Guide for renewing your passport
Last updated: January 1
Planning a trip abroad can be almost as exciting as the trip itself. But before you get too deep into reserving flights, hotels, rental cars and tours, there’s one crucial detail to remember: a valid passport. It’s an essential travel document, so it must be up to date before you even begin packing your bags. Planning well in advance of its expiration is key, but you’re in the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about renewing your passport.
How to renew your passport
To be eligible for renewal, the U.S. State Department explains that you must meet all of the following criteria:
- You can submit your current passport with your application
- Your current passport is not damaged (outside of normal wear and tear)
- You never reported your passport lost or stolen
- It was issued within the last 15 years
- It was issued when you were age 16 or older
- It was issued in your current name, or you can provide the proper legal documentation as evidence of your name change
- It was not limited to less than the normal 10-year period of validity for an adult passport due to multiple passport thefts or losses, or due to issues with passport damage or mutilation
Most people can renew their passports by mail according to the United States Postal Service (USPS), as long as they’re eligible. If you’re unable to answer yes to any of the questions above, you won’t be eligible for a standard mail renewal and will need to apply in person.
What documents do you need to renew your passport?
To renew your passport, you will need several documents, including:
Most recent passport
To qualify for a passport renewal, you must include your current passport with your application. Your passport must be undamaged aside from regular wear and tear, says USPS.
Name change documents (if applicable)
If your name has been legally changed since your current passport was issued, you’ll need provide appropriate legal documentation. If it’s been less than a year since your name changed, you’ll need to complete Form DS-5504 and include an original or certified name change document (such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order), according to the U.S. Department of State. If it’s been over a year, you can use Form DS-82 by mail, or apply in-person using Form DS-11.
Your passport photo is used to help verify your identity when using your passport for travel or other purposes, explains the U.S. Department of State. Due to the importance of verifying your identity, your passport photo must follow each of these guidelines:
- Your photo must be taken in color
- The image must be 2” X 2” (your head must be 1” to 1 3/8” from the top of your head to the bottom of your chin)
- You must have a white background
- The picture must’ve been taken within the last 6 months
- Your head should be centered
- You should take the photo from about 4 feet away
- The photo cannot be blurry or grainy
- You cannot use a selfie
- You cannot use filters or retouching tools
- You cannot wear glasses
- You cannot wear hats or head coverings (except for medical or religious purposes)
When posing for your picture, look straight at the camera with a neutral expression. Your eyes should be completely open and free of “red eye”. Also, ensure you’re in front of a white wall or screen, as you cannot crop your background to make it white.
Renewal application [DS-82]
Finally, you must complete and submit your passport renewal application to the U.S. Department of State. You can find this application on travel.state.gov.
What if your passport was lost or stolen?
If your passport has been lost or stolen, follow these steps:
- Report the loss to the State Department online, by mail or in person as soon as possible to prevent identity theft.
- Once reported, the State Department will immediately cancel your passport.
- You can then apply to replace your passport by using Forms DS-64 and DS-11.
If your lost or stolen passport is expired, the U.S. State Department specifies that you do not need to report it.
How much does a passport renewal cost?
At the time this article was written, the standard cost of renewing a passport book for adults is $130, according to the U.S. Department of State. However, passport renewal fees can change over time and under certain circumstances (for instance, if you’re using an expedited service). For accurate, up-to-date information visit the State Department's Passport Fees page.
How long does it take to renew a passport?
Processing times change often based on government staffing and application volume, but the routine service currently takes between eight and 11 weeks, according to the Department of State. You can pay extra to get expedited service that takes between five and seven weeks. To be safe, begin the renewal process more than three months in advance of your travel plans. You can find up-to-date information on expected turnaround times on the U.S. State Department’s Get My Passport Fast page. Keep in mind that these estimates do not include mailing time.
Can you expedite your passport renewal?
Yes, you can expedite your renewal process by applying for the expedited renewal service. In the case of urgent international travel, you may be able to qualify for the urgent travel renewal service. There is also expedited processing for life-or-death emergencies according to the U.S. Department of State.
When should you typically renew your passport?
In general, consider renewing your passport several months before it expires, even if you don’t have travel plans. Be aware that some countries won’t accept a passport that’s expiring in six months or less.
How to check the status of your passport renewal
For tracking the status of your passport renewal, you can visit passportstatus.state.gov.
Can you renew your passport if it's already expired?
Renewing an expired passport is possible, but it must have been issued within the last 15 years and should be undamaged and in your possession. It also must have been issued in your current name or you must provide proof of your name change, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Can you renew your passport from outside of the U.S.?
If you're outside the United States, the process for renewing your passport may differ. In most countries, you must apply at a U.S embassy or consulate for all passport services according to travel.state.gov. There are a small number of countries, like Canada, where you may be eligible to access passport renewal services by mail.
Can you renew your passport at the post office?
Some U.S. post offices do offer services like guiding you through the process or taking your passport photo, however you do not need to visit the post office if you’re applying by mail. If you’re eligible for renewal you should apply with the State Department directly, according to USPS.
Can you renew your passport online?
Other passport renewal FAQs
Your passport is valid for 10 years, if you were 16 years old or older when it was issued. If you were under 16 years of age, your passport would only be valid for five years, according to the U.S. State Department.
Not necessarily. If you can provide a valid, undamaged passport, you may not need to submit a birth certificate. Other documents you may be able to provide in place of a birth certificate include a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth; a Certificate of Naturalization; or a Certificate of Citizenship, according to U.S. News. You should always consult with the U.S. Department of State to see what documents you need for renewal.
When taking a passport photo, ensure it meets the official requirements. We’ve outlined several requirements above. You can also find all the guidelines on the U.S. Department of State's website.
It depends on when your name was legally changed due to marriage, divorce or any other legal reason. If it’s been less than a year, you would use Form DS-5504. If it’s been more than one year, you’ll need to renew using Form DS-82, or Form DS-11 (for in-person renewal). Please reference the U.S. State Department’s Change or Correct a Passport page for complete details.
No, you cannot. You need a valid passport in-hand to travel internationally. When you renew your passport, your old documents become invalid, so you’ll need to wait until you receive your new passport to travel outside the U.S. It’s best to have your new passport in-hand before you start booking flights, hotels and making other travel plans. But if you do get a head start, you may want to consider travel insurance in case your passport gets delayed.
Yes, in most cases your old passport will be returned to you after the renewal process, according to the U.S. State Department. It will be marked as canceled to prevent misuse.
Renewing your passport is an important step in ensuring smooth international travel. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the process and requirements. Always refer to official sources for the most up-to-date information on passport renewal.