There’s a lot of information out there regarding what to know about when you’re applying for a U.S. passport for the first time, which can be a daunting process. But in some ways, renewing your passport can be just as complicated.
Passports are typically valid for 10 years for those ages 16 and older, and for 5 years for children ages 15 and younger. After it expires, you’ll need to renew. And while many people only renew a passport when it has or is about to expire, that’s not the only reason to do so. You might also want to renew your passport if it’s lost or stolen, if you’ve changed your name or gender, if you need to correct an error, or if you’ve simply run out of visa pages.
With some advance preparation, you can streamline the process and keep it free of any potential roadblocks. Here’s what you’ll need to know if your passport is up for renewal.
Can I renewed my passport online?
In December 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order stating that the government would make it possible for Americans to renew their passports securely online. Since then, the administration has opened an online portal three times for groups of 25,000 applicants to test the functionality of the program on a first-come, first-serve basis (the portal is currently closed).
The goal is to open the portal to all Americans sometime in 2023. But until then, you’ll still need to complete the process by mail.
What form(s) do I need to renew a passport?
To start, you’ll need to print and fill out the U.S. Department of State’s Form DS-82 ,titled “U.S. Passport Renewal Application For Eligible Individuals.”
However, there are a few situations where you wouldn’t be able to apply by mail, including if your last passport was lost or stolen, if it was issued to you prior to when you were 16, or if it was issued more than 15 years ago. If that’s the case, you’ll also need to fill out form DS-11, titled “Application For a U.S. Passport,” and will have to apply in person at a passport acceptance facility, which include designated post offices, public libraries, clerk of court offices, or other government offices (you can find the one closest to you on the U.S. Department of State website).
If your last passport had limited validity (less than a decade for adults) or if you are correcting a passport error, there’s another form for that, DS-5504. This is also the form for changing your name within a year of having your passport issued. If your name changed due to marriage after more than a year since your passport was issued, use form DS-82 and submit proof of identification showing your married name. Special forms are also necessary for reporting a lost or stolen passport or one that never successfully arrived to your address by mail.
What else do I need to submit?
In addition to the correct form or forms, you’ll need two recent color passport photos, which cannot be more than six months old. Typically, drugstores, shipping centers (such as UPS and FedEx stores), and photography stores can snap passport photos in front of a white background and print them out for you in the correct dimensions (two inches by two inches in size). Neither wearing glasses nor using touch-up software (like filters) is permitted. A “natural smile” (or none at all) is required, and selfies do not qualify (however, you can have a friend or family member take a close-up photo of you, provided it meets all the requirements in regards to expression, pose, and appearance). Keep the photos in mint condition as those that are damaged or worn could be refused.
Send your old passport (or proof of citizenship) with the renewal documents. This means that you cannot travel outside the country while you are awaiting your new passport, unless you qualify for a second U.S. passport. You might want to consider one if you travel internationally frequently, especially to countries that require visas. A second passport allows you to travel while your other one is being processed—and lets you avoid paying expediting fees.
How much does it cost to renew a passport?
An adult passport book renewal costs $130, while an optional passport card costs an additional $30. A passport card can be used as identification for domestic air travel and also at land and sea ports of entry from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico. It can’t, however, be substituted for a passport when traveling by air to international destinations.
Children under 16 pay $100 for a passport book, but there’s a separate administrative fee of $35 (passport processing is funded mostly by users, not the U.S. government).
How long does it take to get a passport renewed?
According to the Department of State, a routine processing time for a passport renewal is six to nine weeks.
What is the quickest I can renew a passport?
You can apply for an expedited passport renewal, which brings the wait time down to three to five weeks. But there are some stipulations. You need to have the passport in your possession (to submit with your application), that passport must be undamaged, issued when you were age 16 or older, issued within the last 15 years, and issued to your current name.
There’s also an additional fee for this fast-track service —$60 plus shipping. You can also apply for a rushed passport through an expediting service like RushMyPassport.com, which can help address any potential pitfalls. Third-party agencies will tack on their own fees but will also ensure that everything is in order on your behalf.
If you live near a passport acceptance facility, you can apply in person, which would be faster because you eliminate the transit time for documents.
Can I renew a passport if it has expired?
You can renew your passport at any time while it is valid or up to five years after it has expired. After that time frame, you must apply for a new one.
What if I have a trip coming up?
Many countries require that your passport have six months of validity remaining from the date you enter the country. This helps to avoid any issues if you stay longer and are left without a valid passport to use upon departure. While this requirement is not applicable to all countries, it is a good rule of thumb and many airlines may deny boarding at the U.S. point of departure for this reason. Keep an eye on the date of six months before expiration so that you can begin the renewal process before then in case you have upcoming travel.
If you must travel in a hurry or due to an emergency, and your passport is valid for less than six months, contact your airline or travel agent to see if you can use your existing passport. If that fails, try expediting the passport renewal.
What else should I know about renewing a passport?
Any time you send away important personal documents, it is a good idea to snap a photo of each in case you need to report something missing in the mail.
And once you have a new passport, don’t forget to update your Global Entry, where your Trusted Traveler information is stored, as well as any other expedited screening programs tied to your passport number (like NEXUS). You might have a shiny new passport, but without updating your information, you’ll be stuck in the regular security lines.