Having a U.S. passport is a necessary part of travelling internationally. It is important to keep yours up to date to allow you the freedom to come and go as you please. Many great travel deals, including ones we frequently share in our newsletter, save money by slashing the costs of last minute bookings. See an amazing price on a cruise a month away that you’d love to take? Make sure that waiting 6 weeks for a passport renewal isn’t what keeps you from going.
Here are some facts:
- A passport is valid for 10 years if issued when 16 years old or older, it is valid for 5 years when issued to one 15 years old and younger.
- Most countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond the completion of a trip. This varies, so check specific rules for a country you plan on entering, but a passport that “just covers” the length of your stay may actually need to be renewed first.
- Passports must have enough blank pages to accommodate entry and exit immigration stamps for each country of travel. At least one visa page in your passport is required for each visa. Frequent travellers can obtain passport books with extra pages free of charge. Even if still valid, a “full” passport must be replaced before travel.
- Last but not least, children NEED their own passport to travel abroad! Each individual citizen, including infants, must possess his or her own passport. You are not allowed to represent other members of the family inside your passport.
Obtaining or renewing a passport is not a difficult process, but a little knowledge can help make the process less stressful and make sure you get your passport in the most timely and efficient manner.
Avoid Errors When Renewing Your U.S. Passport
The easiest way to renew is by mail, however you must meet certain requirements to be permitted to do so:
- Have an undamaged passport that can be submitted with your application.
- Received your passport within the past 15 years.
- You were at least 16 years old when you were issued the passport (Children under 16 years of age must always renew in person).
- Passport has your current name, or you can provide legal documentation of your name change (ie. Marriage Certificate).
If ANY of these requirements are not met, you will have to renew in person (also the procedure for children under 16 years of age and first time passport obtainers) by making an appointment with a local authorized organization. These include certain post offices, clerk of court offices and select libraries. Visit this State Department page to find the nearest location to you. If you renew by this method the staff will walk you through the process, however you should look at this page for an idea of what to bring in terms of identification. In person renewals and first time applications follow the same guidelines.
Passport renewals by mail are available on a regular and an expedited track. For regular renewal (approximately 4-6 weeks) follow this procedure:
- Fill Out Form DS-82: Application For A U.S. Passport by Mail, available to complete by hand here or to type in and print here.
- If completing by hand, be sure to use black ink. Also be sure to sign and date the form on the first page. This is a common mistake that can delay your application.
- Submit your current passport (you will get it back, sometimes shipped separately from new passport).
- Submit one new passport photo deemed acceptable by these standards (also has a tool for scanning your own photos). Most photo shops and places that develop film can do this for a small fee. Or check out a high quality online photo source like Shutterfly which can print your passport quality photos.
- Send applicable fee (check made out to US Department of State or money order only, cash is not accepted by mail) double check here to see current passport fees, however as of October 2014, you can expect to pay $110 for a regular passport renewal, $140 for both the passport card and book and an additional $60 for expediting the process.
- Submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate or court order if your name has changed.
- Mail everything in a secure envelope. It is recommended not to fold the forms, so use a large, flat envelope and not a smaller, letter sized one. The envelope should be padded and waterproof.
Mail everything to:
National Passport Processing Center
P.O. Box 90155
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155
NOTE: Renewals by mail can only be sent to US and Canadian addresses. If living abroad you must renew in person at the nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate.
For those in a hurry, or with a trip coming up very soon, expedited passport renewal is available for an additional fee. This can get you your passport in approximately 2-3 weeks. All the instructions are the same as above, however you add an additional $60 fee for expediting, and clearly write “EXPEDITE” on the front of the envelope you mail in. The address is also different.
For expedited passport renewal, mail everything to:
National Passport Processing Center
P.O. Box 90955
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0955
Follow these instructions and you are on your way to renewing your passport. Just remember to to keep track of when yours will expire, this way you can allow adequate time for everything to process and ensure that a lapse in paperwork isn’t what keeps you from enjoying a well deserved vacation. Also check and double check your paperwork before submitting it. Use this post as a handy checklist for everything you need and it’ll be a snap. You can check the status of your renewal after submitting to make sure everything is on track.
Have a question not answered by this post? Call (877) 487-2778 to speak live with someone who can answer your questions about passport renewal.