What Is an Emergency Passport and How To Apply For It?

A photo of a US passport in a backpack and a couple holding two passports.

Emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere to anyone. Nowadays many of us have family spread across the world, sometimes even across a couple of different continents, and in other situations, we may be the ones living outside of the United States, far away from home. Unfortunately, despite many efforts and attempts, we cannot predict life and all the different events that may unexpectedly take place. Governments are also aware of that fact and in many cases, we can be assisted in cases of emergency that force us to make urgent travel plans.

No matter what form of emergency passport you’re applying for – a passport card or passport book, the only way to get it is through the U.S. Department of State. There are 26 regional passport agencies that handle expedited processing of passport applications in cases of urgent international travel.

An emergency U.S. passport is issued in cases of urgent international travel caused by a serious illness, injury, or death of one or more immediate family members. If such a situation arises and you’re required to travel outside the U.S. within 24-48 hours, you will need to apply for an emergency passport. 

When doing so, you will be required to provide a substantial life-or-death reason for your travel in order to convince the U.S. Department of State that you must leave the country quickly. You may even qualify to receive your emergency passport as fast as within 24 hours.

Life-or-death emergency passport for funeral

A very common reason to apply for an emergency passport is a death emergency. While all the other documents needed to apply will be the same as in the case of other emergency passports (we will go over all the required documentation further in this article), in the case of a death emergency you will be required to provide one of the following:

  • a death certificate (translated to English if the original language is other than English),
  • a letter signed by a medical professional,
  • a statement issued by the funeral home/mortuary.

The above documents are an absolute necessity in order to receive expedited service and have your passport application processed as quickly as possible at the passport agency.

Other life-or-death emergency passports

Other life-or-death emergencies include a serious, life-threatening illness or injury of an immediate family member that requires you to travel abroad within 72 hours (or 3 business days). Keep in mind that these include parents, legal guardians, children, spouses, siblings, or grandparents, and not aunts, uncles, cousins, or other relatives.

Again, you will be required to provide a valid reason for your travel along with all the other documents and your passport application form.

You will need one of the following supporting documents:

  • a letter from a hospital signed by a medical professional,

OR

  • a letter from a hospice signed by a medical professional.

Non-urgent emergency passport

If your date of travel is not urgent, meaning it’s planned within the next 14 or 30 days, you can also submit your passport application with a Regional Passport Agency, and not at your local passport acceptance facility (for example, a post office). In this case, the passport agency may still offer you expedited services providing you with a passport as early as within 24 hours if you prove your urgent need to travel.

Emergency passport – renewal

You might also find yourself in a situation where instead of applying for a new passport, you will have to renew your already existing one that has expired or will expire before your date of travel. Below are the requirements to apply for an emergency passport renewal:

  • you will have to fill out Form DS-82 – U.S. Passport Renewal Application for Eligible Individuals (the fee for this form is $110)
  • you will have to include your current passport* along with the application
  • you will have to provide 2 passport photos (they must be in color, taken without eyeglasses or any headwear)
  • if you need to change the name on your passport you will be required to submit some additional paperwork

*your current passport can’t be older than 15 years, and issued when you were at least 16 years of age and be without any damages

Emergency letter for passport

As we’ve already mentioned, no matter what your life-or-death emergency is, you will always need to provide supporting documents, such as a medical/doctor’s letter, a death certificate, or a letter from a funeral home, hospice, or hospital. Keep in mind that any documents that you provide must be translated to English if they were originally issued in another language. Failing to do so may result in your passport application for an emergency passport being rejected by the U.S. Department of State.

Documents for emergency passport

Just like in the case of applying for a regular U.S. passport, when applying for an emergency passport you will need to submit the required documents proving that you’re planning international travel soon. You will need to gather the following documents if you need a passport urgently:

  • Form DS-11 or DS-82
  • the original or certified U.S. birth certificate*, an expired U.S. passport, or  the original U.S. naturalization certificate to prove your U.S. citizenship
  • proof of identity in the form of a valid driver’s license or government-issued I.D.
  • a travel itinerary to prove your travel plans
  • two 2″ x 2″ passport photos
  • a certified check or money order (payable to the U.S. Department of State)
  • in some cases you may also need a Letter of Authorization if you want to authorize a third party to collect your emergency passport on your behalf

*a certified birth certificate includes an official state registrar’s raised, embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal, the date it was filed with the registrar’s office, as well as the registrar’s signature (issued within 1 year of the person’s birth).

