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My beautiful, old, extra-pages-added-later passport was set to expire in May 2016. Since many countries don’t allow entry unless your passport has at least six months remaining validity, I knew I should aim to get a new passport by November 2015. I was in Argentina from October to December 2015 before coming back to Hawaii for 10 days before heading to Asia for a month.

Those 10 days in Hawaii would be my only chance to get a new passport, so I would need to apply for and get the passport within 10 days. That’s very easy to do.

In a life-or-death emergency, you can get a passport pretty much immediately.Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 7.49.18 PM

Obviously I didn’t qualify for that, but I did qualify to apply in person at a Department of State Passport Agency.

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There are a few dozen including one in Honolulu.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 7.57.27 PM

I called 877-487-2778 to make an appointment for December 19, the first weekday after my arrival.

To the appointment, I brought:

  • Appointment confirmation number (given to me when I called to make the appointment)
  • Proof of international travel (a printout of my itinerary from Honolulu to Tokyo in United Business Class)
  • Passport application form (made sure to check the box for a 52 page passport, since it doesn’t cost extra and I ran out of room in my last 28 page passport)
  • My then-current passport
  • One passport photo
  • A credit card to pay the $170 fee ($110 for a passport renewal + $60 expedite fee)

I arrived at the appointed time, walked to the check in line that had no one else in it, handed everything over, and took a seat. A minute later, I was called up to pay the $170. I was given a pick up time three days later.

I didn’t ask whether that meant I could pick up the passport at my leisure any time after the specified time or whether I had to arrive at the exact specified time. I unintentionally found out the answer.

I was in and out on the day of my appointment in under 5 minutes. I imagine busier passport agencies are slower.

On the day I was supposed to pick up my new passport, I went on a hike with three friends. We got hopelessly lost, but through a combination of the GPS on our phones and the basic survival skill of following a river downstream, we eventually got back to a trail, having hiked hours longer than expected. (One friend rushed off, arriving just in time for the start of her shift as an ER doctor.) I had missed my passport appointment, and since it was already 4 PM, the office was closed.

The next morning, I headed to the passport agency at 10 AM, not sure what to expect. I went to the check in line–again no one was in it–and explained that I had an appointment to pick up my passport the previous day and showed my driver’s license. The lady at the check in counter had my passport at her desk and handed it and my old passport–now with a hole punch through the cover to show that it is no longer valid–to me. Woo-hoo!

In only four days, I had a brand new passport and my old one back. One day the old one will just be a souvenir, but for now I have to hold on to it for its still-valid Brazil visa.

Bottom Line

The normal passport processing time is six weeks. The normal expedited time is three weeks. I applied in person at a passport agency and got mine in three days.

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