If you need a passport quickly (new or renewed) don’t panic. Here’s how you can get it:

Schedule an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency

Call the National Passport Information Center (available 24/7) at 1-877-487-2778.

You can choose any office across the U.S.. You  might want to start with the closest office and see what dates are available. Many of the larger cities are busy and you may have to wait days (or weeks) to get an appointment.  It’s an automated phone system and you can listen for when the next available appointment is. Don’t worry because you can keep calling around to different offices to see what the best date is. Usually you find one in the next day or two, but the larger cities might be a few weeks.

TIP: The Buffalo, NY passport agency is a great option. Often you can get an appointment scheduled the very next day.

(Yes, you may have to travel to a different city, but if you really want your passport quickly, you can get it.)

Be Prepared

Bring your documents, namely a certified copy of your birth certificate and a photo ID.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the forms you’ll be filling out once you get to the passport office. You’ll be filling out form DS-11 for a new U.S. passport or form DS-82 to renew your old one.

• Form DS-11 – For A New Passport
• Form DS-82 – For Passport Renewal

Bring proof of travel, including your plane ticket, hotel reservation, perhaps a written description of your travel, etc.

Get a Passport Photo

Passport agencies require a certain size and type of photo. You need to bring this with you to the passport office. You have a few options here.

  1. You can get passport photos at CVS stores – http://www.cvs.com/photo/passport-photos
  2. You can find a local photographer to professionally take your photo. Photographers near passport offices typically get a lot of requests for passport photos and therefore can get it done promptly and at high quality. (We recommend this option.)
  3. You can have a friend/family member take the photo and print it out yourself (or at Walmart). Just remember that you need to know what you’re doing.

Here are the specs you’ll need:

Your passport photo must be:

In color
Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper
2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) in size
Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. View the Photo Composition Template for more size requirement details.
Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
Taken with a neutral facial expression (preferred) or a natural smile, and with both eyes open

See more here: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/photos/photos.html

Get To Your Appointment

Head to your Regional Passport Office. This may sound dumb, but get there with plenty of time to spare. Get there a good 30 minutes before your appointment. If you miss your appointment you’ll have to set up another one and who knows how long you’ll have to wait.

Bring a few payment methods. Cash, credit, money order, bank drafts are good ideas.

Security at passport offices is like visiting the airport. Make sure to leave any weapons or liquids behind. You’ll be asked to empty your pockets, so be prepared.

When you get through security, check in at the front desk. They’ll give you a number and then you can sit and wait a bit for your number to be called.

Have a smile on your face and be nice to the passport agents – they’re your ticket to freedom! They’re generally pretty nice themselves and will generally do what they can to help you out. It’s not like the DMV/BMV at a passport office. As long as you have your paperwork in order you generally should be ok.

After all, you’re a U.S. citizen (we hope) and your travel plans are legit. You can’t really be denied if you have everything in order, play by the rules, and pay them your money.

Other Resources

(Regional passport agencies use an automated appointment service which allows travelers to make an appointment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone. You can use any one of them and they all have different wait times for an appointment.)