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How To Renew Your Passport

While the initial process of applying for a passport can be a bit time consuming, renewing your passport (when the time comes) should be much easier. The key is knowing the proper steps to take, making sure you have an updated passport photo, and preparing for the renewal fee. Because lead times for renewals can be lengthy, it’s also a good idea to begin the renewal process sooner rather than later—especially if you have an upcoming international trip planned.

Does Your Passport Require Renewal?

In the United States, passports are generally valid for 10 years before they will require renewal. If you were under 16 years old when your passport was issued, however, you will need to renew after five years instead of the standard 10.

If you’re not sure when your passport was issued, you can find the issue and expiration date directly on your passport (or passport card) itself. If your passport is due for renewal in the next six months, it’s a good idea to start the process now to avoid delays. And keep in mind that if you’ll be traveling internationally before your passport is set to expire, some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport has less than three months’ validity remaining.

Renewing A Passport By Mail

Renewing your passport via snail mail is by far the most convenient option, since it saves you the hassle of visiting a regional passport office. Unfortunately, online renewal of United States passports is not currently available.

You may be eligible to renew your passport via mail if:

  • you were at least 16 when you received it
  • it was issued in the past 15 years
  • it is issued in your current legal name
  • it isn’t damaged and has never been lost/stolen

Renewing your passport by mail is simple enough. You’ll need to begin by filling out a DS-82 form, which will require you to enter some personal information, including your current passport number and social security number. Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to mail it in along with your current passport and your renewal fee. When your application is processed and approved, a new passport will be sent to you. Your existing passport will also be returned to you (likely in a separate mailing) but will no longer be valid.

If your name has changed since the last time you were issued a passport, you’ll also need to include documentation of your name change. For example, if your name changed due to marriage, you’ll need to include a marriage certificate along with your DS-82 application.

Renewing A Passport In Person

If you don’t meet the criteria to renew your passport via snail mail, you’ll need to visit a regional passport office to renew in-person. Renewal offices can be found in or near most major cities.

In order to apply for a passport renewal in-person, you’ll need the following documentation:

  • proof of current United States citizenship
  • completed DS-11 application form
  • form of identification (such as driver’s license or state ID)

Depending on your reasoning for not being able to apply for renewal via mail, additional documentation may also be required. Your renewal/application fee will also be due at the time of your application at a regional office, so be sure to bring an accepted form of payment.

It is also recommended that you contact the regional office where you plan on renewing before you arrive; some offices may require an appointment.

Passport Photo Requirements

One of the biggest mistakes people make when submitting an application to renew a passport is sending in a passport photo that doesn’t meet current passport photo requirements and specifications. Some of the most important guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to taking a passport photo include:

  • glasses cannot be worn
  • photos must be in color
  • photos much be 2×2 inches in size
  • head must be completely facing the camera
  • no hats/head coverings allowed (with religious exceptions)

One of the most complicated guidelines to follow when taking an updated passport photo is that the top of the head must be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin.

If any of these guidelines are not carefully followed, your passport renewal application could be denied and you’ll have to re-submit it with a corrected photo. Generally, the best way to avoid photo issues is to have your new passport picture taken at a local photo center that specializes in passport photos. Many pharmacies, for example, can take and print these for you same-day. You may pay a bit of a premium for this service, but it’s worth avoiding the hassle of taking the photo yourself. If you do decide to use a local pharmacy, check out the CVS passport photo guide.

Passport Renewal Fees

When it comes to passport renewal fees, these can vary depending on whether you’re applying for a passport card or a full passport book. An adult passport book is $110, whereas the cards are just $30. Applicants also have the option of applying for both for a total fee of $140.

When Can You Expect Your New Passport?

You can generally expect your new passport to arrive in the mail within 6 weeks from when your application is received. You can use the Department of State’s convenient application-tracking tool online to get a better idea of when your passport might arrive.

If you don’t have six weeks (or more) to wait for your new passport to arrive, there is an expedited application option you may want to consider. This expedited process can have your new passport delivered within 2-3 weeks if you apply via mail and as little as eight days when you apply in-person. Keep in mind that you will pay a hefty premium for an expedited application (typically $60)—but if you’ll be traveling internationally in the near future and your passport is set to expire soon, there’s really no avoiding this cost.

There are also some online, third-party services that specialize in expediting passport applications. Some of these services advertise that they can have passports renewed in as little as 24 hours. You’ll pay an even larger premium for this type of service—but again, it’s an option that’s available to you in a pinch.

What Else Do You Need to Know?

When it comes to renewing a passport, it’s always best to plan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your renewal application; instead, get the process rolling six months or more in advance of your passport’s expiration date. This way, you won’t be caught in a time crunch the next time you need to travel out of the country.

Also keep in mind that some countries will require you to obtain a visa in addition to showing your passport in order to gain entry. The process of applying for a visa is completely separate from that of obtaining or renewing a passport.

With a bit of time and planning, you can renew your passport in-person or via snail mail pretty easily. From there, you’ll be ready for whatever travel adventures may lie ahead with a nice passport holder!

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