Preparing for the GCL: How to Renew Your U.S. Passport

Sonia Elizondo

Sonia Elizondo

Staff Writer

With Thunderbird’s Global Challenge Lab (GCL) just around the corner for many of us and travel restrictions lifting, many of us Americans are probably starting to pull out those U.S. passports again for the first time since COVID started. This is wonderful! After all, we Thunderbirds do love our traveling. But, what’s this? Oh no! Your passport is set to expire within the next year!

At first, I’m sure you aren’t worried, but a quick Google search tells you that many places won’t allow you to travel to them if your passport expires within 6 months of your travel dates. Annoying, I know, so now comes the time to start wondering: How DO you fix this?

Well, there is always the obvious way. You can go through the U.S. government’s passport renewal process, fill out the required forms, send them your old passport, and wait for a new one. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. That is, until you see…this!

That’s right, people! It takes months for the passport renewal process to go through in the U.S. even with the usual expedited services. This isn’t good for anyone planning on taking the GCL abroad this coming spring and who needs to have their information available by early December (about 6-7 weeks away from the date this was written). Sadly, this isn’t the greatest situation to be in, but there are a few options available to you still as long as you start them pretty much right after you’re done reading this article. 

The first option is the expensive one. FedEx is now offering an expedited renewal service that is said to take about 6 weeks to complete. They have partnered with Rush My Passport to ensure safe delivery of your documents and quick processing times for all passport renewals. The application process is fairly easy and can be done by following the link here. 

Keep in mind, however, that this does cost a couple hundred dollars in total for both the expedited/priority shipping, passport photos (that can be taken at FedEx as well), processing fees, and government fees. It may not be a fun day for your wallet, but it may be your best option to ensure a quick renewal.

The other option is the desperate one. Think of this as your Hail Mary pass for a passport renewal. As can be expected, emergencies happen even while traveling, and as a result, emergency passport renewal services do exist. These services come with many restrictions (see below), so please be wary if you want to try them out. This is crucial because appointments are not guaranteed, and this would not work for the Spring GCL, as it would prevent the early December information option.

In closing, my message to my fellow Americans is this: Please, everyone, take the time now to quickly check your passport expiration dates so that we may all enjoy the wonders of a post-COVID world of travel.

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