Everything You Need to Know About Renewing Your Passport During the Pandemic

The number one rule is to plan ahead.

traveler holds a passport
Photo: SDI Productions/Getty

While international travel might not be in the cards in the near future, you might want to take a look at your passport expiration date anyway, just to ensure you won’t run into any problems when you do eventually book that flight. Remember, many countries require you to have six months left in your passport past the end of your trip — and you don’t want to be turned away at border control for an expiring passport on your first vacation abroad after the pandemic.

Thanks to COVID-19, processing times are longer than usual, so it pays to plan ahead: If your passport expires within the next 12 months, it’s time to start thinking about renewing. (You can actually renew your passport any time — not just right before it expires.) Here’s everything you need to know about renewing your passport during the coronavirus pandemic, so that you’re ready to travel the world as soon as possible.

Editor's Note: While this information is accurate at the time of publishing, we urge you to check the latest updates by the U.S. Department of State before renewing your passport.

How to Renew Your Passport During the Pandemic

The standard passport renewal process right now is via mail-in application, if you’re located in the U.S. or Canada. This method is available to U.S. applicants who currently have their passport in possession (it needs to be undamaged), were issued their passport when they were age 16 or older, were issued their passport within the last 15 years, and were issued their passport with their current name. (If you’ve recently changed your name, you can still apply by mail, as long as you can prove the change with legal documentation.)

If you meet all these criteria, you can proceed with your mail-in application, which must include the following:

  1. A completed DS-82 form.
  2. Your most recent U.S. passport.
  3. Name change documents (if necessary).
  4. A passport photo that meets these requirements. You’ll need to staple the photo to your application, using one vertical staple in each corner.
  5. A check or money order for the fee. (See pricing here.)

Once all your documents are gathered, simply follow the directions for mailing in your application, as outlined by the U.S. Department of State here. You can monitor the status of your application online or by calling a hotline.

If you don’t meet the aforementioned criteria, you’ll have to apply for a passport in person at an acceptance facility. And if you’re located anywhere in the world outside of the U.S. and Canada, you’ll need to apply for your passport renewal in person at a U.S. consulate or embassy.

How long does it take to renew a passport during the pandemic?

If you renew by mail, you can expect to receive your new passport within 10 to 12 weeks during the pandemic, up from the standard four to six weeks during normal times.

Can you expedite passport renewals during the pandemic?

Yes, you can expedite your passport renewal for a fee, but only if you have an urgent need. If you have an emergency life-or-death situation, you can renew your passport in person and receive it within three business days. (In the pre-pandemic times, you were able to get a passport the same day if you visited certain passport offices, but that’s no longer possible.)

If you have urgent international travel plans within four weeks, you can renew your passport in person at an acceptance facility, and you’ll receive it within three business days. If your international trip is within four to 10 weeks, you can either apply in person or expedite your mail-in renewal, so that you’ll receive your passport within four to six weeks, up from two to three weeks during normal times.

Just remember that you’ll have to pay up for these expedited services. Additionally, not all acceptance facilities are open for walk-in visits: You may need to make an appointment in advance.

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