Imagine my surprise (and feeling of despair) when I realized that my daughters passport had expired and we were traveling out of the country in less than 8 weeks. So even though I have been advising clients to make sure their passports are valid, I found myself scrambling to get her passport photo taken and go through the steps to renew a US Passport.
When you decide it’s time to begin planning your next vacation the first thing you need to do is check the passport expiration for everyone who is traveling. If the passport is expiring within six months of your travel date, it needs to be renewed. In other words, if you are traveling out of the United States in July and your passport is expiring in December of the same year, it needs to be renewed before you travel in July.
It’s possible to renew your passport by following the steps below and mailing your “packet” and fees direct to the US Department of State, but I recommend doing a quick search and finding a nearby US Post Office or library to ensure the forms are filled out properly to help avoid delays.
Whether you choose to do it on your own or with the assistance of the USPS or your local library, the first thing you’ll need to do to renew a US passport is fill out the form DS-82 (Click here). The Department of State also has a tool that allows you to fill in the form online and print it. There is no way to renew a US passport online because you’ll have to send in your current passport with your packet.
If the passport renewal is for a child 16 or younger, both parents must give consent by appearing together at the passport application/renewal appointment or with a notarized letter of authorization.
Along with the renewal form and current or most recent passport, a recent photo must be included. The list of specifications for a valid passport photo is long and the easiest way to make sure the photo you submit is to have it taken by the USPS or another location that offers passport photo services. They will ensure that your photo qualifies to renew a US passport. They’ll handle the technical specifications (size, subjects position in the photo, lighting, no shadows, etc.) but they may or may not catch some of the other requirements.
There are things you can control in your passport photo which will help you avoid delays in the renewal process. Some of the more obvious ones include not wearing a hat and/or sunglasses, camouflage, or clothes with government agency logos. Some less obvious passport photo issues that will cause delays include wearing prescription glasses (If you wear glasses in your photo you need to include a doctors note that says you’re required to wear them). Wearing headphones, ear buds, or hands free accessories visible is also not acceptable.
If your name changed since your last passport was issued you’ll need to include the documentation for that in your passport renewal packet. This documentation can include a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court-ordered name change document and whichever you send will be returned to you separately from your new passport.
Finally, included in the packet is payment. Check the Dept. of State website for current fees here. There are options for expedited service, expedited shipping of the new passport, and a full book or card (or both). Be aware that the applicants name and date of birth must be on the check. If you choose to get assistance filling out and sending the forms, there may be an additional — separate — fee paid directly to the service provider.
Place all the forms, payment, and the passport photo in an envelope and send it to the Dept. of State. The current address can be found at the following page: Renew my U.S. passport (state.gov).
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About the Author
Joel is a co-owner of JJ Travel Associates (a Dream Vacations franchise), blogger-in-chief at JoelKnowsTravel.com, lover of all things travel (especially UNESCO World Heritage Sites), wannabe comedian, and the person you should call if you're thinking of planning a vacation.