Passport renewals need to be done every ten years—or every five if the passport holder is younger than 16—so if you're planning a trip abroad and haven't used yours in a while, be sure to check the expiration date as soon as you book your tickets. If you're wondering how to renew an expired passport, the good news is it's actually quite simple; most renewals can be done by mail. US passport regulations make it relatively straightforward to renew, with minimal forms and red tape.
1. The first step is to locate your old passport. You must return it with your renewal application, though you will get it back afterward. (It might not be mailed at the same time as your new passport, however.) You'll also need to take new passport photos, regardless of whether you renew in person or by mail. This can be done at most drugstores or photo-developing shops, so check with your local CVS or Walgreens.
2. To renew by mail, you need a copy of Form DS-82. You can either download the form and fill it out by hand, or you can fill out a copy on the US State Department web site and print it out. Mail your old passport, new passport photos, Form DS-82, and a check or money order in a weather-proof envelope and use a traceable sending method. As of November 2010, the fee for a new passport book is $110, or $30 for a passport card, which can only be used to enter Canada, Mexico, or the Bahamas. You can also send a check for $140 and request both items. The fees for getting a child's passport are lower: $80 for the book, $15 for the card, or $95 for both. There is also a $25 execution fee.
3. If your old passport is lost or damaged, if you are under 16, or if you've changed your name and can't produce a legal document with the mail-in form, you need to renew in person, just as if you were getting a passport for the first time. This is also true if your passport was issued more than fifteen years ago. Renewing in person requires form DS-11, which you can fill out in person ahead of time—do not sign it until the passport agent instructs you to do so. Bring your old passport (if you have it), along with your passport photos, a photo ID such as a driver's license or military ID, and proof of US citizenship. You can find out locations of passport agencies through the State Department, and many US Post Offices also take passport applications. If you're renewing in person, you can also pay by credit card or debit card, in addition to check and money order.
4. Most renewals take 4 to 6 weeks to process, but if you're worried about how to renew an expired passport more quickly, there are options for that as well. You can make an appointment to apply for an expedited passport in person at a passport acceptance agency, and including overnight delivery, this can take your wait time down to between two and three weeks if you have your passport mailed to you. If you're able to pick it up in person, this can reduce your wait time closer to five business days. There is an extra $60 for expedited passport renewals through the State Department. If you need your passport as fast as possible or you can't get an appointment with your local government passport office quickly enough, you can also use a passport expediting service. These private companies will help you renew your passport in as little as 24 hours in some cases, for additional processing fees.
5. Passport renewals are also relatively simple if you're living abroad. US citizens living in Canada can still renew by mail, but for those who live in any other country, you must renew in person at your local US embassy or US consulate.