All United States passports, whether in book or card format, display an expiration date, making it easy to check the length of validity left. While there’s no legal requirement to hold a passport, bear in mind that a valid passport book is the only acceptable form of ID for international air travel, so without it you can’t travel overseas. Most countries require that you have at least six months on your passport to enter, and the U.S. State Department recommends renewing your passport when around nine months validity is left
Renewal By Mail
If your current passport is undamaged, shows the name you currently use and was issued when you were 16 or over, you can renew it by mail using Form DS-82. You can download the form from the State Department website or at any passport acceptance facility. Mail the completed form, together with your current passport, a passport-style photograph and a check or money order for the appropriate fee, to the address shown on the form. Typically you can expect to receive your new passport between four and six weeks after submitting your application.
New Passport in Person
If your passport is damaged, was issued to you in a different name and you can't document the name change, or was issued when you were 16 or younger, you will have to submit an application for a new passport using Form DS-11. State Department regulations require that you do this in person, and that you submit proof of both your citizenship, such as a birth certificate or naturalization certificate, and proof of identity, like a valid driver’s license or military ID. You’ll also need one passport-style photo and be able to pay the appropriate fee -- all acceptance facilities accept checks, bank drafts and money orders, while some also accept cash.
Expediting Your Application
Whether you apply by mail or in person, you can choose to expedite your application and receive your new passport more quickly -- as of August 2013 expedited applications are typically processed within three weeks. For applications made in person, just tell the staffer you want to use the expedited service, while if you’re applying by mail, clearly write the word “Expedite” on the outside of the envelope. Using the expedited service costs $60 on top of the cost of your application.
Already Made Travel Plans?
If your passport is close to its expiry date and you intend to travel within the next two weeks, or need to apply for a foreign visa within the next four weeks, apply for your new passport at a regional passport agency. Call 1-877-487-2778 to schedule an appointment at the agency closest to you; some agencies will require proof of your travel plans. Applications made at regional passport agencies must be accompanied by the $60 expedite fee, but there’s no faster way to renew your passport.
- Department of State: International Travel Information, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
- Department of State: Passports, FAQs (How long is a passport valid)
- Department of State: Passports, Renew Passport
- Department of State: Passports, Passport by Mail
- Department of State: Passports, Processing Times
- Department of State: Passports, Passport Fees
- Department of State: Passports, First Time Applicants
- Department of State: Passports, How to Get Your Passport in a Hurry
- Department of State: Passports, Passport Agencies
- Department of State: Passports, Schedule an Appointment at a Regional Passport Agency
- Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images