Have you been staring at your passport for the past two years, dreaming of the day when you can dust it off, hop on a plane for a much-needed getaway? You’re not alone! Now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, many people are eagerly awaiting their first real vacation in — what feels like — forever.
8 Tips for a Stress-Free Passport Renewal in 2022
While it is not required to show proof of vaccination for a new or renewed passport, it is mandatory to show proof of vaccination when entering certain countries for non-essential travel. If you are vaccinated or have natural immunity, travel can be less stressful, bypassing quarantine regulations depending on the country of your destination.
Before looking for plane ticket deals, be sure your passport is valid. If your passport has expired or will expire soon, you’ll want to renew it before you go. Renewing your passport means getting all the necessary documents in order, like your application form and certified birth certificate. So, here are eight tips to make the renewal process stress-free.
1. Renew Your Passport as Soon as Possible
Since COVID-19, travel.state.gov announced you should start travel planning six months ahead. The good news is that the U.S. Department of State is processing the backlog of passport applications accumulated during lockdowns. However, now that countries are reopening to visitors, many people are submitting new passport applications. Even during ordinary times, passport applications can take up to four months to process. This means you need to submit your renewal or new passport application right away.
Fortunately, the process of passport renewals is becoming more convenient. While you can renew your passport in person or by mail in seven easy steps, the State Department announced plans for online passport renewals without requiring the mailing of physical documents. Other passport changes, on December 27th, 2021, the State Department explained in a tweet that passport renewal fees increased by $20 nationwide to ensure passport security.
2. Make Sure to Use the Correct Form
Many people are eligible to renew their passports by mail. If you have your undamaged (other than normal wear and tear) passport, and it was issued less than 15 years ago when you were 16 or older, you can complete Form DS-82. Follow the mailing instructions. You’ll need to include a new passport photo, the processing fees, and your current passport.
If you don’t qualify for mail-in renewal or have never applied for a passport before, the process is quite different. Fill out Form DS-11 and take it to a passport acceptance facility to apply in person. You’ll need to bring a passport photo, payment method, proof of your identity, and evidence of your U.S. Citizenship.
For expats or those who reside outside of the United States, a limited number of countries are eligible for services by mail. You have to apply for your renewal in person at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you meet the eligibility requirements and do not plan to travel internationally in the subsequent 4-6 weeks, use the default Form DS-82, and mail it with your supporting documents.
3. Get All Your Paperwork in Order
You can find both application forms online on the State Department’s website, they are free to download or print off. There are strict requirements for your passport photo, but you can quickly get an acceptable one taken at many pharmacies, shipping stores, and copy/print locations.
4. Proof of Citizenship
You have a few different options when providing primary evidence of identity and citizenship. You can use any valid government-issued photo ID to prove your identity, such as a driver’s license, military ID card, or state-issued ID card. The simplest way to prove your citizenship is by providing a certified (long-form) copy of your birth certificate. The State Department does not accept photocopies and notarized copies of your birth certificate, hospital birth records, or certificates as primary evidence. It’s easy to apply for a long-form birth certificate online through Vital Records Online.
Ensure you possess the correct long-form birth certificate by checking the following details.
- Issued by the State, County, or City of your birth
- Displays bearer’s full name, date of birth, and place of birth
- Displays parent(s) full names
- Displays the registrar’s signature
- Date filed with the registrar’s office must be within one year of birth
- Displays and embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal
Those born inside the United States
Those born inside the United States and not issued a birth certificate within their first year, or have no birth record at all, must submit Form DS-10: Birth Affidavit, and can provide Secondary Citizenship Evidence such as:
- A Delayed Birth Certificate (filed more than one year after birth) is acceptable as Secondary Citizenship Evidence.
- Letter of No Record (issued by your state of birth) is accepted as Secondary Citizenship Evidence when no birth record is on file.
When submitting a Letter of No Record and form DS-10: Birth Affidavit, the State Department requires you to include two public or private documents “preferably in the first five years” of the applicant’s birth. Early documents such as a hospital birth record or post-natal care medical records are also acceptable. Other recognized documents include baptism records, U.S. Census records, school or bible records.
Those born outside the United States
If you were born outside of the United States to U.S. Citizens, you need to obtain an original Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) from the U.S. Embassy in the country you were born. Submit Form N-600 with a foreign birth certificate and a certified translation, plus your parents’ birth certificates.
- Fully valid, undamaged U.S. passport (can be expired)
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Certificate of Citizenship
The Proof of Citizenship process is unique for those adopted or naturalized through their parents. If you are a naturalized U.S. Citizen, you must submit an official Naturalization Certificate. Those who gain citizenship through the naturalization of a parent or adoption can learn more about the requirements at travel.state.gov. You will find detailed information for providing evidence of citizenship for these cases.
Suppose you are temporarily unable to produce evidence of citizenship, but you have previously been issued a passport or CRBA in the past. In that case, you can pay a File Search fee of $150 by check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of State. Include the check or money order with the Form DS-11 and a written request for a file search.
Finally, if you are changing the name on your passport, you need to show proof of your legal name change. You can use your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order. Keep in mind that all documents must be originals or certified copies.
5. Check to See How Much a Passport Costs
In December 2021, passport fees increased by $20. Passport fees vary, depending on your age and what type of passport you are requesting. If you are 16 or older, a passport book costs $130, and a passport card costs $30, both for $160. There would be an additional $35 fee if your first passport or your most recent passport were issued when you were under 16 years of age. If you are under 16, a passport book is $100, and a card is $15.
If issued before the age of 16
6. Track Your Application
Since you are sending sensitive documents through the mail, it’s good to use a premium, trackable shipping method to send in your application. You can include a prepaid, pre-addressed, trackable envelope for the State Department to use to send your new passport to you. This method gives you the ability to track your documents at every step.
In addition, the State Department’s website offers a way to track your application status. All you have to do is enter some basic information, and they let you know exactly where your application is in the acceptance process, and the date you should expect to receive your new passport.
7. In Case of Emergency
If you need your new passport fast, you can pay extra for expedited service. However, your application could still take a few weeks to process. But, if you have a legitimate emergency, there is an option.
You can book an in-person appointment at a passport agency on the State Department’s website. If you qualify, you can get your passport in just three days. However, there are a limited number of these in-person appointments available. You must be able to show proof of a genuine, life-or-death emergency that requires you to travel internationally in the next 72 hours. This method does cost an extra $60, but it is the only way to get a passport in a highly expedited time frame.
If your passport was lost or stolen, you should report it immediately to the State Department’s website. If you lost your identifying documents, your birth certificate is the best document for proof of identity. Acquiring and notarizing a copy of the document is the fastest way to prove your citizenship and obtain or renew your passport.
8. Check the Travel Restrictions
Before you hop on the plane, check for any travel restrictions at your destination. Those traveling have faced loads of entry or exit obstacles in recent years because of COVID. Then there’s the Russia/Ukraine situation. Even though many countries have eased their COVID restrictions, new ones are being put in place by some eastern countries bordering Russia. The U.S. Government cannot guarantee your safety; therefore, Ukraine and Non-NATO countries are on the current Do Not Fly list. Be sure to check if your destination is on the list issued by the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get through the passport renewal process painlessly. If you need a certified copy of your birth certificate to include with your application, you can get one quickly and easily here.
Remember, passport applications can take months to process, so be sure to get started on your application ahead of time.