Whether you’re planning a trip abroad and need your passport or are already overseas, you may have to renew your passport to travel. When that happens, you’ll have to take a few steps including gathering necessary documents such as your birth certificate and previous passport. Depending on your situation and your area, you may be able to renew your passport online or you may have to make an appointment with your local passport issuing office or government consulate.
It’s important to keep in mind that the documents you need, the fees you pay, and the process will greatly depend on your situation. For example, if you have a valid passport and live at home, filing for a replacement passport is very simple. If you’re abroad and have lost your passport, getting a replacement means ordering verifying documents such as a certified copy of your birth certificate.
How Do You Renew Your Passport?
Passports are issued and renewed by the U.S. Department of State, which handles all national and international records of citizenship. You can typically apply to renew your passport through the mail or at a designated Department of State or passport office (which may be your local post office or a consulate or embassy). In most cases, you can renew your passport with a simple step by step process:
- Ascertain that your existing passport has not expired
- Fill out form DS-82 or use the Passport Wizard offered by the U.S. Department of State at USA.gov.
- Photocopy the front and back of your existing passport
- If you’ve changed your name since your last passport was issued, collect any vital records needed to prove your identity, such as a marriage certificate or court order.
- Get a full color passport photo from an approved photographer such as at your local post office or a photo booth
- Pay the fee via check or money order (payment methods vary). Fees typically range from $30-$140 depending on which type of passport you are renewing but you can check fees here.
- Mail your application for passport renewal to:
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 640155
Irving, TX 75064-0155
Importantly, if your passport has been lost, stolen, has expired, or you were under the age of 16 when acquiring your previous passport, you will have to apply for a new passport which means you need a copy of your birth certificate as well. In most cases, your passport renewal will take up to 3 weeks. You can expedite the process for a fee.
What Documents Do I Need to Apply for a Passport?
While you will simply need a copy of your existing passport to renew it, you will need additional documentation if you need a new one. This means collecting vital records including your birth certificate or other original proof of citizenship document, a photo ID, and photocopies of your photo ID. You also have to apply for a new passport in person, which means making an appointment at your local passport agency.
- Ascertain you have the correct documents. At minimum you need an original copy of your birth certificate proving citizenship. If your name has changed, you also need your marriage certificate or court order. If you do not have these documents, you can order online birth certificates, typically with rush processing to receive your paperwork within 24 hours.
- Make an appointment with your local passport agency here
- Fill out form ds11 before going to the appointment. Do not sign the form until you are at the appointment with a witness. You may also use the passport wizard and print out the resulting documents.
- Get a full color photo from an approved photographer
- Go to your appointment
- Pay the fee, either via credit card, money order, or check. Many locations do not accept cash.
- Wait for your passport to arrive. The processing time is typically up to 3 weeks. You can expedite the service for a fee.
Renew a Passport for a Child or Minor Dependent
Renewing or ordering a first-time passport for a child or minor is slightly more difficult and requires that either all parents or guardians of the child be present or sign an affidavit. You must bring documentation including:
- Proof of child’s U.S. citizenship (A copy of their U.S. birth certificate)
- Evidence of the child’s relationship to their parent/guardian’s (U.S. birth certificates, court order)
- Original government issued ID for both parents/guardians
- If only one parent/guardian is present, a notarized DS-3053 form signed by the non-present guardian and a copy of the front and back of their primary ID and proof of relationship to child OR court order/certified vital records proving sole authority over child, a written form DS-5525, or a death certificate for a deceased parent/guardian
If you have lost any of these documents, you can order them at Vital Records Online. You can order online birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates and have them notarized at your local courthouse, financial institution (bank), or post office.
Renew a U.S. Passport Overseas
If you are overseas, you will have to visit your local consulate or embassy (by appointment only) and present vital records proving your U.S. citizenship.
These include a copy of your birth certificate issued by the city, county or state of your birth listing your full name, date of birth and place of birth. It must also list your parents’ full names, have the date filed, be signed by the registrar, and be signed by the issuing authority. Alternatively, you can present a consular report of birth abroad or certificate of birth, a certificate of naturalization, or a certificate of citizenship.
What Should I do My Passport Has Been Lost or Stolen
If you believe that your passport may fall into someone else’s hands, it is important that you report it stolen as quickly as possible. This is intended to prevent anyone from using your passport maliciously and to prevent identity theft. Report your passport as lost or stolen here
What Can I Do If I’ve Lost My Identifying Documents?
In most cases, you can simply order identifying documents or have your parents or guardian request them for you. Your best proof of identity is your birth certificate, so acquiring and notarizing a copy is the fastest way to prove your citizenship and acquire or renew your passport.
If you don’t have a valid government issued photo ID, you may be able to bring other early vital records such as a hospital birth records, baptism certificate, U.S. census records, early school records, or doctor’s records of post-natal care as proof of identity. However, not all consulates will accept these documents.
How to get a replacement birth certificate – Even if you’re overseas, you can typically begin the process of placing a birth certificate order online through Vital Records Online, providing you’re at least 21. While it’s understandable that you need a fast birth certificate replacement, it’s unlikely you can get your birth certificate next day, so be prepared to wait for document notarization. Prepare a digital copy of your government photo ID before you fill out the birth certificate replacement form.