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  • Writer's pictureMekela

Renewing Your Passport in America

For some people, renewing your passport is almost as bad as going to the DMV. It can be quite challenging knowing all the steps that need to be done and forms that need to be filled out. Well, it has only become worse. Renewing your passport right now in America can be quite the test on your patience. While passports in America are good for 10 years for those 18 and older, you need to have 6 months of validity on them left to visit many countries. Even some airlines won’t let you on board if this requirement is not met. Yes, that really means you can only use it for 9 and a half years if you are actively traveling.

+ But how do you actually renew your passport?

There are 2 well-known ways to renew your passport. Both are through the mail. There is Routine and Expedited. Both require the applicant to fill out the form DS-82, submit your old passport, provide a photo, calculate your fees and include a check for that amount, and then mail in everything. You are able to track your application online. From the passport website: Note: It may take 2 weeks from the day you apply until your application status is “In Process.” During these 2 weeks, your application is delivered to a mail facility, your payment is processed, and your application is scanned and sent to us. If your passport status update says “Not Available,” your application and supporting documents are safely on their way to us.

+ How do I know if I want to use Routine or Expedited?

It depends on how much time you have to renew your passport, and how much money you want to spend. The US Passport website lists the processing times as:

Routine: 8 to 11 weeks*

Expedited: Takes 5 to 7 weeks*

*Processing times begin the day we receive your application at a passport agency or center, not the day you mail your application or apply.

Price for Routine: If you are just getting the passport book, then its $130. If you want the passport card too, it’s an additional $30. I got the card along with the book last time and have NEVER used it.

Price for Expedited: Take your total for the routine and then add $60.

(image directly from the US passport website)

I know people who have not paid for the expedited services and received their passport in 3 weeks. I know some who did pay for the expedited services, and it took over 2 months. So, you are taking a risk either way. Just have patience.

+ Are there any other options to renewing your passport?

Yes, there is a much lesser-known option. Since I only got back from Antarctica a month ago, people have asked me how I got mine so fast. Well, there is a way to get an emergency renewal. To do this, you must have an international flight booked. Then you call the passport department and ask to book an appointment. Be ready with your flight information including confirmation number as they will ask for all this information and more. They will let you know of availabilities at your local office. If there aren’t any during that timeframe, you may need to travel to another office to renew. There are 26 passport offices in the United States. So, no, not every state has a passport office and some states like California and Texas each have 3 of them.

While I probably could have made an appointment at the San Francisco location, I was planning to go to Arizona to visit friends, so I made an appointment at the Tucson location. They also had a lot of availability which worked in my favor. Once your appointment is made, they will send you an email with a lot of helpful information and links. You must fill out a form DS-82. I filled it out online and then printed that. You must bring a printed copy of your travel itinerary from the airline directly (the confirmation email you get is fine) or proof of life-or-death emergency (if applicable). You are also required to bring in your current passport along with new passport photos taken within the last 6 months. Because I was renewing in person, I was able to use a credit or debit card to pay the fees.

+ Here is how my appointment went:

When I arrived at the Western Passport Center in Tucson, I had to have my bag scanned like at the airport and then walk through a metal detector. Once I was cleared, I went inside and got in line. A woman called me up and asked if I had an appointment. I said I did and handed her all my paperwork and showed her my driver’s license. She reviewed it all, prepared it to their standards, handed it back to me along with a numbered ticket. When my number was called, I walked to the window and handed everything to the guy there. He reconfirmed it all, asked a few questions, had me sign my paperwork, and then told me it would take 3 hours for my new book to be printed. He gave me a long receipt (not CVS long) and told me to hand it to whoever helped me after the 3 hours. This was my ticket to get my new book so do NOT lose it. I made sure I didn’t have to sit there for the 3 hours. I did not, so I left and had lunch with a childhood friend. It was a very long, fun lunch.

When I went back, I handed my claim ticket to another woman who retrieved my new passport book. YAY!!! She also handed me my old book back. I was not sure if I would get it back same day or if they would mail it to me. The guy said they would have to deactivate it but wasn’t clear on how long that would take. This book has a lot of cool stamps, but most important, stamps from Antarctica. I wanted to make sure I got this book back. My new book is also the one with extra pages. Why did I get that one? Well, you get 24 extra pages compared to the standard book but at the same price. Additionally, some countries require you to have at least four pages available for stamping.

(With my new book thinking of all the places I will go)

When renewing your passport using the emergency route, you do have to pay the additional expedition fees so be ready for that. However, there are not any additional fees. You pay the same prices as everyone else.

If you are not in a hurry to travel, I would try and give the passport department 6 months for a new or renewed passport application. This should ease your stress and allow time just in case something goes wrong.

Happy stamp collecting!!


Wander With Mekela

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