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The Easiest Way to Renew a U.S. Passport

US News & World Report - Travel logo US News & World Report - Travel 6/14/2022 Gwendolyn Shearman
U.S. passport for traveling © (Getty Images) U.S. passport for traveling

People are traveling internationally again thanks to loosened COVID-19 restrictions around the globe. With a bolstered interest in travel abroad comes a surge in demand for renewing the dust-laden passports that quietly expired over the past few years.

Even if your passport is still valid, you should double-check that it's not set to expire anytime soon: In many countries, visitors' passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you intend to return to the U.S. You can check with the U.S. Department of State's website for information on specific countries.

The easiest way to renew a U.S. passport

The State Department recently announced travelers will have the option to renew their passports online by early 2023. In preparation for this change, volunteers are invited to take part in a pilot program for online passport renewals. The State Department accepted thousands of volunteers for the program in August and September, and will be looking for more volunteers in the coming months. Keep an eye on this page for updates if you are interested in participating.

Otherwise, there are two ways to handle an expired passport renewal: by mail or in person. The simplest method for renewing your passport is by mail, so you don't have to attend an in-person appointment. To complete the process by mail, however, you must meet a few requirements; in some instances you may have no choice but to renew your passport in person.

Read on to learn what to expect when renewing your passport by mail or in person, along with answers to some of the most common questions around expired passport renewals.

  • How to renew your passport by mail
  • How to renew your passport in person
  • Do I need a birth certificate to renew my passport?
  • U.S. passport photo requirements
  • How to renew a minor's passport
  • How to renew a passport when your name changes
  • What is the passport renewal fee?
  • How long does it take to renew a passport?
  • How to expedite a passport renewal

Renew your passport by mail

If you have an expired or expiring passport in your possession that was issued when you were at least 16 years old and within the past 15 years, you can renew your passport by mail as long as it's relatively undamaged. You'll need to submit the following documentation:

  • Form DS-82: Complete the DS-82 renewal application.
  • Existing passport: You will need to send your current U.S. passport, but if you're someone who likes to look back fondly at all of your passport stamps, don't worry – you should receive the original passport back with your new one.
  • Passport photo: Include a new photo that meets passport requirements (outlined in more detail below).
  • Check or money order: Payment must be made with either a check or money order payable to the "U.S. Department of State," on the front of which you'll print the full name and date of birth of the applicant. You cannot pay online or send cash at this time.

You can mail all your materials – including your old passport and any name change documents – in a large envelope through the U.S. Postal Service to one of the National Passport Processing Center's designated P.O. boxes; the address varies depending on what state you live in and whether you choose expedited or routine service. Note that if you use a delivery method other than USPS, your application will be returned to you without being processed

Renew your passport in person

If your passport has been damaged, lost or stolen; was issued before you turned 16; or is more than 15 years old, you need to renew it in person with the following documentation:

  • Form DS-11: You can fill out the DS-11 passport application online or by hand, but don't sign the form until an authorized agent instructs you to do so.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship: This evidence can take the form of an original or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a Certificate of Naturalization, a Certificate of Citizenship or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, among certain other options. Aside from the physical proof, you must also bring a photocopy for the State Department to keep.
  • Identification document: Your government-issued photo ID can be a driver's license, a government employee or military ID, a valid foreign passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, a Certificate of Citizenship or another form of ID deemed acceptable by the State Department. Just as with the citizenship proof, you have to make a photocopy of your photo ID too.
  • Passport photo: See the next section for details on U.S. passport photo requirements.
  • Form of payment: If you're renewing your passport in person, you can using certain credit or debit cards, checks or money orders payable to "U.S. Department of State," or cash (as long as it's the exact amount).

Where to renew a passport: Once you've gathered all your materials, you can make an appointment to visit a passport acceptance facility near you. Facilities can range from designated post office locations to public libraries to other government offices. Some passport acceptance facilities include on-site photo facilities as well.

Do I need a birth certificate to renew my passport?

No, but if you can't supply a birth certificate, you must be able to provide either a valid, undamaged passport; a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth; a Certificate of Naturalization; or a Certificate of Citizenship. If your state issued a birth abstract (a summary of your birth record), you can submit it as long as it meets the requirements outlined by the U.S. Department of State.

If you cannot provide any of the above, you will need to submit secondary citizenship evidence such as a delayed birth certificate or a Letter of No Record, plus form DS-10 and early public records like a baptism certificate or doctor's record of postnatal care. Consult the state department for other early examples of early public records you can use.

U.S. passport photo requirements

Unless you make an appointment at a passport acceptance facility that is equipped to take passport photos, plan to provide a high-resolution photo taken in the last six months whether you complete the process by mail or in person.

Photo specs: The photo should be in color and measure 2 by 2 inches. If you're taking the picture at home, stand in front of a plain white or off-white background that's well-lit. You will need to have someone else snap the photo, as selfies are not permitted.

Clothing: Glasses are not permitted in photos, nor is any attire that resembles a uniform. It's best to wear plain, everyday clothing. Hats and head coverings aren't allowed in passport photos, unless you sign a statement verifying they are worn as part of a recognized religious practice or provide a written doctor's note confirming they're for a medical purpose.

Expression: Your head should be centered, in full view and facing forward. Pose with a neutral expression or natural smile (don't show your teeth) and ensure your eyes are open.

Where to get a passport photo: If you're confident you can follow the guidelines and want to take your photo at home, you can then either print it yourself on matte or glossy photo paper or upload it to a passport photo printing service (offered by CVS, Target, Walmart and others). Otherwise, a passport photo can be easily obtained for a fee from select post offices, shipping stores, passport acceptance facilities, and even big box stores and major drugstores (including the same ones that offer printing services).

How to renew a minor's passport

Technically, you cannot "renew" a passport for a child younger than age 16. Instead, you must reapply using the same in-person process you went through to acquire their first passport. For a list of step-by-step instructions and required documentation for minors, see How to Get a U.S. Passport for Your Child. If your child is at least 16 years of age, however, you can renew their passport using the methods detailed above.

How to renew a passport when your name changes

If your name has changed since your last passport was issued, you'll need to provide documentation – such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order – that serves as proof of the name change. This requirement applies whether you choose to renew your passport by mail or in person.

What is the passport renewal fee?

As of 2022, the renewal fee for an adult passport book is $130. The State Department's fee calculator provides additional information on passport fees.

How long does it take to renew a passport?

Routine processing times for expired passport renewals range from eight to 11 weeks, beginning when the center or agency receives your application to renew your passport, according to the U.S. Department of State. Sometimes the process can take less time, but don't count on it.

How to expedite a passport renewal

If you're in a rush to renew your passport, you can pay for expedited service, which means the processing time will be reduced to between five and seven weeks. To expedite your passport by mail, clearly write "EXPEDITE" on the outside of the envelope. Be sure to submit payment for the $60 expediting fee with your application; if you also want to request the fastest return shipping (which takes one or two days), you'll need to pay $18.32 on top of that.

If you have a life-or-death emergency that requires your passport to be renewed in days or urgent international travel plans necessitating a passport within two weeks, you'll need to make an appointment with a regional passport agency.

Also an option is a service such as RushMyPassport, touting easy, expedited service in a little as one week (though they can come at a hefty fee). RushMyPassport recently joined forces with AAA Travel, so if you're a member of AAA, you can take advantage of exclusive rates on expedited passport renewals.

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