Passport Renewal: Everything American Travelers Need to Know
The passport renewal process can feel daunting. But, it doesn’t have to. While it’s not quite “simple” (is anything with the U.S. government?), it’s actually pretty straightforward. You just need to understand the required paperwork, the costs involved, and — above all else — exercise a little patience. Here’s the low-down …
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Passport Renewal for U.S. / American Travelers
Before Renewing Your Passport: Guidelines & Considerations
A good rule of thumb is to always ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date you enter a foreign country. In the event that there are any issues with overstaying your welcome (or your visa), this provides a bit of “cushion.” This isn’t true for every country, but it’s a safe bet that I personally swear by. So, if the expiration date on your passport is less than six months away, now is a good time to renew. Especially if you’re eyeing any upcoming trips.
Be warned that any travel visa(s) currently attached to your passport will be voided, so plan your trip accordingly.
Step #1: Get the Correct Passport Renewal Forms & Documentation
If you’re applying in person (much easier since the clerk can verify you have all the correct paperwork), however, you’ll need Form DS-11. You’ll also need this same form in any of these cases:
This is is your first passport
Your last passport was lost or stolen
Your previous passport was issued more than 15 years ago
Your last passport was issued prior to age 16
You’ll Also Need …
Your old passport
The appropriate passport renewal fee (see below)
An envelope and stamps if renewing by mail
All applicants, whether renewing their passport or applying for a new one, also need two color passport-sized photos that meet these requirements:
They must not be more than 6 months old
They must be taken in front of a plain white background
You cannot be wearing glasses or sunglasses
No touchup software (i.e. Photoshopping or Snapchat) is allowed
You can only smile “naturally” or not at all
No selfies allowed
The photos must be in pristine condition (no folds, stains, or tears)
These are available at most convenience stores, pharmacies, or photography stores. Here in the United States, AAA also offers passport photography services to members.
Because you’ll need to temporarily surrender your existing passport, that means you won’t be able to travel internationally while your passport renewal is being processed. You can, however, get a second U.S. passport assuming you qualify. If you frequently travel internationally, this is a great option that will allow you to continue to travel while your passport renewal is being processed.
Step #2: Renew Your Passport
Regardless of whether you choose to renew your passport at the post office or by mail, it’s a good idea to photocopy or take photos of all your documents. This is especially true for any original documents like your existing passport and proof-of-citizenship papers.
Online Passport Renewal
If you were hoping to renew your passport online, sadly, you’re out of luck. You can fill out the appropriate renewal form online. But it will still need to be printed, then mailed or submitted in person.
Passport Renewal at the Post Office (In-Person)
If it’s an option for you, renewing your passport in-person is almost always the best way to go. You’ll find passport renewal services at your local post office or at any official passport acceptance facility. This helps minimize transit times to mail your documents and allows you to ask the post office staff any last-minute questions you have before submitting your renewal application.
Passport Renewal By Mail
Renewing your passport by mail typically takes a few days longer. Only checks or money orders are accepted as payment; credit cards are not an option.
A few things to note before mailing in your forms:
Use a trackable delivery method like USPS Priority Mail or Certified Mail.
Use a larger envelope that can accommodate all of your paperwork without folding.
There are different mailing addresses for normal (non-expedited) and expedited services. Be sure to address the envelope to the correct address:
Standard Service (if you live in California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, or Texas)
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 640155
Irving, TX 75064-0155
Standard Service (if you live in any other state or Canada)
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90155
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155
Expedited Services(for all applicants — write EXPEDITE on the outside of the envelope):
National Passport Processing Center Post Office Box 90955 Philadelphia, PA 19190-0955
How Much Does It Cost to Renew a Passport?
Whether in-person or by mail, renewing an adult passport book costs a flat USD $110. For expedited renewal, there is an additional $60 fee plus any additional expedited shipping charges (around $15).
You can score an optional passport card for $30. However, this can be only be used as identification for some domestic travel by air, and travel by land/sea in Canada, Bermuda, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Just to be sure: while it’s a good backup, a passport card cannot be used to substitute a passport for air travel.
Step #3: Hurry Up and Wait … (But, Seriously, How Long Does It Take?)
The wait to receive your renewed passport can feel excruciating, especially if you’re itching to travel right now. But the federal government usually turns around passport applications fairly quickly. In general:
Standard passport renewals: 4-6 weeks
Expedited passport renewals: 3 weeks
Third-party passport agency: Usually 7 business days or less
These can change based on several factors, including the time of year, how busy the government is, and whether your application requires additional processing or scrutiny.
If you require guaranteed expedited service, there are third-party passport renewal services that can handle the entire process for you with lightning fast turnaround.