Let me guess: you have an international trip coming up, and your passport STILL hasn’t arrived. What are you supposed to do! This is so stressful!
Will you have to cancel all your plans? What all is refundable and what isn’t? Will you lose thousands of dollars simply because the passport agency is taking forever? Slow down, and listen up.
I have one secret trick that might just work for you. So, how can you get your passport sooner, you might ask? Here’s how: contact your congressman.
Does Contacting Your Congressman to Get Your Passport Sooner Actually Work?
Yes and no. You need to realize right off the bat that this is an absolute last resort approach that shouldn’t be used if you still have months until your trip or if you haven’t waited the full processing time yet. Like anything, I recommend applying for your passport early to avoid the issue of a delay in processing occurring.
However, even if you do everything perfectly, there is still a chance that things can get stuck. This trick might just keep you from losing out on a nice trip and all the money that you’ve sunk into it.
So, how do you reach out to your congressman to speed up the passport process? Who even is your congressman?
To answer the second of those two questions, simply Google it.
You’ll be able to figure out who your congressman is based on the state and town that you live in. Typically, a congressional representative’s constituency is determined on a county-by-county basis.
When you reach out to members of congress, I recommend going with both a phone call and an email. You never know who is going to see it, and you want to make sure that you get a response! Each member of congress’ contact information can be found on their website.
Once they respond, it will be with a few information forms that you need to fill out, potentially including the details of your previous passport, the date that you applied for the current one, and your mailing address where the new one can be sent.
If you get a congressman to help you out, your odds of getting your passport quickly, regardless of the time or circumstances, are pretty solid. Now, if you need one the next day, don’t do this – make an appointment directly at a passport agency that can print one for you on the spot.
If you have a little more time, though – like a week or two – and don’t live near a passport agency, this is absolutely the move. Like any service provided by a congressman, it is absolutely free. Maybe just toss them a vote in the fall when the elections roll around!
I Have Personally Contacted My Congressman to Expedite My Passport
Now, do I have personal experience with this? Yes I do!
I got married and planned a nice honeymoon to Tulum, Mexico. We couldn’t wait to go, as we planned on just staying in Mexico afterwards to move into our new home in Puebla where we were going to graduate school. This was all happening in the peak of Covid-19, and I still hadn’t received my passport.
My current passport had completely filled up. I had applied over 4 months beforehand, in February, to renew it so that I had space for my Mexican visa. My application (and current existing passport), after 4 months, were still sitting in a warehouse somewhere while the government was shut down.
Our plan was doomed.
One day, while I was complaining about the situation to a friend, he told me that I should contact my congressman. I’ll admit – I kind of laughed in his face. I was like, haha, that’s funny, man.
Contact my congressman. That is what people did in 1940 when their crops dried up! That won’t work in 2020.
I Got a New Passport 5 Days After Contacting My Congressman
He put me in touch with my congressman in Pennsylvania, and within 5 days I had a brand new passport at my door. I was able to make my flight, as the passport literally came 36 hours before takeoff.
I still don’t know how this happened, as my existing passport was still sitting in a warehouse in Missouri and my application was there with it. However, this process worked nonetheless and I gained a newfound respect for our congressmen! Shoutout to Representative Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania’s 9th district!
While the U.S. passport backlog that arose from Covid has been resolved, there are still plenty of reasons that your passport might be stuck and you need it NOW. If this is the case, and the passport agency thing won’t work for you, just do it. Contact your congressman!
Reason for the Delays in Passport Applications
Back when the COVID pandemic hit, travelers were hit with a big reality check: getting a passport on time isn’t a guarantee. For the longest time, as long as you applied far enough ahead of a trip, you wouldn’t need to worry. The U.S. Department of State could whip out any passport within 10-13 weeks for standard processing.
The pandemic caused massive passport delays. Passport services were almost ground to a halt, as passport offices all around the country were closed to employees. A state department spokesperson for Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked about the unprecedented demand on the passport system.
The National Passport Information Center managed an online system on its website that provided application status updates and insight into current wait times. There was a toll-free number you could call, but there was little additional information that could be provided to the influx of calls.
The High Demand Compounded the Issue
Not only were the passport centers shut down – the number of people making international travel plans skyrocketed. The State Department failed to anticipate how many Americans would have upcoming trips during the pandemic. This unprecedented demand further messed up the expected processing time that was stated on applications.
