When it comes to planning a trip, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  So, when do you need a passport?  Most trips outside of the United States will require one, unless your itinerary fits into one of the following exceptions:

  • Closed-loop cruises, cruises that begin and end at the same US port. For these cruises, a birth certificate and driver’s license will suffice, though it’s better to have a passport in case you need to fly back home for an emergency or to another port if you miss the boat.
  • Land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. For these trips, you can use either a traditional passport, a passport card, an enhanced driver’s license (assuming you live in one of the handful of states that offer them), a NEXUS card, FAST card or a SENTRI card.
  • If you are a NEXUS cardholder, you can travel by air to certain Canadian airports with only a NEXUS card. Eligible airports are listed here.

If the trip you’re planning doesn’t meet one of the qualifications listed above, you need a passport. Additionally, if you frequently travel abroad or have close friends, family and/or business contacts living abroad, you should maintain a valid passport.

When to Apply

If you know you need a passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible.  If you don’t want to pay extra for expedited processing, allow more than six weeks for new passport to arrive. If you use the Department of State’s expedited processing option, expect to wait three weeks.

If your passport is expiring in the next nine months, be aware that many countries require you to have six months of validity left on your passport to clear customs, no matter short your intended stay is. Time your renewal application accordingly.

If you are traveling in two weeks or less, you can either make an appointment at one of the 24 regional passport agency offices, or use a private company like RushMyPassport. We make it easy to get your passport delivered quickly by providing hands-on help with the application and then personally delivering it to the Department of State for processing in as little as 24 hours. Contact us for help getting a passport or a passport renewal today!