The government has shut down 19 times since 1976, and there’s a real possibility that it will happen again soon.

If you’ve got an international trip planned, you’re probably wondering how this could impact you. Can you get a passport during a government shutdown?

The answer is yes, at least at first. However, it may take longer than usual. That’s because passport services are funded in part by application fees. So, there’s usually some money available to continue services even if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill.

In January 2018, for example, the State Department stated, “Consular operations domestically and abroad will remain 100% operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations.” That includes passport services.

Can you get a passport during a government shutdown? Yes, but be prepared to wait.

However, if you have a trip planned and there’s the threat of a shutdown, you should apply for a passport as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute!

The State Department may still be open for business, but it won’t be business as usual. Some staff may be furloughed, which means that processing times could increase.

And if you’re in a hurry, watch out. Post offices will remain open. However, passport agencies, which serve people traveling within two weeks, may close down if they are located inside a federal building.

Also, if the shutdown lasts long enough, or the Department of State doesn’t have any money available from fees, then they might stop issuing passports altogether. According to CNN, that’s what would have happened if the government had shut down in 2011.

How to get a passport during a government shutdown

If you need a passport during a government shutdown, here’s how to get one.

Step 1: Collect your documents.

What do you need to get a passport? It depends, but we’ve put together guides for the most common situations below:

Step 2: Check passport processing speeds

The State Department lists current passport processing speeds on its website here. Please keep in mind that these can change, and during a government shutdown they could become a lot longer on short notice.

Step 3: Find an open passport office

If you’re applying well in advance of your trip, you can apply at your local post office. That’s because the US Postal Service is self-funded.

But if you’re leaving in two weeks or less, the post office likely won’t be able to get your passport back to you in time. You have two options: Find an open regional passport agency, or use a private passport expediter.

If the National Passport Information Center phones are open, they should be able to help you find the nearest open passport agency. Call them at 1-877-487-2778.

Passport agencies that are located inside federal buildings will likely be closed, however.

Unfortunately, there are only 26 passport agencies to serve the entire country.  Many of them are in federal buildings. So, a private expediting company like RushMyPassport may be your best bet. Even during a government shutdown, RushMyPassport can get your application to an open passport agency for processing in as little as one business day. Meanwhile, you don’t have to leave your hometown, make an appointment or wait in line.

Step 4: Submit your application and pay the required fees.

Are you eligible to renew your passport by mail? Then you’re in luck! Simply send your application and supporting documents to the address on the form.

If you’re applying for a first-time passport, replacing a lost, stolen, or damaged passport, or applying for a passport for a child, take your documents to the nearest open passport office.

Need a passport in a hurry during a government shutdown?

Getting a passport during a government shutdown is especially difficult if you’re in a hurry. Even if you live near a regional passport agency, you may be out of luck if it’s in a federal building.  Passport agencies in federal buildings will stay open on a case-by-case basis, so it may close during the shutdown or limit hours of operation.

RushMyPassport can fill in the gap, offering priority passport processing with no need for you to make an appointment, wait in line or travel to a regional passport agency that’s open. Plus, we’ll help you with your paperwork so you avoid common passport application mistakes,

In fact, RushMyPassport is a more convenient alternative even when the federal government is open. Check out our passport services and start our easy 3 step application process here.