Here's how long it takes to get a new passport.

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Before you plan your dream international vacation, there's one thing you'll definitely need: a valid passport. And one of your first questions might be: How long does it take to get a passport? Right now, the process can take up to 11 weeks, so you'll want to start planning far in advance. (The exact time changes often, so check the U.S. State Department website for the most up-to-date information.) We've broken down the new passport application process and explained State Department policies to help you get your travel documents in time for your next trip.

The State Department recommends applying four to six months before your planned trip. If your passport is undamaged, was issued in the last 15 years (when you were 16 or older), and shows your current name (or you have documentation of your name change), you can renew your passport by mail. If you don't meet those conditions and need a new passport, you'll have to apply in person. You can find the full details about necessary documentation — including the ever-important passport photo requirements — on the State Department website. You'll have to fill out the forms, submit a photo, provide evidence of U.S. citizenship, present and provide a copy of your ID, and pay the application and execution fees in person at a passport acceptance facility. Then, you can track your application status online. To ensure you receive your new passport as quickly as possible, you'll want to follow the instructions carefully and fill out every required piece of information to prevent any delays.

U.S. passports
Credit: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

How long does it take to get a passport?

Before the coronavirus pandemic, typical processing times ranged from four to eight weeks. Right now, it can take anywhere from a few days to nearly three months to get a passport. According to the State Department website, routine processing can currently take up to 11 weeks from the day the application is received, and expedited processing may take up to seven weeks. Travelers can get their passports expedited at a passport agency or center if they have international travel plans within three days, but these appointments are only offered in specific situations. If your travel date is in five to seven weeks, you can pay $60 (in addition to the standard application fee) and purchase USPS Priority Mail Express for faster turnaround and shipping.

If someone in your immediate family is outside of the U.S. and they have died, are dying, or have a life-threatening illness or injury, and you need to travel to a foreign country within three business days, you can call to make an appointment for life-or-death emergency service. You can also make non-emergency urgent travel appointments at some passport agencies, but these are limited, and your appointment must be within three days of your international trip. We recommend having your new passport in hand before planning an international vacation and only using these urgent appointments as a last resort, as they are not guaranteed. If needed, you can find all the phone numbers, information about required documentation, and passport center locations on the State Department website.

There are courier companies that offer expedited passport services for a (sometimes hefty) fee, but according to the State Department, you wouldn't receive your passport any faster than if you went to a passport agency to apply in person.