If your US passport has expired or has less than 8 months left on it, it’s time to renew it! I am going to explain how to renew your US passport step-by-step and avoid common mistakes. Let’s dive in and get your new passport!

Renewing your passport is much easier than getting it for the first time. If this is your first time ever applying for a US passport, check out this article, but if you are renewing, keep on reading.

When to apply

Most countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months before they’ll let you in. So, you should renew your passport at least 7 months before it expires. To be safe, I would recommend starting the process 8 months before it expires.

Unless you are traveling in the next few weeks and need a new passport urgently, you do not need to apply in person and can renew your passport by mail.

Where / how to renew your passport

If you live outside the U.S., you have to renew your passport at a U.S. embassy or consulate. This article will focus on renewing your passport from the U.S.

To renew by mail, you have to meet the following criteria, which most people do.

  1. Your current passport is not damaged
  2. It was issued when you were 16 or older
  3. It was issued in the last 15 years
  4. It was issued in your current name and if it wasn’t, you have legal proof of a name change

If your passport has expired, but was issued in the last 15 years, you can still apply by mail. Any older than that and you’ll have to apply for your new passport in person using Form DS-11.

If you meet these criteria, there are 3 steps to renewing your US passport by mail (from the U.S.).

  1. Complete Form DS-82, U.S. Passport Renewal Application
  2. Gather your supporting documents and payment
  3. Mail your form, payment & supporting documents

Filling out Form DS-82

You can access form DS-82 here. You will see two options –  the online “Form Filler” which lets you complete the form online, but you still have to print it out and mail it. Or if you prefer to fill it by hand, click on “PDF” and it will take to you to a blank form that you can print out.

The form itself is fairly straight-forward. At the very top, you will see an option to pick between a “Passport Book” or “Passport Card”. For most people, a Passport Book is more than sufficient. A Passport Card can only be used for land or sea travel, so unless you live near the border and are going back and forth frequently, you won’t be able to use a Passport Card for travel. Next you’ll seen an option to book between a “Regular Book” or “Large Book.”  A large book simply has more pages and does not cost extra. If you travel a lot, I would recommend getting the passport book with extra pages so you don’t run out of pages quickly.

The rest of the form asks for basic information such as your name, address, most recent passport number, etc. If your name has changed, you will have the opportunity to share that in one of the questions. Once you complete the form, be sure to sign and date on page 1.

Documents to send with Form DS-82

You must send the following with your completed application:

1.) Your most recent passport – it will be mailed back to you but don’t be alarmed if it’s not in the same package as your new passport. It usually comes in a separate mailing.

2.) One colored passport photo – The easiest thing to do is to go to a CVS, Duane Reade, Walmart, Walgreens or wherever they do passport photos near you because they know exactly what the requirements are. If you wear glasses, make sure to take them off for the photo and generally, you do not smile for a passport photo. Then, staple the photo to the application.

3.) If your name has changed, you need to send a certified copy of one of the following:

  1. Marriage certificate
  2. Divorce Decree
  3. Court-ordered name change document

Your proof of name change document will be mailed back to you, but it will not be in the same package as your new passport. It will come separately in a second mailing.

How much does it cost? How long will my new passport take?

Now let’s talk money and timelines. As of today, the department of state site says Standard processing time is 6-8 weeks, and if you chose to expedite it, it will take 2-3 weeks. If you need it even faster than that, there is a way to do that. More information about that can be found here.

A passport book currently costs $110. If you choose not to expedite your passport this is all you pay. If you choose to expedite it, add another $60. For standard delivery, you don’t pay anything but if you want them to use 1-2 day delivery, add another $17.13 to your total.  You pay this with a check (personal, certified, cashier’s, traveler’s) or money order, which you will include in the application package that you are going to mail out. Make the check or money order payable to the “U.S. Department of State”. Print your full name and date of birth on the front of the check or money order. Passport fees don’t change very often, but you can check the latest fees by using the official fee calculator.

Mailing your passport renewal application

Now, you are ready to mail your completed application. At the bottom of Form DS 82, you will see 3 mailing addresses. The first two are for standard processing – pick the address that corresponds with the state you live in. If you are expediting your application, there is a third address labeled “Expedite” (regardless of what state you live in).

You must use the United States Postal Service (USPS) to mail your passport application and make sure it’s trackable. Just tell the post office you need a tracking number and they’ll know which method to use. Do not use delivery services like Fedex! If you chose to expedite it, you need to write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the mailing envelope. Make sure the envelope is large enough that you don’t have to fold the application. Do not bend your application!

Once you get your new passport, your passport number will be different than that on your old passport. So if you have Global Entry or anything else linked to your passport number be sure to log in and change the number in there! Happy traveling!

*The content and materials available via Ask Ellis are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice

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