In my case, I waited for over 6 months and never got my passport. There was nobody I could reach out to for passport help. Every person I talked to in the call centers told me that they were working through the backlog as quickly as they could, and that was about all they had to say.
The Delays Lasted the Entire Pandemic
Despite all of the extra effort, horror stories of delays dragged on even through the last year of the pandemic. The U.S. State Department was forced to renege on its pledge to process expedited passport applications in 7-9 weeks. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were left without current U.S. Passports right up through their international travel date.
Since then, the federal government has had plenty of time to get back to routine passport processing speeds. Staff members are now back in the passport center offices at full strength, and expedited service is once again offered and honored. You can still use the online portal to check the status of your application.
At one point, there was a backlog of thousands of passports. Since then, the number of people in need of assistance has gone back down to pre-pandemic levels. As long as you apply for a passport far enough in advance of your trip, you should be fine in most cases.
Other Ways to Get a Passport in the United States
Aside from reaching out to congressional offices, there are three traditional ways to submit passport applications: passport agencies, acceptance facilities, and by mail. For new applications, you need to physically visit either a passport agency or a passport acceptance facility. The renewal process is much easier than the initial application process, as you can just mail your documents off without an in-person appointment.
Getting a Passport at a Passport Agency or Passport Center
Passport agencies and centers are designed for citizens in need of urgent travel services. If you have international travel plans in the upcoming 14 days, or need a visa for travel in the upcoming 28 calendar days, you can make an appointment at a passport agency. These places provide a great customer experience, printing passports onsite.
The downside is just that they are only accessible to people with rare passport cases. Unless you fall into the group of folks needing a passport within two weeks, you can’t make a passport appointment at one of these.
Where Are the Passport Agencies?
There are over 20 passport agencies in the United States and Puerto Rico. Passport Agencies are located all around the country, and appointments must be in person. They can be found in the following cities:
- Hot Springs, AR
- Tucson, AZ
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Aurora, CO
- Stamford, CT
- Washington DC
- Miami, FL
- Atlanta, GA
- Honolulu, HI
- Chicago, IL
- New Orleans, LA
- Boston, MA
- Detroit, MI
- Minneapolis, MN
- Portsmouth, NH
- Buffalo, NY
- New York, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- San Juan, PR
- Dallas, TX
- El Paso, TX
- Houston, TX
- St. Albans, VT
Applying for a Passport at an Acceptance Facility
For most Americans, the way to get a passport is by going to an acceptance facility. The State Department has deals in place with many locations countrywide to act as acceptance facilities. Most acceptance facilities are post offices, public libraries, clerks of court, or local political offices.
For most people, the most accessible acceptance facility is their local post office. You can use this tool to find your nearest acceptance facility. When you visit an acceptance facility, the staff member ensures that all your necessary forms and documents are correct.
Acceptance facilities offer both standard processing and expedited processing. Once submitted, your passport status can be viewed online at any time. Keep in mind that the first update might not be available until your passport application actually arrives in an office.
Documents Required to Apply for a Passport in the United States
In order to apply for a passport, you will need to submit several documents along with your passport application. These documents include:
- Passport Application Form (DS-11 for new passport applications)
- Original and copy of proof of U.S. Citizenship (usually a previous passport or a birth certificate)
- Original and copy of current photo ID (usually a driver’s license)
- Payment (must be a check if applying via mail or at an acceptance facility; passport agencies accept credit card)
- A photo that meets the requirements for passport photos
Frequently Asked Questions About Applying for a Passport in the United States
How fast can you get a US passport right now?
Passport processing times are back to normal now. Standard processing takes 10-13 weeks, and expedited processing takes 7-9 weeks. The current processing times are similar to pre-pandemic years.
What is the quickest I can get a passport?
The quickest that you can get a passport is printed on the spot at a passport agency. However, in order to make an appointment at a passport agency, you need proof of upcoming international travel within 14 calendar days. Otherwise, the fast option is expedited processing, which takes 7-9 weeks.
Can I apply for a U.S. passport online?
You cannot apply for a U.S. passport online if it is your first time getting one. However, you can renew your U.S. passport online via the online renewal system!
Thanks for reading my post on how to get your passport sooner by contacting your congressman. Hopefully this post helps you out while your in a bit of a passport pickle! If you have any questions, be sure to drop a comment below.