If you’re trying to learn how to renew your passport online you’re in luck. Well, partially in luck. That’s because you can’t actually renew your US passport online but you can get almost everything you need online and easily send in the forms to renew your passport via mail. In this article I’m going to show you step by step how easy it is to renew your passport using documents found online.
You can’t do it all online
As stated, you can’t just click a button and have a new passport out on its way to you. Instead, you’ll have to print out some forms, take a passport photo, and send in your passport via mail.
- Go to this link here get started with renewing your passport.
You can only renew your US passport by mail if the following is true.
- Is submitted with your application
- Is undamaged (other than normal “wear and tear”)
- Was issued when you were age 16 or older
- Was issued within the last 15 years
- Was issued in your current name (or you can document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)
So as long as you’re eligible to renew your passport, then all you have to do is:
- Fill out this Form DS-82
- Submit your US Passport (yes, you have to actually mail your passport in)
- Include name change documents (if needed)
- Include your photo
- Calculate your fees
- Mail off your form
Where to get a passport photo?
6 months old
First, keep in mind that the image of you should have been taken within the last sixth months.
I don’t think your passport is going to be denied if your photo is one day older than 6 months, but try to keep things reasonable. If you’ve got a head full of gray hairs but your photo looks like you were at your high school prom, there’s going to be a problem.
Get your passport photos at a pharmacy
You can go to a local drug store like CVS or Walgreens and ask them to take your passport photos for your and print them out. It only takes a few minutes for them to do it but it will cost you around $12. Some feel that’s too expensive but others value the convenience of the process.
Doing it yourself
There are a several ways you can take your passport photo yourself.
Keep in mind that if you take your passport photo by yourself using a digital camera, phone, or app, you’ll have to make sure that you abide by the criteria below. Some people don’t like bothering with all of that so paying $12 at a pharmacy could be worth it for them.
Here are the passport photo guidelines:
- Submit a color photograph of you alone, sufficiently recent to be a good likeness of you (taken within the last six months),
- 2×2 inches in size.
- The image size measured from the bottom of your chin to the top of your head (including hair) should not be less than 1 inch, and not more than 1 3/8 inches.
- The photograph must be in color, clear, with a full front view of your face.
- The photograph must be taken with a neutral facial expression (preferred) or a natural smile, and with both eyes open and be printed on photo quality paper with a plain light (white or off-white) background.
- The photograph must be taken in normal street attire, without a hat, or head covering unless a signed statement is submitted by the applicant verifying that the hat or head covering is part of recognized, traditional religious attire that is customarily or required to be worn continuously when in public or a signed doctor’s statement is submitted verifying the item is used daily for medical purposes.
- Headphones, “bluetooth”, or similar devices must not be worn in the passport photograph.
- Glasses or other eyewear are not acceptable unless you provide a signed statement from a doctor explaining why you cannot remove them due to medical reasons (e.g., during the recovery period from eye surgery).
- Any photograph retouched so that your appearance is changed is unacceptable.
- A snapshot, most vending machine prints, hand-held self portraits, and magazine or full-length photographs are unacceptable.
- A digital photo must meet the previously stated qualifications, and will be accepted for use at the discretion of Passport Services.
Can you smile in a passport photo?
Yes. You can smile your passport photo. 🙂
If you read carefully in the terms above you saw that you are permitted to have your photo taken with a “natural smile.”
Filling out the Form DS-82
I went old school with mine and just printed out the form and filled it in with a black ink pen.
If you can’t stand filling out paperwork you should rejoice because there are only two pages to fill out (really 1 1/2 pages).
The first four pages of the From DS-82 document are instructions so you don’t have to send those in (but you should still read them).
On the Form DS-82, you’ll be asked to fill in basic info like:
- Your name
- Social security number
- Place of birth
- Phone number
- Old passport information
On the second page, you’ll need to be prepared to answer some descriptive questions like your height, hair color, eye color, occupation, employer, emergency contact, and future travel plans.
Choosing a regular book or large book
The price of a regular book or large book is same. The large book is made for people who will be doing a lot of travel since it comes with extra passport pages — remember you can no longer add pages to your passport book! I recommend going with the large book because you never know when you might need the extra pages for visas, etc.
Passport book vs passport card
You also need to check whether you want the passport book, passport card, or both.
Unlike the passport book, the passport card is valid only for entry at land border crossings and sea ports of entry when traveling from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The passport card cannot be used for international air travel.
Stapling your passport photo
You’ll also need to staple your passport photo right onto the form. You should see exactly where they would like for you to place the staples, too. Just to make thing easier for you, I’ve put red rectangles around the area for the photo.
