As you run down your pre-travel checklist, there is one item you may need that requires some planning: a passport.

Though some destinations do not require U.S. travelers to have a passport, most of the time you’ll need one for international travel. Wait times are down from the levels seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, when travelers could expect to wait about four months for routine service, but travelers still need to think ahead if they want to avoid any disruptions to their plans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reduced the Department’s capacity to issue passports,” a U.S. State Department official told USA TODAY in an email. “However, we made great strides over the last year to lower passport processing times and are currently meeting our service standards, which almost match pre-pandemic norms.”

Here’s what travelers need to know about getting a U.S. passport.

How long does it take to get a US passport?

Travelers can expect to wait six to nine weeks for routine service and three to five weeks for expedited service, according to the State Department. Those processing times do not include mailing times, which may vary across the U.S. Travelers might also have to wait as long as two weeks from the day they apply for their application to be “In Process.”

How much is a US passport?

That depends. Travelers 16 and older applying for a passport for the first time must pay both an application fee and an acceptance fee, according to the State Department. Application fees run $130 for a passport book, $30 for a passport card and $160 for both. The acceptance fee is $35 for each option.

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Those 16 and up who are renewing their passports have to pay the same application fees but do not have to pay an acceptance fee. For children under 16, application fees run $100 for a passport book, $15 for a passport card and $115 for both, with a $35 acceptance fee for each option.

For the procrastinators out there, travelers can pay a $60 fee to expedite their passports. They can opt to pay an additional $18.32 for one- to two-day delivery, though that option is not available to applicants for passport cards alone.

The State Department offers a fee calculator on its website, which can help travelers determine how much they will pay.

Where do I go to get a passport?

For routine and expedited service, travelers can apply 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 call 1-877-487-2778 to make an appointment, though some restrictions apply, according to the State Department.

Travelers also can make an appointment if they “have a life-or-death emergency that requires international travel within 72 hours (3 business days).” Qualifying travelers also can renew their passports online. “Full availability to the public for online passport renewal is targeted for later in 2023,” the State Department says.

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Applicants can find the forms and photo requirements on the State Department’s website.

Do you need a passport for a cruise?

Not always. U.S. citizens booked on closed-loop cruises, which start and end at the same U.S. port, can enter the country with a government-issued photo ID and birth certificate instead, but the State Department encourages 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. Cruise lines might also require it.

Source By: usatoday