Renewing a passport during COVID

By Ed Graper
This item appears on page 12 of the February 2022 issue.

I used the COVID-19 travel downtime to renew my passport for planned travel at the end of 2021.

My renewal started totally routine. I filled out the DS-82 form online ( and printed it, as instructed. Then, on Sept. 22, I mailed the form and my passport, with a $170 check for expedited renewal, to the P.O. box address of the National Passport Processing Center in Philadelphia, as instructed, using second-day delivery. (They warn you not to use FedEx, as only the US Postal Service can deliver to P.O. boxes.)

Tracking my envelope on the USPS website (, I saw that it was delivered on Sept. 25. I then began checking for updates on

After you have signed into and viewed your application status, a window offers an option to subscribe to email updates. I subscribed at this time, hoping to get automatic status updates.

The National Passport Processing Center said it would take a week or two for a renewal application to be entered into their system. It did, being logged as received on Oct. 12. When I checked the status again on Oct. 25, it showed my application was still in process.

I received my new passport on Oct. 30, for a total renewal time of only five weeks and three days. However, the USPS Priority Mail Express return tracking number was never posted nor sent to me by the processing center.

When I applied for my renewal, the times given for standard renewals were 16-18 weeks and, for expedited renewals, 12-14 weeks. As I write this in mid-November 2021, the website says that the renewal time is now about seven weeks less — 8-11 weeks for standard and 5-7 weeks for expedited renewals.

Since I had not received any emailed status reports (I even checked my spam folder), I was curious what the passport status website showed, so after having received my passport, I checked occasionally, finding the following entries:

October 30: Approved

November 1: Approved, should be received by November 3.

November 3: Approved, We are now printing your passport

November 8: Approved, We are now printing your passport

It’s apparent that the information provided on the passport-application status site had little to do with the actual status of my application.

I did not receive my old passport back with my new passport. In the envelope with the new passport was a sheet explaining that my old passport would be sent separately. It arrived on Nov. 8.

The separate mailings are normal, and this is noted on the renewal application. However, this delay could be a problem for anyone planning to travel immediately after receiving their renewed passport if there are required visas in their old passport.

ITN readers with questions can contact me at

Goleta, CA

Editor’s note: For the record, you can visit a passport renewal center to renew your passport in person if you have “urgent international travel plans within two weeks or need a foreign visa within four weeks” or there is a life-or-death emergency (defined as having a family member living abroad who has died or is dying, and travel is required within three days).