Before you book your next international trip, do yourself a favor and check the expiration date on your passport. US passports are valid for 10 years when issued to adults, but it’s astonishing how quickly that time can fly by. If your passport expires in the next 9 months, you should go ahead and renew it now. Many countries have a “six-month rule,” requiring that your passport be valid for 6 months or longer in order for them to let you in their country. So just because your passport is still technically valid, that doesn’t mean you can necessarily travel with it.
When it comes time to renew, you can take comfort in the fact that you will more than likely be able to avoid a visit to the passport office. As long as all of the statements below apply to you, you can get your passport renewal through the mail, with no need to appear in person:
Your current passport has not been lost, stolen or damaged.
The issue date on your current passport is less than 15 years ago.
You received your current passport after you turned 16.
If your name has changed since your last passport was issued, you can document the name change request with a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order.
How to Apply by Mail
To apply for your renewal by mail, first fill out passport renewal application form DS-82. Send it in to the address listed on the form, along with your current passport, a check or money order to pay the renewal fees, and the appropriate legal documents to corroborate your name change request, if applicable.
Passport Renewal Fees
Renewal costs depend on whether you want just a passport book, a passport card, or both.
The wallet-sized passport card is a relatively new option. While it’s the cheapest choice at $ 30, it’s only valid for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. You can’t use it for international air travel at all. A passport book is $ 110, and if you want both, it’ll cost you $ 140.
Once you apply, you’ll wait about 6 weeks if you chose regular processing and about 3 weeks if you chose expedited processing, which is an additional $ 60 charge. If you need to get a passport renewal at the last minute, the Department of State has set up 24 regional passport agency offices across the country where you can do so. You must make an appointment and bring a copy of your itinerary in addition to the documents listed above. You can also use a private passport expediting company to deliver your application to the Department of State on your behalf.
Alison Kroulek is a freelance writer and blogger with a focus on the travel industry.
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