How to get a passport renewed

Full adult passports expire every ten years. For minors, they expire after five years. There are also some more limited passports that expire after less than ten years. After that they all need to be renewed.

Regular adult passports that were issued less than fifteen years ago are the easiest to renew. Unless they have been destroyed, lost, otherwise seriously compromised or the passport holder is outside the United States, these passports can be renewed through the mail. Renewal forms for limited, damaged and children’s passports need to be turned in to an acceptance facility. All U.S. passports can be renewed at a Passport Agency.

Following the requirements for passport renewal can speed the process. The items required for renewal are one photo of the applicant, a completed copy of the correct renewal form, proof of change in name if applicable and the required fees. Children’s passports also require proof of parental consent, proof of identity for parents or legal guardians and a photocopy of that ID. For renewal by mail the most recent passport must also be included, and the correct form is DS-82.

In 2011 the fee for renewing a passport book by mail was $110, with passport cards available for $30, or both for $140. The fee for renewing a minor’s passport was $80 for the book, $15 for the card, and $95 for both. Renewing in person adds an extra $25 fee, which is paid separately at acceptance facilities. An additional fee of $60 is charged for all expedited passports, which includes those renewed in person at a Passport Agency. Checks and money orders are accepted for renewal by mail, payable to the “Department of State”. Some acceptance facilities also take cash, and Passport Agencies can accept payment by credit card.

The photograph included with a renewal application has to meet strict guidelines. The photo must be in color, against an off-white or white background, taken within six months of applying and exactly two inches by two inches square. Applicants must face directly at the camera, and may not wear anything on the face which is not medically necessarily. Religious head coverings are allowed, but cannot cover or cause shadows on the face. All other head coverings are prohibited.

People who are not in the United States, but still need to renew a U.S. passport should go to the nearest Embassy or Consulate. The requirements are the same as for any other renewal, though some posts may require applicants to make an appointment. These renewals take an average of one week, though the time may vary. Embassies and Consulates accept fees paid in cash using US dollars or the equivalent in local currency.

People with expired passports who are traveling in less than two weeks should make an appointment with the nearest Passport Agency. These offices also handle emergency renewals. Appointments are free, though the expedited application fee of $60 will be charged. For those with immediate international travel plans, renewals are sometimes processed overnight.

In addition to going in person, there are companies that will renew passports for a fee. For people travelling in less than two weeks who cannot travel to a Regional Passport Agency office, this can be a very useful service. All forms and information still need to be included with the renewal application, along with a check or money order for the fee. The company will then courier the application to an Agency office, pick it up when ready, and return it to the applicant. This service can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of renewing a passport, which may be more or less than the cost of going in person.

For those who meet the requirements, though, the best and most affordable option is to renew by mail. When that isn’t possible, renewing sooner is always better than waiting until later.

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