How To Obtain Or Renew a US Passport

Hello fellow globetrotters and adventure seekers! Are you planning international travel soon? With the number of travelers continuing to rise, and projections for international travel to skyrocket in 2024, now is the perfect time to check the expiration date of your passport. If it’s less than a year away, now is a great time to obtain or renew a US passport.

Step 1: Gather Your Documents

The first stop on your passport adventure is collecting the necessary documents. You’ll need proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate. Additionally, a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license, is essential. Remember to bring photocopies of both sides of proof of citizenship and your ID, just to be on the safe side. For detailed information, visit Travel.state.gov.

Step 2: Obtain you Passport Photo

Next up – your passport photo. Head to your local pharmacy or photo studio to capture that picture-perfect image. The U.S. Department of State has strict guidelines for size, eyeware, composition, and expression. Don’t worry, they’ll know the requirements.

Step 3: Fill Out the Form

Fill out the DS-11 form. You can complete the form online or print it and fill it out by hand. Just make sure not to sign it until you’re in the presence of a designated acceptance agent. Use the form filler tool here.

Step 4: Visit a Passport Acceptance Facility

With all your documents in hand, head to a local passport acceptance facility. This could be your local post office, courthouse, library, or even your university’s study abroad office. Remember to bring your ID, evidence of citizenship, passport photo, the copies mentioned above and completed DS-11 form. Once there, an acceptance agent will review your documents and witness your signature on the form. You can locate a nearby acceptance facility here. Be sure to contact them to see if they require an appointment.

Step 5: Pay the Fee

Be prepared to pay the applicable fees. Check the U.S. Department of State’s website for the most up-to-date information on fees and payment methods. At time of writing, the fees for an adult (age 16 and older) are $130 application fee and $35 acceptance fee. For a child, age 15 and under, the application and acceptance fees are $100 and $35, respectively.

Note: Children age 15 and under must apply in person with both parents present. The passport is valid for five years and when expired, a new passport must be obtained. Sixteen and 17 year olds must also apply with their parents present, and their passport is valid for ten years.

Step 1: Check Your Eligibility

Before diving into the renewal process, ensure that you are eligible. If your passport is less than 15 years old, undamaged, and was issued when you were 16 or older, you can typically renew by mail. Be sure it was never reported it lost or stolen, and that you have not had a name change. Currently, there is no way to renew a US passport online, but keep an eye out for changes in the near future.

Step 2: Complete Form DS-82

Unlike the DS-11 for first-time applicants, renewals are done using Form DS-82. Again, you can complete it online or print it and fill it out by hand. Hint: If you’re a “frequent flyer” like I am, you can request a larger passport book at no additional cost by checking the ‘large book’ box at the top of the DS-82.

Step 3: Include Your Most Recent Passport

Don’t forget to include your most recent passport along with the completed DS-82 form. This is your golden ticket! Don’t worry, they do return it to you!

Step 4: Passport Photos and Payment

Of course, you will need a new passport photo for your renewal application. Follow the guidelines just as you did for your first passport (see above), and staple the photo to the form in the designated location. Alongside your photo, include the appropriate fee. At writing, the application fee for an adult, age 16 or more, is $130. Make your check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of State.” Also, be sure to print the full name and date of birth of the applicant on the front top of the check or money order.

Step 5: Mail it In

Seal the deal by signing and dating the renewal application, then sending your application, old passport, attached photo, and fees via mail. I recommend a trackable mailing option to keep an eye on the progress of your documents, and you may also request (and pay for) an expedited return of your passport.

Visit here for further detailed information and FAQs, as well as where to mail your application.

If you’re in a hurry to obtain or renew your US passport, the first thing to consider is expediting your mailing to the Passport Center. Likewise, you can pay to have it returned to you via 1-2 day delivery.

It is also possible to expedite the processing of your passport, and there are different types of service, ranging from “life or death” to “routine.” For normal “expedited” service, with travel in less than ten weeks, you will pay an additional fee of $60. If renewing your passport by mail, clearly mark “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the envelope.

As of November 6, 2023, the US State Department reports that they are processing routine applications in 7-10 weeks, and expedited applications in 3-5 weeks.

According to Travel.State.gov, “Between October 2022 and September 2023 (the federal fiscal year), the State Department issued more than 24 million passport books and cards, the most ever in our nation’s history.”

Passport processing times are cyclical and seasonal, and we can probably all remember the long wait times earlier in the year (10-13 weeks for routine applications and 7-9 weeks for expedited service back in March) Even though their processing times have been reduced lately, their message remains clear: Apply early!

UPDATE FROM THE US STATE DEPARTMENT: “As of December 18, 2023, passport applications will be processed within 6-8 weeks for routine service and 2-3 weeks for expedited service, which costs an additional $60.”

And there you have it – your passport journey from start to finish! Whether you’re obtaining or renewing your US passport, the world is waiting for you to explore. Bon voyage, fellow travelers! 🌍✈️

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