How long does it take to get your passport? The State Department estimates a passport takes four to six weeks to process from the time you turn in your application (including the time it takes to mail it back to you), so leave plenty of time, especially in spring, when many people are preparing for the busy summer travel season.
If just the thought of catching an international flight with a soon-to-expire passport makes you anxious, leave ample time to renew (the government recommends renewing your passport nine months before it expires). Unlike the process of getting your first passport, you don’t have to go to an official facility in person. Rather, to renew a passport, you can simply mail in all your documents. That is, if you have your old passport, it’s in decent shape beyond the usual wear-and-tear, it was issued when you were older than 16 and within the last 15 years, and your name hasn’t changed. If you can check all of those off, you’ll need to include the following in the mail to renew a passport:
A filled out DS-82 form.
Your old passport.
A regulation size passport photo.
And a $110 renewal fee.
If you have changed your name since getting your last passport, you can include official proof of the name change, such as a marriage certificate, divorce certificate or court-ordered name change document.
How long does it take to get a passport renewed? Once you’ve submitted all of the above, it generally takes the same amount of time as a first-time passport —four to six weeks — from the date of application through mailing, to get your new passport. Globetrotters with lots of passport stamps who want to hang onto their old passport as a memento should know that old passports do get returned (usually with a hole punched in the cover), though MaSovaida Morgan, Lonely Planet’s South America editor, recommends slapping a sticky note on the cover expressing you’d definitely like to have your old copy sent back, just for good measure.
If you don’t have your old passport, you’ll have to treat a passport renewal like a first-time passport application, filling out the DS-11 form and going in-person to a passport acceptance facility.
Think you’re in the clear in terms of passport renewal? Check again, since “you can’t necessarily travel right up to your passport expiration date,” explains Trisha Ping, Lonely Planet’s editor for the Eastern USA. In fact, “many countries won’t let you enter if your passport’s expiration date is within three or even six months of your departure.”
Japan, for example, “requires your passport be valid for the duration of your visit,” Honig, of The Points Guy, adds. It’s possible an airline will let you book, check in and even fly to your destination with an out-of-date passport, he adds, so it’s really your responsibility to stay on top of date requirements. “A foreign country isn’t going to hesitate to put you back on a plane [home], perhaps at your own expense.”
It’s also worth noting that even if your passport is valid, you could still need to get a visa to enter your destination country. “Visas are a different beast,” Honig says, but luckily “visas are still valid even if they’re in an expired passport.” So if you have an expired passport with a current visa, it’s good to get your old passport back with your renewed passport.
Bottom line: Leave plenty of time to get your passport renewed, check the expiration date on your passport even if you think you’re good to go, and research the passport and visa requirements of the country you’re planning to visit.
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