Once you have your emergency passport checklist, you can proceed to apply for your life-or-death emergency passport.

If you are applying for your emergency passport domestically, you need to do it through a regional passport agency, however, if you’re applying from abroad you need to do so through a U.S. embassy or consulate.

How long does it take to get an emergency passport

Getting a regular U.S. passport may even take a few weeks. However, applying for a life-or-death emergency passport is an application process that is expedited at a Passport Agency or Center. When asking yourself the question: “How long does it take to get an emergency passport?”, the answer is that it all depends on your particular situation, of course. You may even qualify to get a same-day passport depending on your individual travel emergency, but remember that this is rather uncommon. Normally, a life-or-death emergency passport is issued within 72 hours (3 business days).

You should always keep in mind that Regional Passport Agencies are closed on the weekends and on all federal holidays.

There are many internet sites that offer passport services and claim they can get you a same-day passport, however, of course, you should always be careful when choosing this option. If you do choose to opt to handle your application process in this way, always do your online research first and ask friends and family for a trusted and recommended website.

Possible delays

There are a couple of very important things to remember nowadays in the time of COVID-19. You should know that due to the current situation, you may run into delays at your regional agency as the expedited service is very limited, even for those with urgent international travel plans (a need to leave the country within 72 hours). You must make an appointment at your nearest Passport Agency (walk-ins are not accepted). You’re advised to call the National Passport Information Center: 1-877-487-2778 (TTY/TDD 1-888-874-7793, or visit the U.S. State Department’s website for life-or-death emergencies if you need more information.

Emergency passport fees

The emergency passport application fee for a passport book is $110. If you’re applying for a passport card (only valid for travel by land to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda) the cost is $30. If you wish to apply for both a passport book and card the application fee is $140.

In each case, you must also bear an additional fee of $35 (the execution fee).

An emergency passport – photos

No matter what type of expedited passport service you apply for, you will always be required to provide two passport photos with a clean, white background. This is a very important aspect if you want to get your passport quickly, because an incorrectly taken photo may result in your application taking longer to finalize or even being rejected altogether.

With all the hassle of the entire application process, we can help you take care of the passport photo aspect smoothly thanks to our easy photo-taking app. Now you can get your perfect photo without leaving your home, and all you’ll need is our app and your smartphone.

The Passport Photo Online app is backed by an AI system that is 100% accurate and guarantees that your photo will be accepted by the Passport Agency. You can take as many photos as you want without having to go to a photo booth or a drugstore. Once you’re satisfied with the picture, you can either order a hard copy delivered to your preferred address, or order digital, ready-to-print files sent to your email address.

Our online photo tool offers cost-effective service and lets you save up to 30% compared to other photo services – you can go with the $5.95 offer and download your passport photo straight to your computer, or the $9.95 option to get a ready printout delivered to you. Whatever option you choose, you’re always given an acceptance guarantee and if your photos aren’t approved (they will be!), you will get a double refund.

Wrap up 

A life-or-death emergency may take us by surprise anytime causing us enormous stress, however, it’s inevitable and bound to happen. It’s always better to plan ahead and make sure all of your documents are up-to-date in case you end up having to make urgent travel plans. However, it isn’t always possible, and at some point or another, it might be necessary to apply for an expedited passport.

If you do need to travel internationally as quickly as within 72 hours and your passport is past its expiration date, you will have to get a passport using an expedited service at one of the 26 passport agencies. Be sure to provide proof of your emergencies such as a signed letter from a doctor, a death certificate, or a letter from a mortuary. Apart from this, you will need to fill out the application form, provide your identity proof, two passport photos, and a check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of State.

It’s always best to check the U.S. State Department’s official website if you need to get your passport fast, so you can be sure that you have everything you need to apply for a new passport.

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