Do you have upcoming international travel plans and an expired passport needing expedited passport renewal? For years the only method of applying for one was in person or through a mail-in process. However, the mail-in method may only be favorable in some situations. For example, though not expected, your passport application may get lost in the vast mail system, resulting in delays. Delays are not the only consequence. A passport may be your only form of valid U.S. citizenship, and the prospect of losing it in the mail system results in losing money, time, and the opportunity to renew your passport altogether.
Luckily, The U.S. Department of State has launched a limited-time-only online passport renewal service, The Pilot Passport Program. The program eliminates the process of mailing in your passport, which results in a safer, less problematic application process.
How to Apply Online
First, make sure you are avoiding scams? Although applying for a passport online can enhance an applicant’s experience with the renewal process, the prospect of having a fully-online system can lead to identity theft. Scammers can also upcharge the amount required for a standard U.S. passport renewal. To avoid a complication like this, please ensure you input personal information onto a website ending in.Gov. You also stay the same over the standard, typically one hundred ninety U.S. dollars.
To apply for an online passport renewal, visit Travel.State.Gov and click on the U.S. Passport tab. Find “Already Have a Passport,” which will take you directly to the Pilot Passport page. You must follow the steps on the page to activate our account. It is essential to remember that it takes about four hours for your account to be approved and activated after you have followed the steps. Once your account is approved and therefore activated, the “Renew my Passport option will become available.
Now that you have the option to renew online available, your application must be approved. The requirements are simple, although without close attention to detail, you could get your application denied.
1. You must have a valid passport that is/has been valid for 10 years
Why: Those with a five-year passport are not eligible to apply online. Five-year passports are not eligible because they are only issued to children, and children must apply using the DS11, which allows them to receive a new passport, not a passport renewal.
2. You must be 25 years or older to apply
Why: Most passport applicants receive their first adult passport at age sixteen, and the U.S. Department of State wants to disincentivize younger applicants from applying when their passports have yet to come close to expiring.
3. You are not changing your name, date of birth, gender, or place of birth
Why: A change of personal information requires the applicant to mail in supplemental materials such as a marriage license for a name change, court documents, and sometimes doctor’s notes. This defeats the purpose of a fully online process.
4. You are not traveling internationally within six weeks of your application date
Why: The processing time for a passport application can take anywhere from seven to ten weeks. Unless you are applying for an expedited passport, the waiting time is about four to six weeks.
5. You must live in the United States, or a U.S Territory
Why: the U.S department of state only mails domestically. If you live outside of the United States, you can apply for a passport at an Embassy or consulate.
6. You must have your current passport in your possession, it cannot be frayed, damaged, or reported lost or stolen.
Why: In the mail-in process, you should send damaged passports for review. From there, the U.S. Department of State decides whether you are eligible for a ten-year passport or, instead, they will offer you a one-year temporary passport. Because this application is supposed to be fully online, avoiding these applicants are most favorable.
7. You are applying for a regular tourist passport
Why: Diplomatic, Service or Official passports cannot be applied for normally through the U.S. Department of State.
8. You can pay using a credit/debit card
Why: mail-in passport renewals require a check or money order to be sent in. This online process of using a credit/debit card avoids having to send money through the mail system. Paying online makes this process quicker and relieves the stress of an applicant’s money being lost or stolen.
9. You can upload a digital passport photo
You can have your digital passport photo taken by a professional vendor or have a friend or family member take it for you. There are some essential requirements to follow to prevent your digital passport photo from being denied.
First, could you ensure the photo is in a .JPEG format and at least fifty-four kilobytes in size? Always take a digital passport photo of the highest quality available for your device to ensure approval. The exact process goes when emailing or transferring a digital file. You want the most precise image possible to avoid denying your application.
Next, you must follow the U.S. Department of State’s photo basics.
- Use a clear image of your face. Do not use any face filters found on social media.
- No selfies. You must either have someone else take your photo or set the device on a timer and tripod.
- No eyes/sunglasses. Again, this ensures a clear, non-obstructed view of your face.
- Use a plain, white, or off-white background free of shadows.
- Maintain a forward-facing neutral expression, with eyes visible. Any significant expressions, even as simple as a big smile, looking off to the side, or tilting your head, may get your application denied.
- Clothing and accessories may not leave a shadow on or obstruct the view of the face. Hats or head coverings are only acceptable for religious or medical reasons.
An excellent tip for uploading this photo through the application’s website is to ensure there is plenty of white space above and around the applicant’s head. Having ample space around the applicant will allow the photo tool to properly crop the image without cutting off any part of the applicant. If you wold like more details on getting the perfect passport photo, read our blog, ” Tips For a Great Passport Photo”.
10. You must be aware that your current passport will not be valid, and cannot be used for international travel once the application is submitted
It is important to remember that these applications can take weeks, even months, to process, making international planning travel feel like a gamble. If putting your life on hold for up to three months is too much for you, consider applying for an expedited passport.
Although there is an option on the online application for an expedited process, the U.S. Department of State can only expedite the process to about four to six weeks, which may not fit within your ideal time frame. If you want to travel internationally on your terms, within your timeline, other options may fit your lifestyle.
The first option would be to apply in person, directly with a Department of State passport agency. There are a few pitfalls in using this method. These passport agencies require an appointment, and there is no guarantee that you will receive an appointment before your travel date. In addition, there are only twenty-six total agencies of this kind, which can make it harder for applicants that do not live in the general area of an agency to make it to their appointment. However, another issue may arise in that you will need to have your international travel already booked, and you must be within fourteen days of travel before receiving an appointment.
Applying For An Expedited Passport With a Courier
Or, consider applying for a passport renewal with a private courier. The main difference is that couriers, like The Passport Office, can rush the passport process to as fast as three to five days! Applicants can apply online and mail in their supplemental materials to receive their expedited passport renewal.
Having a valid passport can help your travel plans. However, if you have an invalid passport and need renewal as soon as possible, consider applying with The Passport Office. They have the tools, information, and highly knowledgeable passport advisors to get you on your way to your desired destination hassle-free. Get your expedited passport renewal today!