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Passport wait times have decreased: Here’s everything you need to know about obtaining a US passport.

As you go through your pre-travel checklist, keep in mind that one item may require some forethought: a passport.

While some destinations do not require US citizens to have a passport, you will almost always need one for international travel. Wait times have decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic, when travellers could expect to wait four months for routine service, but travellers should still plan ahead if they want to avoid any disruptions to their plans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced the Department’s capacity to issue passports,” a State Department official in the United States told USA TODAY in an email. “However, we have made significant progress in the last year to reduce passport processing times and are now meeting our service standards, which almost match pre-pandemic norms.”

Here’s what travellers should know about obtaining a US passport.

How long does it take to obtain a passport in the United States?
According to the State Department, travellers should expect to wait six to nine weeks for routine service and three to five weeks for expedited service. These processing times do not include mailing times, which may vary by location in the United States. Travelers may also have to wait up to two weeks from the time they apply for their application to be marked as “In Process.”

How much does a US passport cost?

It depends. According to the State Department, travellers aged 16 and up who apply for their first passport must pay both an application fee and an acceptance fee. Application fees for a passport book are $130, $30 for a passport card, and $160 for both. Each option has a $35 acceptance fee.

Those aged 16 and up who renew their passports must pay the same application fees, but there is no acceptance fee. Application fees for children under the age of 16 are $100 for a passport book, $15 for a passport card, and $115 for both, with a $35 acceptance fee for each option.

Travelers who procrastinate can also pay a $60 fee to expedite their passports. They can pay an additional $18.32 for one- to two-day delivery, but this option is not available to applicants only for passport cards.

The State Department’s website includes a fee calculator that can assist travellers in determining how much they will pay.

Where can I get a passport?

Travelers can apply for routine and expedited service at an acceptance facility or renew by mail (some must apply in person, including those who have never had a U.S. passport and children under 16). Those with urgent but non-emergency international travel plans within 14 calendar days can make an appointment by calling 1-877-487-2778, though some restrictions apply, according to the State Department.

Visitors can also schedule an appointment if they “have a life-or-death emergency that necessitates international travel within 72 hours (3 business days).” Passengers who meet the requirements can also renew their passports online. “Full public availability for online passport renewal is planned for later in 2023,” a State Department official said.

Is a passport required for a cruise?

Not all of the time. U.S. citizens booked on closed-loop cruises that begin and end in the same U.S. port can enter the country with a government-issued photo ID and birth certificate, but the State Department recommends having a passport “in case of an emergency, such as an unexpected medical air evacuation or the ship docking at an alternate port,” according to its website. It may also be required by cruise lines.

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