Depending on how often you travel, your passport might be one of the most important documents in your life. Of course, you need planes, trains, and cars to travel to other countries, but it’s impossible to actually get anywhere without a passport.
Luckily, U.S. passports last 10 years before expiring. Once you get your first passport, you can travel worry-free for a decade. However, renewing your passport can be a hassle and an expensive one. The process usually takes months and costs upwards of $100. Not realizing your passport is near expiration can throw a serious wrench in your travel plans.
You should always stay up-to-date on your passport status, and be proactive when it comes to renewing. Here’s the simplest way to keep tabs on your passport and keep it from disrupting your plans.
Renewing Your Passport
There’s only one way to start renewing your passport, and that’s through the government portal. There you’ll find all the documents and info you need to get the ball rolling. You can either apply in person at an application center (some local libraries offer this) or via mail. However, you can only renew by mail if:
- You have your passport
- Your passport is undamaged
- It was issued after your 16th birthday
- It was issued within the last 15 years
- Your legal name has not changed since it was issued
If your name has changed, say because you were married, you can mail a copy of a document showing the name change and renew that way.
You’ll also need a Passport Renewal Application, and a check to cover the application fees. For a standard passport renewal, the cost is $110 and ideally, you’ll receive your new passport within 6-8 weeks. For an extra $60, you can expedite the process and get your passport within 2-3 weeks.
Why You Should Renew Early
It’s important to note that you can renew your passport even if it’s still valid for a few months. Currently, as many renewal centers are closed or understaffed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government is warning that there will be serious delays in passport renewals. As of now, the Department of State is only processing applications related to life-or-death travel. Even after the pandemic ends and offices are reopened, it could take a while to work through the backlog of applications.
All that is to say that if you have any travel planned in the next year, you should check your passport status and begin the renewal process ASAP if needed. Once you apply for renewal, you can easily keep tabs on your passport through this government portal.
You can also call the National Passport Information Center (1-877-487-2778) or email [email protected]