Immigrants can get U.S. passports in one day

For native-born U.S. citizens, it takes about three months, including mailing time, to get a passport if you pay extra for “expedited” service. From the State Department web page (retrieved end of October 2023):

As of October, they were saying that it would take 2 weeks to mail, then 5-7 weeks to “process”, then 2 more weeks to mail.

Friends who are immigrants have been reporting U.S. passport renewals in just a day or two. How do they do it? The U.S. government offers an emergency service. The immigrant uses Adobe Acrobat to create the required PDFs regarding the “life-threatening illness or injury” from which an immediate family member back in the old country is suffering. The American bureaucrats have no means of verifying these documents so entirely fictitious physician names and addresses work fine. The immigrant buys a fully refundable plane ticket back to the old country, makes an appointment, walks into a U.S. government passport agency.

Why can’t State Department clear the backlog, especially for simple renewals? What stops them from paying overtime to the existing staff to work nights and weekends until the processing time is back to something more reasonable? (or hiring Venezuelan asylees to assist? We are informed that 500,000+ Venezuelans who’ve joined us are eager to work and highly qualified) What’s “reasonable”? In 1971, when the U.S. population was 200 million, it typically took between 5 and 21 days to get a passport (New York Times) and when the backlog increased the government would add night shifts to clear it. In 1961 (US population 180 million), it took 3 days:

A native-born American might be able to work a similar process via the “urgent travel” channel. Buy a refundable ticket for travel within 14 days and then begin to work the phones and try to get an appointment and travel to a major city (a customer in Tallahassee, Florida would have to drive perhaps 6 hours to Miami or Atlanta or New Orleans).

Finally, why do we need to show passports when returning to the U.S.? The passport was already checked twice by airline personnel on the departure side. If the southern border is open to millions of new Americans who choose to walk in, why must we stand in line for a third check after an exhausting international flight?


  • “Airport travel delays after U.S. Customs computer outage” (NBC, 2019): International travelers were waiting in long entry lines at some of the nation’s busiest airports Friday … The outage affected New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, among others. Images on social media showed travelers jammed into terminals at JFK and O’Hare as they awaited admittance to the United States.

11 thoughts on “Immigrants can get U.S. passports in one day

  1. Time to get multiple nationalities / residence cards. I flew out of Europe to Argentina with my American passport as european residence permit. When I landed in Argentina, I used my Argentine passport to get through the automated tills (scan passport, give fingerprint, biometric face scan). It took literally 30 secs to get in. Meanwhile non-Argentines were waiting in long lines.

    Then drove in to Ezeiza , checked in quickly, went to short line of Argentines at passport control, out in 3 mins. Arrived in Europe used EU passport control line with my residence card, super short and fast lines.

    With my Argentina Passport I can get into Russia and Cuba.

    Waiting to get my EU citizenship then I will be unstoppable!

  2. We renewed our passports in September. From our appointment at the local library (made two days in advance) to receiving the new passports in the mail was about four weeks. We did not pay the expedite fee.
    “The bureau hired 177 new passport adjudicators this year, growing its workforce by about 10% — and it looking to grow its workforce by an additional 10%.
    “We are focused on hiring, training, and retaining staff to address the current surge in demand. We have increased staffing levels and have hundreds of additional staff in the hiring pipeline,” the department spokesperson said.
    Passport services employees are working tens of thousands of hours of overtime a month. Between January and June, Consular Affairs authorized between 30,000 and 40,000 overtime hours each month.
    The State Department is also deploying “surge teams” of volunteers, including retirees and new hires, to process passports before reporting to other assignments.”

  3. You do mention “urgent travel” option for native born citizens (which I have used even though I am an immigrant – I didn’t use any fake emergency document). I think both, this “urgent” one, and the “emergency” option using perhaps fake medical documents, require travel and showing up in person at a passport agency. So what exactly is the benefit for the immigrants? Just a little easier to get an appointment?

    • Anon: I guess there is no real advantage for an immigrant. If your name is John Smith you could say that your cousin Mohamed Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was injured by an Al-Shabaab fighter and that you need to fly to Mogadishu to see him in Yardimeli Specialist Hospital and here is the letter from Dr. Mustafa Mohamed Hussein in Arabic, along with an English translation that you had done by a translator in Hargeysa, nothing stands in your way!

    • Thanks Phil, but this answers a different question (how a native born citizen could use the fake emergency approach), and not my question above. I was wondering what are the advantages of this fake emergency approach compared to urgent travel approach available to anyone without any fake documentation? Both seem to require travel and showing up in person at a passport agency in a large city.

    • Anon: I think the “emergency” results in a passport on the spot while the imminent travel option that a native-born American could reasonably use will result in a passport being mailed out after a day or two (so it will take at least a few days, including mailing time). Also, I think it might be easier to get an appointment for the “emergency” renewal than for the “urgent” renewal.

  4. I have reason to believe that large parts of the government went on holiday at the start of Covid and never came back to work. I know someone who rents out properties to Section 8-eligible renters, and the government employees who inspect the residences to ensure they meet standards are still “working from home”, almost into 2024. How does one even properly inspect a property over Zoom?

  5. In 1971 the processing of passports was done to a large extent “by hand” without the help of modern technology. A credit card can be replaced in a couple of days, probably much faster than what it took in the 70s. I just renewed my EU passport, 18 days, and all passports are generated in Europe. At the same time (actually couple of days before) I applied by mail for a new US passport. The tracking is not even available yet on the government site as of today.

    According to this Spanish government site 97% of passport applications in Spain are done in one day!

    “Curiosidades y datos interesantes

    ¡El 97% de las renovaciones de pasaporte se resuelven en el mismo día!
    El tiempo promedio para renovar un pasaporte es de solo 30 minutos.
    En España, cada año se renuevan aproximadamente 3 millones de pasaportes.
    El pasaporte español es uno de los más poderosos del mundo, permitiendo el acceso sin visa a más de 180 países.
    ¡Renovar tu pasaporte es más rápido y sencillo de lo que imaginas!”

Comments are closed.