If you are making plans to travel outside the United States, you may need to renew your passport. If you meet a specific set of circumstances, you may not need to present your original birth certificate. You may be able to renew your passport by mail.
Documents You Need
If you have already have a passport, you may be able to renew by mail with your old passport, a passport renewal application (Form DS-82: Application for a U.S. Passport by Mail), the renewal fee ($75) and two copies of a current passport photo. Mail everything in a sturdy Tyvek or padded envelope. You do not need to send your birth certificate with the rest of the application materials.
You have to meet some special circumstances in order to qualify for this option. Your most recent passport must be less than 15 years old; you must have the same last name as when you applied for your previous passport---or you can show that you have legally changed your last name; you must still have your passport and it must not be damaged; and you must have been at least 16 years old when you received your passport. If these conditions do not apply to you, then you need to apply in person for a renewal passport. You should take your birth certificate (the original, not a copy) with you when you go in person to renew your passport.
Circumstances to Renew in Person
If your passport is lost, stolen or damaged, you have to apply in person for a renewal or replacement passport. If you were younger than 16 when you got your passport or if your passport is more than 15 years old, you have to renew your passport in person. If you have changed your last name since your last passport was issued and you cannot legally document your name change, you have to go and renew your passport in person.
For each of these circumstances, take your original birth certificate and photo identification such as your driver's license or a current military identification card.
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