What to Do if Your Passport Hasn’t Arrived in Time

Avoid passport stress by expediting your application, upgrading processing and shipping, and tracking your status.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
Young Asian woman travelling by airplane and doing check-in at airline check-in counter at airport terminal. Business travel. Travel and vacation concept

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International travel involves new adventures, sampling local delicacies and stretching your boundaries. While these trips can be memorable, some of the planning and prep work can be stressful.

In order to travel internationally, you must have a valid passport. With standard processing times, it can take up to eight weeks to get a new or renewed passport. So, what do you do if your passport doesn't arrive in time?

How long does it take to receive a passport?

Generally, it takes six to eight weeks to receive a new or renewed passport with standard processing. Depending on how far in advance of your trip you apply, you might be cutting it close or miss your trip altogether.

It is possible to expedite your application by paying rush fees, using a passport expeditor or visiting a passport agency.

How to check on the status of your passport application

The U.S. State Department offers online tools and phone numbers to track the status of your passport application.

  • Sign-up for email updates. Start by signing up for email updates for your passport application status.

  • Online Passport Status System. Check on the status of your application by providing your last name, date of birth and last four digits of your Social Security Number on their website.

  • Call the National Passport Information Center. If you’re unable to get the information you need, you can also call the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778.

Status update descriptions

When checking the status of your passport application, you may receive one of these descriptions. These terms may seem generic or confusing, so here’s what they mean for your application.

  • Not available. Your application is still in transit to a passport agency or intake facility. This term is also what you’ll find if the website is experiencing a technical difficulty. Try checking back in a few hours.

  • Arrived. When your application has arrived at a mail facility.

  • In process. Your application is being reviewed at an agency or processing facility. The length of time it is “in process” depends on which type of service you selected (e.g. standard or expedited).

  • Approved. They have finished reviewing your passport application, and printing will begin soon.

  • Passport mailed. The new passport has been mailed to your mailing address. Check the Online Passport Status System for a tracking number. If you selected two-day delivery, you should receive your passport within two days of when it was mailed.

  • Supporting documents mailed. The supporting documents have been mailed through First Class Mail. These documents arrive separately from your passport.

What happens if my passport doesn't come in time?

While this process generally goes smoothly, there are situations where your passport may not arrive in time. Travelers who haven't received their passport in time wonder, "My passport hasn't arrived, what can I do?"

If two weeks have passed since your passport application status changed to “Mailed,” and you haven’t received it yet, call the National Passport Information Center at (877) 487-2778.

When you call, the customer service agent will help you complete Form DS-86. This signed statement indicates that you haven’t received your passport, and it will be invalidated for travel. A new passport will be issued in six weeks. However, the time is reduced to three weeks with expedited processing.

You have 90 days from when your passport was issued to complete and submit this form. After 90 days, you'll have to reapply for your passport again and pay all application fees a second time.

You may need to submit a new passport application depending on your travel dates. If you're traveling internationally within 14 days, follow the Urgent Travel procedures mentioned below.

7 ways to expedite your passport application

When you need to get your passport in a hurry, there are steps you can take to expedite your passport application.

  1. Get expedited processing. The U.S. Department of State offers expedited processing for an extra $60 on top of the standard passport application fees. This reduces the wait time to approximately 2-3 weeks.

  2. Purchase two-day delivery. It can take up to two weeks to receive your passport after it has been mailed. For an extra $19.53, you can add 1 to 2-day delivery through the U.S. Postal Service. This service is available for passports but not for passport cards.

  3. Upgrade your application service type. Even if you didn’t initially order expedited processing or two-day delivery, you can call (877) 487-2778 to upgrade with either add-on by paying the necessary fees.

  4. Submit the application through Priority Mail. Applications can take up to two weeks to arrive at a passport agency or processing center. Mailing your application through the U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail Express enables your application to arrive at a processing facility sooner, which can reduce the overall time it takes to get your new passport. The price varies depending on where you’re located within the U.S.

  5. Expedite at the agency. If you have urgent travel within the next 14 days, you can make an appointment with a passport agency or center to get your passport.

  6. Emergency travel appointment. In life-or-death situations of an immediate family member, travelers can get a new passport when they have to travel internationally within the next three business days.

  7. Passport expediting service. Private companies known as passport expeditors or couriers can submit expedited passport applications on behalf of customers. These services charge extra fees, but they cannot get your passport any faster than if you booked your own appointment. However, their expertise can handle the task on your behalf while you focus on other pressing matters.

Consider travel insurance

If your timeline is looking tight, consider purchasing a standalone travel insurance policy with Cancel For Any Reason coverage to better protect your nonrefundable travel payments.

Unfortunately, your passport not arriving in time for your trip doesn't qualify for reimbursements under the majority of travel insurance cancellation policies, which is why you need to supplement with CFAR coverage.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Your credit card's travel insurance benefit may already offer some level of protection; however, only the additional CFAR protections will help you in the passport-delay circumstance.

The bottom line

After booking a trip and getting time off from work, the last thing you want to do is cancel your trip if your passport hasn't arrived in time.

When submitting your application, you can pay to expedite its processing and purchase faster shipping. You can even upgrade your processing time and shipping method if you didn't initially purchase them.

The U.S. Department of State offers online tracking and email notifications to track your passport application. When your passport ships, if you don't receive it within two weeks, contact them right away to submit Form DS-86 to get a new passport.

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