You Should Renew Your Passport Sooner Than You Might Think—Here’s Why

Typically U.S. passports are valid for 10 years (or 5 for children under 16)

Hand holding a U.S. passport

Do you know when your passport expiration date is?

Photo by Levi Ventura/Unsplash

Whether you’re planning a vacation, embarking on a business trip, or seeking to explore the globe, your U.S. passport serves as your ticket to foreign lands. But before you book that next airline ticket, there’s something you should do first: Double-check that your passport isn’t about to expire—or, worse yet, already has.

How long is a U.S. passport good for?

A standard adult U.S. passport issued to those over 16 years of age is generally valid for 10 years from the date of issue (or renewal), which is printed on the data page of your passport, along with full name, place of birth, and passport number. For those under the age of 16, passports are valid for just 5 years.

Can you renew your passport before it expires?

Yes, according to the State Department, your passport does not need to be expired (or close to expiring) to be renewed. In fact, there are several scenarios where you might want or need to renew sooner.

For one, roughly 75 countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date, which effectively shortens the valid travel period to nine and a half years for those planning to visit those areas in the dwindling months of their passport’s lifespan. If your passport doesn’t meet this requirement, you may face entry denial or complications during your travels.

Similarly, some countries require that your passport have between one and three completely blank visa pages (where the stamps go). That depends entirely on the territory—each country has its own rules. Countries like Canada and Morocco only require one page, whereas Germany and South Africa demand two, and Botswana and Zambia say three is necessary. Just two countries, Brunei and Namibia, require six. For reference, a standard 28-page passport has 17 blank pages for visa stamps, whereas the nonstandard 52-page book has 43 pages. So, prolific travelers might see the length of their passports’ validity considerably shortened by having too few remaining pages. According to the Department of State, some airlines will not allow you to board an international flight if that requirement is not met.

How long are passport applications and renewals taking right now?

Typically, processing times can take between six to eight weeks for a standard application. However, as of September 2023, wait times are between 10 to 13 weeks, due to a backlog of applications. Both new passports and renewals are impacted, and that wait time doesn’t include the time it takes to mail documents on either end. Even expedited passports are taking longer. The processing time for expedited passport service is now 7 to 9 weeks, up from the 3 to 5 weeks in normal times.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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