one.
4. Go to the Passport Agency and Wait Around
On the day of your appointment, get to the passport agency as early as possible. I arrived about 40 minutes before the agency opened (mine was the first appointment for the day), and security went relatively quickly once it opened. The first window, they checked to make sure I had all my documentation. At this point, people were being turned away. If you go, please bring everything you need!
I was directed upstairs with all my paperwork, and at the next window, I dropped off my paperwork. They gave me some more paperwork and told me at that point that I could just come back around 3pm. I worked just a 15 minute walk from the passport agency, I went back to work and got in a pretty productive day. However, there were plenty of space and people waiting, so if you're not nearby your agency, bring a book. It's kind of a long wait.
At 3pm, I came back and was led to a third window, on another floor. There, I brought the previous window's paperwork, and they told me to go wait around the corner at a 4th window. I waited for about 45 minutes, and then, miraculously, my name was called and a brand spanking new passport was handed to me with my old one. (You get to keep the old one, apparently.)
5. Get on that Plane Already!
And that's it. For someone who dreads paperwork and being late and travel logistics generally, I though I was going to melt into a puddle, but actually, getting an expedited passport was no problem at all. It took less time and less effort than I would have thought, and unless you are a famous person or a wealthy executive, I would absolutely recommend doing it yourself on a day off of work, rather than paying an agency astronomical sums to do it on your behalf.
Enjoy your travels, procrastinators of the world!