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Getting a Passport Pronto

When strict new cross-border rules went into effect in January, passport processing times ballooned from six weeks to 12 weeks. So what happens if you have to travel internationally and you don't have a passport?

In June, U.S. citizens who had applied for but not yet received passports were allowed to travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda with only a photo ID and official proof of application for a passport. But that waiver expired September 30.

If you need your passport in a hurry, here are your choices:

  • If you're traveling within the next 14 days, make an appointment at a regional passport agency and apply in person. According to the State Department, the best time to call the automated lines is between 8:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. EST.
  • The government's "expedited" service can take three weeks to process. The cost: $60 plus overnight delivery fees.
  • Use a private expediter. Some, like Travisa, require that you make an appointment (in person or by mail, e-mail or phone) for any service. CIBTclaims you can get a passport or visa in days. Expect to pay about $175 to get a passport in a week or $250 for emergency processing, which takes two days or less, says Steven Diehl of CIBT.
  • Really at sea? If you've got the connections, your best recourse may be for your congressional representative to pull some strings.

Julie Moline is a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant in New York City.

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This article was originally published in the November 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Foreign Affairs.

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