The Best Way to Renew a Passport in 2024

In late 2022, the U.S. Department of State began a pilot program in which volunteers could apply to renew their passport online. More than 500,000 passport holders participated in the trial before it was paused in March 2023.

Until the online passport renewal program is reinstated, it’s best to renew your passport by mail – though there are some instances where you may have no choice but to renew in person. Read on to learn what you need and what to expect when renewing your passport by mail or in person, along with answers to some of the most common questions around passport renewals.

How to renew your passport by mail

If you have an expired or expiring passport in your possession that was issued when you were at least 16 years old and within the past 15 years, you can renew your passport by mail as long as it’s relatively undamaged. You’ll need to submit the following documentation:

  • Form DS-82: Complete the DS-82 renewal application.
  • Existing passport: You will need to send your current U.S. passport, but if you’re someone who likes to look back fondly at all of your passport stamps, don’t worry – you should receive the original passport back with your new one.
  • Passport photo: Include a new photo that meets passport requirements (outlined in more detail in the FAQ section below).
  • Check or money order: Once you determine the applicable fees for your passport renewal, payment must be made with either a check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of State,” on the front of which you’ll print the full name and date of birth of the applicant. You cannot pay online or send cash at this time.

You can mail all your materials – including your old passport and any name change documents – in a large envelope through the U.S. Postal Service to one of the National Passport Processing Center’s designated P.O. boxes; the address varies depending on what state you live in and whether you choose expedited or routine service. Note that if you use a delivery method other than USPS, your application will be returned to you without being processed.

How to renew your passport in person

If your passport has been damaged, lost or stolen; was issued before you turned 16; or is more than 15 years old, you’ll need to renew it in person with the following documentation:

  • Form DS-11: You can fill out the DS-11 passport application online or by hand, but don’t sign the form until an authorized agent instructs you to do so.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship: This evidence can take the form of an original or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a Certificate of Naturalization, a Certificate of Citizenship or a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, among certain other options. Aside from the physical proof, you must also bring a photocopy for the State Department to keep.
  • Identification document: Your government-issued photo ID can be a driver’s license, a government employee or military ID, a valid foreign passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, a Certificate of Citizenship, or another form of ID deemed acceptable by the State Department. Just as with the citizenship proof, you have to make a photocopy of your photo ID too.
  • Passport photo: See the FAQ section below for U.S. passport photo requirements.
  • Form of payment: When submitting your application at a passport acceptance facility (such as designated libraries, post offices or local government offices), you’ll need to pay for the application fee with either a check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of State.” The acceptance facility will also charge a separate $35 fee that can be paid by money order or (at select locations) by check, cash or card.

Frequently Asked Questions

U.S. passports are valid for 10 years as long as they were issued when you were 16 years of age or older.

It’s best to renew your passport at least nine months before it expires. In many countries, visitors’ passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you intend to return to the U.S. (and current processing times are six to eight weeks). You can check the U.S. Department of State’s website for information on policies by country.

No, but if you can’t supply a birth certificate, you must be able to provide either a valid, undamaged passport; a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth; a Certificate of Naturalization; or a Certificate of Citizenship. If your state issued a birth abstract (a summary of your birth record), you can submit it as long as it meets the requirements outlined by the U.S. Department of State.

If you cannot provide any of the above, you will need to submit secondary citizenship evidence such as a delayed birth certificate or a Letter of No Record, plus the DS-10 birth affidavit form and early public records like a baptism certificate or doctor’s record of postnatal care. Consult the State Department website for other examples of early public records you can use.

Unless you make an appointment at a passport acceptance facility that is equipped to take passport photos, plan to provide a high-resolution photo taken in the last six months whether you complete the process online, by mail or in person.

Photo specs: The photo should be in color and measure 2 by 2 inches; use the State Department’s photo tool to ensure it’s the correct size. If you’re taking the picture at home, stand in front of a plain white or off-white background that’s well lit. You will need to have someone else snap the photo, as selfies are not permitted.

Clothing: Glasses are not permitted in photos, nor is any attire that resembles a uniform. It’s best to wear plain, everyday clothing. Hats and head coverings aren’t allowed in passport photos, unless you sign a statement verifying they are worn as part of a recognized religious practice or provide a written doctor’s note confirming they’re for a medical purpose.

Expression: Your head should be centered, in full view and facing forward. Pose with a neutral expression or natural smile (don’t show your teeth) and ensure your eyes are open.

If you’re confident you can follow the guidelines and want to take your photo at home, you can either print it yourself on matte or glossy photo paper or upload it to a passport photo printing service (offered by CVS, Target, Walmart and others). For online applications, you can simply upload the file.

Otherwise, a passport photo can be easily obtained for a fee from select post offices, shipping stores, passport acceptance facilities, and even big box stores and major drugstores (including the same ones that offer printing services).

Technically, you cannot “renew” a passport for a child younger than age 16. Instead, you must reapply using the same in-person process you went through to acquire their first passport. For a list of step-by-step instructions and required documentation for minors, see How to Get a U.S. Passport for Kids. If your child is at least 16 years of age, however, you can renew their passport using the methods detailed above.

If your name has changed since your last passport was issued, you’ll need to provide documentation – such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order – that serves as proof of the name change. This requirement applies with whatever method you choose to renew your passport.

Routine processing times for expired passport renewals currently range from six to eight weeks, beginning when the passport center or agency receives your application to renew your passport, according to the U.S. Department of State. Sometimes the process can take less time, but don’t count on it.

If you’re in a rush to renew your passport, you can pay for expedited service. There are a couple of options:

If you can wait two to three weeks: Expedite your passport by mail. Clearly write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the envelope. Be sure to submit payment for the $60 expediting fee with your application; if you also want to request the fastest return shipping (which takes one or two days), you’ll need to pay $19.53 on top of that.

Also an option is a service such as RushMyPassport, touting easy, expedited service in as little as one week (though these services can come with a hefty fee). If you’re a member of AAA, you can take advantage of exclusive rates on expedited passport renewals through RushMyPassport.

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