The instructions state to use caution when stapling and to use 4 staples vertically in the corners as close to the outer edge as possible. They also tell you not to bend the photo.
What documents do I need if I changed my name?
If the name you are currently using differs from the name on your most recent U.S. passport, you must submit:
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate OR
- A court order showing the change of name
These documents will be returned to you.
If you can’t get the documents to verify your name change then you cannot renew via mial. Instead, you must apply on the DS-11 application form by making a personal appearance at:
- (1) a passport agency
- (2) U.S. embassy or consulate, if abroad
- (3) any federal or state court of record or any probate court accepting passport applications
- (4) a designated municipal or county official
- (5) a post office, which has been selected to accept passport applications.
Where do I mail my passport application documents to?
There are three different mailing addresses you might send your documents to depending on where you live or if you are going to expedite your application.
I suggest sending in your application via Priority mail or UPS so that you can track your package. Remember, you’re sending off your passport, so you need to be able to keep tabs on it.
If you live in CA, FL, IL, MN, NY, or TX:
- National Passport Processing Center
- P.O. Box 640155
- Irving, TX 75064-0155
If you live in any other state or Canada
- National Passport Processing Center
- P.O. Box 90155
- Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155
For expedited service
For expedited service, regardless of where you live, there’s a special mailing address:
- National Passport Processing Center
- P.O. Box 90955
- Philadelphia, PA 19190-0955
Note that there is an additional fee for expediting your passport (more on that below).
How do I expedite my passport application?
The first thing that you need to do is write “Expedite” on the outer envelope when mailing.
The second thing you need to do is include the expedited fee with your application.
Passport Services also recommends using overnight delivery when submitting the application AND including the paying the additional fee for return overnight delivery for the newly issued passport book.
Expedited service is only available for passports mailed in the United States and Canada.
The passport expedite fee is $60 per person.
The overnight delivery fee per application for overnight delivery of an issued passport book is $15.89. This only applies to mailing addresses within the United States and is not valid for passport cards.
If you have a family emergency, such as a death or you are traveling within a couple of weeks. You probably don’t want to mail in your application to expedite it. Instead, you can take other measures such as scheduling an appointment to meet with a passport agency.
- You can read more about these options here.
What are the fees to renew your passport?
The chart shows that the fees to renew your passport (book only) are $110. If you want to expedite then you simply add the costs seen above to these totals.
You need to send in your passport payment with money order or checks made out to the “U.S. Department of State.”
Make sure to print your full name AND date of birth on the front of the check or the money order. And do NOT send cash as a form of payment.
The passport application fee and the execution fee are non-refundable. They are collected and retained by law even if a passport is not issued.
How long does it take to renew your passport?
If you expedite your passport application you can get it back very quickly, such as in a week or two.
Obviously, factors come into play with the timing of your application being processed. For example, many people trying to renew their passports for summer could certainly slow down the processing time.
- You can check the latest processing times for expediting a passport application here.
How can I check the status of my passport application?
- You can check the status of your US passport application buy clicking here.
You’ll need to input details such as your last name, date of birth, and the last four digits of your social security number.
Can I apply at an acceptance facility instead of mailing in my renewal application?
- No, if you are applying on Form DS-82, acceptance facilities will not take your application
Can I renew my passport if it’s still valid?
- Yes. Your passport does not have to be expired for you to renew it. In fact, they recommend renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel, even if it still has a months validity left on it.
- You can click here learn more about entry requirements for different countries.
I’m behind in child support. Can I get a passport?
- If you are behind in child support payments of $2,500 or more, you cannot get a passport. For more information, please see Child Support Payments and Getting a U.S. Passport.
How will my passport book and/or card be mailed back to me?
- Newly-issued passport books are delivered using Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation, unless you pay for Priority Express return service at time of application.
- All passport cards will be mailed using First Class Mail.
Note that if you pay for expedited shipping, your new passport will be expedited but your old passport will likely arrive much later.
Should I pay a service to renew my passport?
I honestly think it’s a waste of money to pay someone to take care of your passport renewal unless you really struggle with filling out forms.
Remember, all you have to do so is fill out your application and then send the following documents along with your application:
- Your most recent U.S. passport book and/or card
- A certified copy of your marriage certificate or court order (but only if your name has changed)
- A check or money order for your passport Fees
- A recent 2″x2″ color photograph
And that’s it.
Final word on renewing your passport
Overall, even though you can’t renew your passport online, renewing your passport is actually very easy if you’re allowed to just mail in your documents. If you pay attention to the instructions and information in this article, you shouldn’t have an issue.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.