Your passport might not be valid anymore, but don't despair—we're breaking down the steps to get you travel-ready in no time.

By Jenn Sinrich
March 12, 2020
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A passport is an incredibly important asset for any individual—it allows you to travel internationally and can come in handy as a second form of ID should you ever misplace your driver's license. About half of Americans possess a passport, according to data from the Census and State Department, which is up from 15 percent since 2007. This is likely the result of the internet and simpler application methods. But despite today's easier access to information, you still have to renew your passport every 10 years, or every five years for anyone under the age of 16. Since some countries have restrictions on travel within six months of your passport's expiration date, it's always a good idea to stay ahead of the game and renew your passport with time to spare. This is especially true if you have upcoming international travel plans.

To be on the safe side, Jennifer Polito Waigand of Travel Reimagined, an independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel, recommends submitting your fully completed passport application at least 12 weeks before a trip. "Expedited service is available for passport applications that can get your passport turned around in two to three weeks, but this costs extra," she says. "Also, be sure to renew before your current passport expires; otherwise you can no longer renew it." Here, experts share important steps to renew an expired passport.

Related: Five Documents You Should Never Travel With

Check Your Renewal Ability

Before you do anything, make sure that you qualify for a passport renewal; if you don't, you'll have to apply for a new passport instead. In order to qualify for a renewal, you must not need a name change, your passport must have been issued within the last 15 years (and you must have been older than 16 at the original issue time), and it must be undamaged other than regular wear and tear.

Gather Your Documents

If you are renewing your passport, you will have to go online to the State Department's website and complete a Passport Renewal Application Form DS-82. You can print this form out and complete it. However, if you're applying for a passport for the first time, you will have to apply in person and will need to bring a completed Form DS-11 Application for U.S. Passport, which you can print and complete at your local post office. Do not sign this application—this will be done in front of a postal employee witness. You will also need a photocopy of your proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate) and payment. "Fees will vary on the application type, processing time, and other factors," says Lesley Cohen, a luxury travel advisor at SmartFlyer. "Your form of payment is also subject to specific parameters; no credit card or debit cards are allowed."

Have Your Photo Taken

You can most likely get your passport photo taken at your local drugstore or at the post office. It must be a recent photo taken within the past six months, you must wear simple clothing, and you cannot smile or wear a hat.

Head to the Post Office

If you're simply renewing your passport, you will need to send in your expiring document, a DS-82 form, a new photo, and payment all in one envelope. If you're looking for a location go to the USPS website to find post office locations. Enter your zip code and select a mileage range to find the nearest one to you. Bring all of your completed forms, and you'll be instructed on how to proceed upon arrival at the passport office.

Time to Wait

Now that you've submitted your renewal or applied for a new passport, it's time to wait. It takes on average about six to eight weeks for a regular passport (not expedited) to arrive in the mail. The expedited service requires a $60 fee and usually arrives within two to three weeks—about a quarter of the typical wait time.

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