A Guide to Renewing Your U.S. Passport

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By Travelers
9 minutes
Woman standing at airport with passport in hand.

A valid U.S. passport is essential to traveling internationally and can serve as a legal form of ID within the United States. It’s an official government document that confirms your identity and citizenship. However, your passport has an expiration date. If your passport was issued when you were 16 years old or older, it is valid for 10 years. If your passport was issued when you were 15 years old or younger, it is valid for five years.1

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your passport will remain valid for six months beyond any planned trip. Using information from the U.S. Department of State website, Travelers has compiled the following guide to help provide many of the key details involved in the passport renewal process. For more information, including the current fees, be sure to visit the U.S. State Department website to help ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Here are some things you need to know about renewing a U.S. passport:

Can I Renew My Passport by Mail?

One of the most convenient ways to renew your passport is by mail. However, according to the U.S. State Department,2 to renew by mail, all of the following must be true:

Your passport is:

  • In your possession to submit with your application.
  • Undamaged, other than normal wear and tear.
  • Issued when you were age 16 or older.
  • Issued within the last 15 years.
  • Issued in your current name, or you can document your name change.

If all of these statements are true, you can generally use the following steps to renew your passport by mail. If any are not true, you’ll need to apply in person.

Steps to Renew Your Passport by Mail

To renew your passport by mail, follow the five steps listed below. Remember, all information is subject to change, so consult the U.S. State Department passport site for the most up-to-date information.

1. Gather Your Documents

Typically, you’ll need the following documents:

  • Renewal Form — For renewals, you’ll need to complete the Passport Renewal Application Form DS-82 from the U.S. State Department website.

  • Name Change Documents — If the name you are currently using is different from the name on your current passport due to marriage, divorce or a court-ordered name change, you must provide a certified copy of the legal name change document. You will need to send the original documentation. Typically, your name change document will be returned to you in a separate mailing from your new passport.
  • Your Most Recent Passport — Make sure your current passport is still valid. Expired passports will not be considered for renewal by mail. Usually, your old passport will be returned to you in a separate mailing from your new passport.

2. Provide a Photo

You will need to attach a passport photo to the Passport Renewal Form. Be sure to review the photo requirements on the U.S. State Department website. Also, be aware that the U.S. State Department advises that you not wear the following in your photo:

  • Eyeglasses. If you can’t remove your glasses for medical reasons, include a signed note from your doctor with your application.
  • A uniform, clothing that looks like a uniform or clothing that looks like camouflage.
  • A hat or head covering unless you are required to wear one for religious or medical purposes. If you need to wear it for medical purposes, include a signed note from your doctor. If you are wearing a head covering for religious purposes, include a signed statement that verifies that the hat or head covering in your photo is part of traditional religious attire worn continuously in public. In both cases, make sure your full face is visible in the photo.
  • Headphones or hands-free wireless devices.

You can wear jewelry and keep facial piercings if they don’t hide your face. Permanent tattoos are acceptable for passport purposes.

If you need more information, the U.S. State Department offers a comprehensive photo guide with examples of good and bad photos.

3. Calculate Fees

Make sure you know how much you need to pay for your passport renewal so you can include the correct amount. You can review the current passport fee structure, and the U.S. State Department also offers a fee calculator.

Payment must be made using a check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of State,” and you should print your full name and date of birth on the front. Cash and credit cards are not accepted for payment.

4. Mail Completed Application

When you have your materials together, it’s time to mail in your application. Remember to do the following:

  • Use an envelope large enough to fit the application without folding it. USPS Priority Mail Express® and Priority Mail® services both provide free envelopes large enough to hold your application.
  • Include your application form, supporting documentation, current passport, passport photo and payment.
  • Address the envelope to the correct location for your state as indicated on page 2 of your DS-82 form and send.

5. Track Your Application Status

Depending on the method you use to mail in your passport, you typically should be able to track the envelope to ensure delivery. Once you have confirmed that your application has arrived, you can call 877-487-2778 or request a status update online after 7 to 10 business days.

Steps to Renew Your Passport in Person

If you do not meet the criteria to renew your passport by mail, you’ll need to submit your application in person at an approved passport acceptance facility.

1. Gather Your Documents

Before you arrive to renew your passport in person, you’ll typically need to gather the following documents:

  • Passport Renewal Application Form DS-11 from the U.S. State Department website.
    You can fill out the form in advance but DO NOT SIGN THE FORM. Your signature needs to be witnessed by an authorized agent at the acceptance facility.
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship.
  • Current ID.
  • Photo.

