Need to renew your passport? Here’s what you should to know

If you’re wanting to renew your passport, there are several items to organize ahead of time. With some planning, you’ll have your new passport and be ready to explore the world in no time! Here are the top things to know.

How do I submit an application? This depends on several factors. First, check if you’re eligible to apply by mail. In order to do this, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Passport was issued in the last 15 years
  • Passport was issued under your current name
  • You were over the age of 16 when you received your passport
  • Passport is undamaged, has not been stolen, last (and later found) or mutilated

As long as you can say “yes” to all of these questions, you can download, print and fill out the correct form and begin gathering the additional paperwork. If you cannot answer “yes” to all of the questions you’ll need to apply in person at a passport processing center.

Paperwork needed. You’ve filled out the application, now it’s time to gather the paperwork. Getting this right the first time is critical. Even under expedited processing, you’ll lose time if there’s an error with paperwork. In order to complete a passport renewal, you’ll need to provide:

  • A completed DS-82 form
  • Your current passport (don’t worry about all the beautiful visa stamps you’ve accumulated: you’ll get it back!)
  • Name-change certificates if your name is different from what is printed on your current passport (a marriage certificate, for example)
  • An acceptable passport photo (more on that below)
  • A check made out to the “U.S. Department of State” and with the full name and birth date of the applicant written on the front, to cover the fee – starting at $110 for adults.

Once you’ve gathered all the required items, you’re ready to drop them in the mail! Without folding them, place everything in a large envelope. When mailing it, make sure to purchase tracking so you know when it arrives. The address is listed on the DS-82 form. Because the address is a PO box, you should only send it via U.S. mail (not FedEx, UPS, etc.).

Photo. Passport photo requirements are strict and improper photos are the main reason applications are denied. Here are the protocols that must be followed:

  • The photo must be 2×2 inches (50×50 mm)
  • The photos must be in color, taken in the last 6 months
  • The background must be white or off-white
  • Your face needs to be looking directly into the camera, your eyes must be opened (except for infants) and the expression needs to be natural (smiling is acceptable)
  • The face must be 1-1 3/8 inches (25-35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
  • No glasses (unless a signed statement of medical condition from a healthcare provider is included), no hats and no head coverings (unless they are worn for religious reasons

If you are taking the photo at home (with the help of someone else, no selfies), we highly recommend the Department of State’s photo tool which will help determine if your photo is acceptable. You can also get a photo taken at many office/shipping centers, pharmacies and retail stores.

Processing times. The good news is that processing times are significantly shorter than they were during the COVID era. As of June 2024, standard processing is estimated at 6-8 weeks. For an additional $60 fee, you can get expedited processing which currently is estimated at 2-3 weeks. It’s always a good idea to build in extra time before your trip, however, in the event of unexpected delays.

Emergency situations. If you need a passport renewed quickly, we’ve heard of clients calling their U.S. representative or senator to have them contact the passport office. This has worked in some cases and not in others. If you need a passport for life-or-death emergencies or urgent travel within 72 hours, there are limited options for getting a passport quickly but you must make an appointment and show up in-person to a designated passport processing center. 

Online renewal. Note that as of June 2024, the U.S. State Department is unrolling online passport renewal for a limited time. Here’s what you need to know on online renewals; there are pros and cons, but basically you save the hassle of dealing with the mail. 

Other options. If you’re craving a vacation but don’t want to renew your passport right now, let’s work together on booking an amazing U.S. getaway! There are still many options that don’t require a passport including Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Alaska.

Preparing the documents to renew your passport can seem like a hassle, but with some planning you can get your passport renewed and be ready to explore the world!

About Denise

My goal is to simplify travel-planning through an equal exchange process where I acquire your ideas and expectations for your trip relieving you of the worry, hassle, stress and time that accompanies Do-It-Yourself planning.

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