What to Do If You Have a Passport Emergency During the Government Shutdown

Dec 23, 2018

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If you have travel plans that are going to require a passport, the current US government shutdown might have you in a scramble. There is good news though: The US State Department will continue to process passports during the shutdown. If you need immediate assistance with a passport issue, your best option is to call the US State Department’s National Passport Center by calling 1-877-487-2778.

You will, of course, be required to fill out paperwork for your shiny new passport. Said paperwork depends on if you are applying for the first time or renewing. The State Department makes the process simple by having travelers answer a few questions on its website. Once completed, you’ll want to hold off on signing any required forms until you are at the acceptance facility, where an official can witness you signing the document. Unless you meet the requirements to renew your passport by mail, you will need to apply in person at an acceptance facility.

With that being said, let’s dive into a couple of scenarios that you could face when attempting to get a passport issued or renewed, regardless if the federal government is open for business or not.

You Need a Passport Immediately Due to a Life-or-Death Emergency

The US State Department has special requirements in these situations. The department classifies life-or-death emergencies as serious illness, injury or deaths in your immediate family that require you to travel within the next 72 hours. In these situations, you should call the State Department to make an appointment. You will be required to provide all the usual documentation for a passport as well as proof of the emergency, such as a death certificate, statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a healthcare professional or hospital. You can find additional information for these situations, including contact information for the State Department, on this page of its website.

Your Travel Is 2-3 Weeks Away

If you scheduled a last-minute trip, or just realized your passport is about to expire, don’t worry: you can still get it processed in time. In this case, you will need to visit a passport agency or center and bring proof of your impending travel arraignments. Again, you will need to fill out the standard passport paperwork, but in this case you will need to pay for expedited processing.

Your Travel Is 4-6 Weeks Away

If your trip falls in this timeframe, you can follow the normal application process but will still want to choose the expedited processing option and pay the additional fee to ensure your passport arrives before your scheduled departure date. You can get expedited processing by visiting an acceptance facility or by mail if you are doing a renewal.

Your Travel Is More Than Six Weeks Away

In this case, you have plenty of time to get your passport ready. You can use the standard application process and the State Department’s “routine” service, which should see your new passport hit your mailbox within six weeks.

Your Passport Is Expiring While out of the Country

This can be a bit tricky. The first thing you need to find out are the acceptance rules for the country or countries you will be visiting on your trip. Ireland, for example, has no minimum passport validity requirement for entry, whereas Germany requires that your passport be valid for at least six months past your travel dates in order to enter the country. If you find that your passport doesn’t meet the entry requirements of the country that you are traveling to, you will need to follow the guidelines above to get it renewed before you will be allowed to travel.

If you met the requirements for entry but extended your trip past your passport expiration or find yourself living abroad for extended periods, you can still get your passport renewed to ensure you can reenter the US or travel to another country while on your trip. The best way to handle this while on the road is to visit the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Either of these will be able to process your passport renewal.

For the Transgender Community

For members of the Trans community, getting identity documents changed to reflect a new status can be a difficult process. The State Department has requirements based on the status of your transition when it comes to issuing passports. If you are in the process of transitioning, the State Department will issue a passport that is valid for only two years. If you are post-treatment, you can get a standard 10-year passport issued.

In addition to the normal forms, you will also be required to provide a photo ID with your current appearance, medical certification that indicates you are in treatment or completed treatment to transition, and proof of a legal name change if you have changed your name.

You must follow the process for obtaining a new passport in these situations unless you are looking to replace the limited two-year passport once you have completed treatment. In order to replace a limited passport, you will need to apply for the full-term passport within two years of receiving the limited term one. The State Department will issue a new full-term passport at no charge. This does require yet a different form (DS-5504) and you will need to resubmit your medical certification and a current photo, as well as surrender your limited passport.

Image by Greg Blomberg / EyeEm / Getty Images
Image by Greg Blomberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

With passports issued for such long periods of time and no expiration reminder, it can be easy to let your passport lapse or run into situations where you need a renewal in a hurry. Hopefully being armed with the right knowledge about obtaining or renewing your passport will make this process a breeze. If not, remember you can always reach out to the State Department directly. If you are outside of the United States, visiting the nearest Embassy or Consulate will always be your best bet to get passport issues resolved.

Featured photo by Yenwen / Getty Images

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