New U.S. Passports: Life or Death Emergencies Only

New U.S. Passports: Life or Death Emergencies Only


New U.S. Passport Applicants Applying In-Person at Passport Agencies are Limited to Life and Death Emergencies only, given the coronavirus epidemic, per an updated U.S. State Department notice. The notice goes on to define a qualifying life or death emergency as “serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family” that necessitate travel outside the U.S. within 72 hours.

Renewals by mail are still possible, but are subject to delays, and no expedited service is available.

Here's the statement:

“Because of public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, effective March 20, 2020, we are only able to offer in-person service at passport agencies or centers for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours. Learn more below to see if you qualify for a life-or-death emergency appointment.

While you can still apply in person for a U.S. passport at some acceptance facilities and renew through the mail, you should expect significant delays receiving your passport and your citizenship evidence documents. Please consider waiting to apply until we resume normal operations. We suspended expedited service on March 19 and are not offering this service to any applicants.”

For applicants who do have a life or death emergency requiring international travel within 72 hours, please call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 (weekdays 8am-5pm ET, weekends 10am-3pm ET) or 202-647-4000 outside those hours to make an appointment. You'll need to provide:

  • A passport application with supporting documents
  • Proof of the life-or-death emergency such as a death certificate or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional. (Must be in English or the original language plus an English translation)
  • Proof of international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket, itinerary) specific to the emergency


The Upshot

A friend of mine sees this new development as a terrible indication of the death of U.S. democracy, as autocratic high handedness preventing U.S. citizens from getting passports. I don't deny that U.S. democracy is in jeopardy, but I actually don't think this is a prime example of that. Whereas I do view DHS Stopping New Yorkers Getting or Renewing Global Entry as pure vindictiveness, that's not the case with the passports. Passport renewals are proceeding, just not with expedited service, which is understandable under the circumstances. New passports, unlike renewals, generally require in person appearances, and public health takes priority over that, unless it's an emergency, in which case it's still possible to get a passport.

Will you be affected by the changes/delays for U.S. passport issuance?

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