A Guide to Renewing Your U.S. Passport
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 1-877-487-2778 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.
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 okay 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 prove 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"x 11" 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.
- Children under 16
- Children 16-17
- Previous passport was lost or stolen
- Owe over $2,500 in child support
- Requesting a sex marker change
- Official, diplomatic or other special issuance passport
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 1-877-487-2778.
Frequently Asked Questions About Renewing Passports
You should renew your passport well in advance of its expiration date. Routine service to receive your new passport takes between 10 and 12 weeks. If you need your passport sooner, paying for expedited service may allow you to receive your passport in 4 to 6 weeks. Check the U.S. State Department website for information about anticipated processing times.
There is no limit on how early you can renew your passport, but the U.S. Department of State3 suggests renewing it nine months before the expiration date. It is important to remember that some countries require passports to remain valid for up to six months after travel, and some airlines will also prevent you from boarding if you don’t meet this requirement.
Getting a passport photo taken is easier than ever. You can have your passport photo taken at:
- Photography businesses
- Drug stores with a photo department
- Print, mail and copy stores
However, a photo taken at a store does not guarantee that it will be accepted as a passport photo. Make sure your photo matches the required photo criteria.
You can take your own photo as long as it meets the image requirements.4 Selfies are not recommended; instead, ask a friend to take your photo against a white background and don’t use any filters or editing software. There are also photo apps available for both iOS and Android that will format your photo to meet the correct spacing requirements. However, even the best app can’t guarantee that your photo will be approved, so be sure to check it against the criteria before submitting.
If you’re in a rush, you can get your passport photo taken at the post office for an additional fee. Not every post office location may offer this service, so check in advance for availability and pricing.
You can renew an expired passport by mail under certain conditions:
- You have the passport and it is not damaged.
- It was issued within the last 15 years and you were at least 16 years old when the passport was issued.
- The passport was issued in your current name or you can show legal proof of your name change.
You can learn more about renewing your expired passport at Travel.State.Gov.
The best way to get current information on fees to renew a passport is by checking the U.S. State Department website. There are different fees for the following:
- Passport book
- Passport card
- Combination of passport book and passport card
In addition, fees are typically lower for children under the age of 16. In all cases, you’ll also need to pay an acceptance fee that you pay to the acceptance facility if you renew in person. If you need to get your passport renewed sooner, you can opt to pay an expediting fee.
If you are unable to present evidence of U.S. citizenship, verification of a previously issued passport or Consular Report of Birth Abroad, you may need to pay a fee for a file search to pull the proper documentation.
Passport applications CANNOT be submitted online at this time. You can visit the U.S. State Department passport website to download necessary forms such as the DS-11 or DS-82, check requirements and find answers to your questions. While there are legitimate services that can help you process your application faster, they still need to mail your application or process it at an approved facility. Avoid any service that offers to process your passport application online, as it may be fraudulent.
Standard Turnaround Time — Routine service to receive your new passport takes between 10 and 12 weeks. You can check the U.S. State Department passport website to confirm.
Expedited Service — You can pay for expedited 4-to-6 week processing by mail. You can also request and pay for expedited 3-business-day service, but you must appear in person at a passport agency. These requests are to accommodate emergencies like illness, injury or death of an immediate family member, or non-emergency urgent travel.
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
4 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/photos.html and https://www.smartertravel.com/take-your-own-passport-photos/
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%20forhttps://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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