Have you ever wanted to flee—sorry, leave—the country as soon as possible? If you’re wanted on suspicion of doing something terrible, that’s probably not going to be easy. But if you’re a law-abiding citizen, it’s within the realm of possibility to secure a passport in as little as 24 hours instead of the typical seven- to nine-week wait.
The catch? You need a really, really good reason for urgent travel and more than a little luck.
According to Condé Nast Traveler, the main driver for expedited passport approval is a qualifying emergency. In the eyes of the State Department, that means an immediate family member is seriously ill, dying, or dead and you need to travel within three business days. No distant relatives, either: They need to be a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or grandparent. Nor is the passport applicant considered a life-or-death example. In other words, you can’t be traveling for medical purposes for yourself.
The second thing you’ll need is proof of that emergency: papers from a funeral home, physician, or hospital demonstrating the illness or death. The paperwork also needs to be translated into English, though you won’t need to have the translation notarized.
If you meet those criteria, you can make an appointment with one of the country’s 26 regional passport agencies. You’ll find them in or near major cities like Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Boston, among others. If you’re lucky, you’ll be near one. If not, it could mean a drive of several hours. Also note that you can’t apply for an urgent passport at locations where passports are processed normally, like the post office.
These centers are by appointment only, and here’s where the luck comes in. You’ll need to find an opening in their schedule in order to get in before your departure. You’ll also need proof of travel, like a ticket or booking confirmation. While you can make the appointment within two weeks of your trip, you have to be at the regional agency within three days of your departure.
These agencies can also process urgent—not just life-or-death—passport requests for travel within 14 business days.
Some travelers also make use of expediting services like RushMyPassport. For a fee, they can file paperwork on your behalf and pick up your passport within days or weeks. But it can be pricey: getting your passport in two weeks could run you $799.
In short, a same-day passport is possible: It just won’t be a pleasure.