2. Provide Evidence of U.S. Citizenship

The process also typically requires that you submit one of the following to prove that you are a U.S. citizen:

  • A fully valid, undamaged U.S. passport (it’s OK if it is expired).
  • U.S. birth certificate that meets the following requirements:
    • Issued by the city, county or state of birth.
    • Lists your full name, date of birth and place of birth.
    • Lists your parent(s)’ full names.
    • Has the date filed with registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth).
    • Has the registrar’s signature.
    • Has the seal of the issuing authority.
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or certification of birth.
  • Certificate of naturalization.
  • Certificate of citizenship.

The document you submit to pro.ve citizenship must be either an original or certified physical copy. A certified copy is any document that has the seal or stamp of the official issuing authority. Digital evidence such as a scan or photo will not be accepted.

In addition to the original, bring a photocopy of your proof of citizenship to include with your application. Make sure that the photocopies are legible, printed on white 8.5"x11" standard paper, black and white, and single-sided.

3. Current ID and Photo

You’ll also need to bring proof of identity. For a complete list of acceptable forms of ID, check the U.S. State Department website. If you can’t provide any of the listed forms of ID, you’ll need to submit at least two of the following:

  • Out-of-state driver’s license or enhanced driver’s license with photo.
  • Learner’s or temporary driver’s permit (without a photo).
  • In-state, fully valid non-driver ID (without a photo).
  • Out-of-state, non-driver ID.
  • Temporary driver’s license (without a photo).
  • Social Security card.
  • Voter registration card.
  • Employee work ID.
  • Student ID.
  • School yearbook with identifiable photograph.
  • Selective Service (draft) card.
  • Medicare or other health card.
  • Expired driver’s license.
  • Form DS-71, for an identifying witness (these are only available at an acceptance facility or a passport agency).

Some states now issue digital ID documents (also known as mobile driver’s licenses or mobile IDs). These digital IDs are not currently acceptable forms of ID when applying for a U.S. passport.

If your name has changed, you’ll also need to present any documentation outlining your name change. Don’t forget a photo. It should meet all the criteria listed on the U.S. State Department website.

4. Determine Special Circumstances

If any of the following apply to you, you may have additional requirements for your passport application, such as additional documentation or having a parent or guardian present when you apply. Please see the relevant U.S. State Department webpage for more information.

5. Schedule an Appointment

Once you have all your documentation, you’ll need to bring everything to your local acceptance facility. Remember that most facilities have set hours, so it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment. For the post office, you can use the online retail customer appointment scheduler or a lobby self-service kiosk. For other facilities, call in advance to make an appointment.

6. Pay Passport Acceptance and Processing Fees

In addition to the passport application fee that you need to pay to the U.S. State Department, you’ll need to pay an additional processing fee at the acceptance facility. While the application fee must be paid using a check or money order, you can usually pay the processing fee using a credit card or other payment method accepted by the acceptance facility.

Remember that fees may be subject to change, so check with your acceptance facility in advance.

7. Submit Application and Start Tracking Status

Once you’ve submitted your application at the acceptance facility, you can request a status update 7 to 10 business days after you submit your application. You can do this using the U.S. State Department website or by calling 877-487-2778.

Frequently Asked Questions About Renewing Passports


Traveling Soon? Consider Travel Insurance

Now that you have your passport, you’re ready to travel. Or are you? While your new passport will get you through the airport and customs and serve as a helpful form of ID overseas, you may want to consider getting travel insurance for your trip. Travel insurance can help take the stress out of travel by providing you with cancellation and interruption insurance in the event of weather, natural disaster, strike, illness, traffic accidents or job reasons. It can also help cover unexpected medical and evacuation expenses, and typically can cover your costs if your baggage is lost, delayed or stolen.

So, don’t wait. Whatever your travel plans may be, make sure you’re protected with travel insurance.

Contact your local independent agent to get a travel insurance quote today.

1 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html and https://traveltips.usatoday.com/benefits-passport-39909.html
2 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/have-passport.html
3 https://traveltips.usatoday.com/soon-can-renew-expiring-passport-33623.html
4 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/photos.html and https://www.smartertravel.com/take-your-own-passport-photos/
5 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/have-passport/renew.html
6 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/fees.html and https://www.usps.com/international/passports.htm
7 https://www.uspassporthelpguide.com/passport-renewal/#:~:text=It%20is%20important%20to%20know,your%20application%20in%20for https://www.uspassporthelpguide.com/passport-renewal/#:~:text=It%20is%20important%20to%20know,your%20application%20in%20for%20renewal and https://www.usa.gov/passport

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