Renewing a US passport is an archaic process. You have to obtain a printed photo, write a check or money order, and then package up all your forms and old passport and go to the post office to mail it—and then cross your fingers that your important and sensitive documents don’t get stolen or lost in the post.
After all that, you then have to wait for the State Department to receive your application (which can take up to two weeks depending on where you mail your package from) before the estimated 8-11 week wait time to process and approve your new passport begins.
Fortunately, the US government is embracing technology and will soon be allowing travelers to renew their passports online. A spokesperson for the State Department told SmarterTravel, “Our new online system will save Americans money, time, and effort, making it much more convenient to renew their passports.”
A pilot program launched in summer of 2022 allowed 25,000 people to trial the online passport renewal process on a first-come, first-serve basis, closing to new participants in mid-August. Since then, the portal has been periodically reopened to new applicants and is expected to open to the public permanently later this year.
Who Can Renew a Passport Online?
You can renew your passport online if you meet the following conditions:
- Renewing a passport that was valid for 10 years
- Age 25 or older
- Most recent passport was issued over 9 years ago but less than 15 years ago
- People who live in the United States
Who Can’t Renew Their Passport Online?
You will not be eligible to renew your passport online if:
- You’re changing your name, gender, date of birth, or place of birth
- You’re traveling internationally in less than 11 weeks from the date of the application
- You do not have your old passport in your possession (because it was lost or stolen)
- You’re under 25 years old
- Your passport was issued more than 15 years ago
- Your are renewing a passport that was only valid for 5 years (passports issued to minors under 16 years old)
How Much Will Online Passport Renewal Cost?
Online passport renewals will cost the same as standard passport renewals. However, unlike with mailed applications, you can pay any fees with a credit card (and get those credit card miles for travel). You’ll also save money on postage (which can be significant if you want tracking to ensure your package arrived safely).
Where Can I Get Digital Copies of My Passport Photo?
To renew online, applicants must upload their passport photo as a digital file. Photos must be unedited and scanned photos will not be accepted. Your digital photo must be:
- At least 600 x 600 pixels
- In JPEG format
- In color
- No smaller than 54 kilobytes and no larger than 10 megabytes
- High-resolution (see further rules and suggestions regarding image compression on the State Department website)
Many stores offer passport photo services, but not all will provide a digital copy of the images. CVS offers a USB with digital copies of the passport photo along with two physical copies for roughly $32 ($16 for the photo service, $16 for the USB). For those who prefer to skip the USB, Staples will send digital copies of your photos via email for $14.99.
While many people prefer the guarantee that their store-bought photo will meet all government requirements, budget-conscious travelers can also opt to take their own passport photo at home. Check out our how-to guide for the most up-to-date sizing and requirements.
How Do I Submit an Online Passport Application?
First, applicants must create a MyTravelGov account and wait for the account to be verified before they can begin their application. Verification can take up to 24 hours.
Applicants do not need to mail in their old passport but be warned—old passports will be immediately deactivated upon submission. Furthermore, other than skipping the time applications would have spent in the mail before reaching the Processing Center, processing times for online renewal are the same as mail-in applications. Online submission takes the hassle out of applying for a renewal but don’t count on it to shorten your wait time.
Online passport renewal is temporarily closed to new applicants. The portal will reopen to applicants periodically in the near future and then permanently at the close of the testing phase. Monitor the State Department website for announcements.
Frequently Asked Questions About Passport Renewal
When should I renew my passport?
Many countries require passports to be valid for at least six months after a traveler’s date of departure from the destination and some also require at least one blank page on the passport for the entry stamp. Even if your passport will be valid for the duration of your trip, it may need to be renewed to meet these requirements. Check the State Department website for information on your destination.
Can I renew my passport card online?
Yes, you can renew a passport book, card, or both online.
Does my old passport need to be expired to renew my passport?
You can renew your passport before your old passport expires, however your old passport will be immediately deactivated upon submission of the application.
Do I need to renew my passport if I move?
You do not need to renew or update your passport with a change of address if you move.
How long is my passport valid for?
Passports issued to minors under 16 years of age are only valid for 5 years, while passports issued to those over 16 years of age are valid for 10 years.
Do I need a passport if I have a REAL ID?
Travelers must have a passport to travel internationally. You cannot travel internationally with just the REAL ID. To learn more about the REAL ID and what it can and cannot do, check out our article Everything Travelers Need to Know About the REAL ID Act.
Carol McPherson contributed to this story.
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