Here's How Long It Takes to Renew a Passport

Why you should check your passport's expiration date right now.

Before booking that ticket, there's one thing you need to do right now: double-check the expiration date on your passport. Since U.S. passports are valid for up to 10 years, it's understandably easy to forget when exactly it needs to be renewed (especially if you don't use it all that often). This seemingly small detail could result in a travel disaster.

How long does it take to renew a passport?

Passport processing times can vary but according to the State Department website, you can expect to wait between six to nine weeks for routine processing and three to five weeks if you go the expedited route for a $60 fee.

If your passport's time is almost up, don't wait — start the renewal process now. You can’t travel while your renewal application is being processed, and you need to make sure your travel documents are valid for at least six months past the dates of any planned international trips.

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How do you renew your passport by mail?

If you’re an adult renewing a 10-year passport, you can do so by mail if you have access to your previous passport (you’ll have to submit it with the application), it’s undamaged, it was issued when you were 16 or older, it was issued within the last 15 years, and it’s under your current name or you have documentation of a name change.  

To renew by mail, you’ll have to fill out a DS-82 form (which comes with a $130 fee) and mail it along with your most recent passport, name change documentation (if applicable), a recent photo, and any fees in the form of a personal check or money order to a passport processing center with USPS. 

Once you’ve submitted, you can track your application status online. By mail, you’ll probably have to wait the routine six or so weeks. There is an option for expedited service for that $60 fee to get your passport within three to five weeks, and you can pay extra for one- to two-day delivery, which means that your passport will be shipped to you within one to two days after it is printed.

How do you renew your passport in person?

If you don’t meet all of the requirements to renew by mail, you can apply in person at an acceptance facility (usually a local post office, public library, or government office). You’ll need to bring a filled-out DS-11 form, evidence and a photocopy of U.S. citizenship (like a previous passport or your birth certificate), an ID and a photocopy of that ID, and a valid photo (some acceptance facilities provide photo services for an additional fee).  

For an urgent situation (like a life or death emergency) that requires an immediate renewal for international travel within 72 hours, you can make an in-person appointment at a passport agency or center. There’s also an option for urgent international travel plans within 14 calendar days that don’t involve a life-or-death emergency. For this, you’ll have to call to make an appointment at a passport agency and provide proof of your upcoming travel. 

There are passport agencies and centers in most major U.S. cities. You can use the State Department’s list of locations to find the one nearest you. Be aware that you will have to call ahead — they do not take walk-ins and you cannot make an appointment online. 

If you’re a U.S. citizen living abroad, head over to your nearest embassy or consulate and check what their process is to renew your passport. Each embassy has different procedures but you will most likely have to apply in person.    

How much does it cost to renew a passport?

There are different fees associated with applying for a passport book or card. (Note that both the book and card serve as proof of your American citizenship, however, the passport card cannot be used for international air travel, only re-entry into the U.S. by land or sea.) 

If you’re an adult (age 16 or above) you will have to pay $130 for a passport book and $30 for a card whether you're applying for the first time or renewing. Passport books and cards for kids under 16 cost $35 each.

Of course, we’ve already mentioned the $60 expedited fee, but if you want one to two-day delivery, it will cost you $18.32. Whether you’re paying by mail or in person, it’s best to submit a check (personal, certified, cashier's, or traveler's) or money order payable to the "U.S. Department of State.” Checks and money orders are widely accepted, though some places may have options to pay by card or cash.  

When should you renew your passport?

Sooner is always better when it comes to travel plans, particularly if you’re going overseas. While it’s probably best to go ahead and think about renewing a year out from the expiration date, at the very least you need to begin about three months before you plan to travel.

Remember that passport processing begins when a passport agency receives your application, not the day you apply. It may take two weeks from the day you mail your application until it’s “In Process.” Then, routine processing can take around 10 weeks, so plan for a 12-week interval until you receive your new passport. 

While the U.S. allows travelers to use a passport until the exact date listed on the front page, that's not the case for many other countries. For example, if you want to check out the natural beauty of New Zealand, your passport needs to be valid for another three months past your trip. Want to spend a week on the beach in Thailand? Six months. (You can check the State Department's website for the specific requirements for different countries.) Even though some countries have more lenient requirements, it's better to play it safe.

Also keep in mind that most countries require you have a specific number of blank visa pages in order to enter the country. If you’re running out of blank pages, you will have to apply for a new passport — it's no longer possible to add pages to a passport book. Most passport books include 17 blank pages for visa stamps (there is an option for a larger book with 43 blank pages). The standard requirement is one or two blank pages but you can check for your destination on this handy chart to make sure.

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