When your passport needs renewing, normally travel experts advise not to wait until the last minute. Many countries require a valid passport for many months or up to a year after your planned travel. If your passport is within a year of expiring you may want to take action sooner rather than later. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic began getting a passport renewal may take even longer than before.
Since March 2020, the U.S. State Department has significantly reduced passport operations in order to protect their employees from the threat of COVID-19. In addition to a much-delayed response time due to reduced staff, they have suspended expedited passport processing for the time being. The only exceptions are for cases involving emergencies that are considered life or death. The State Department considers life or death emergencies to be the following: death or serious injury or illness in your immediate family that necessitates your travel outside the United States within the next three days (72 hours). “Immediately family” is categorized as a parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.
To prove a life or death emergency calls for immediate travel, you will need to provide the following:
1) A passport application, including the supporting documents
2) Proof of the emergency. This proof can include a signed letter from a hospital, a signed letter from a doctor or a signed letter from another medical professional. This document must be in English, either by the original writer or via translation.
3) Proof of international travel, such as the travel reservation, a copy of the ticket, or a copy of the itinerary.
The State Department has announced a three-phase plan for the return of operations. Phase one began June 11th, 2020. During this phase some of their staff will return to work in person at centers and agencies. This will allow the State Department to process applications already received. They will start with the oldest applications received and make it through the backlog in chronological order of when applications received. As for in office appointments, they will only allow cases involving emergencies deemed life-or death.
If an appointment is scheduled, customers must observe social distancing rules and wear cloth face coverings in all common areas, which include building lobbies. It is recommended that if you have not submitted an application at this time and you are not in immediate need of a passport that you wait until later phases to apply for a passport or passport renewal.
In addition, passport renewal can be provided by a third-party company on your behalf.