How Early Should You Renew? A Guide to Passport Expiration Rules

October 9, 2019

42% of Americans own passports, a number that has steadily increased year after year. They’re the key to enjoying international travel and broadening your horizons. But they don’t last forever.

Do you know how soon you should renew your passport? As the expiration date nears, you could experience some difficulty traveling to certain countries. And if you renew too late, you could lose the ability to travel at all.

So when’s the best time to renew? And how long is a passport valid anyway? This guide will cover passport expiration rules, as well as how and when to renew your passport.

1. Passport Expiration Rules

How long is a passport good for? Exactly 10 years. But they start losing some of their perks as the expiration date nears.

Depending on your location, you may be barred from traveling to certain countries even with time remaining on your passport. Locations such as China, Mexico, and the Philippines will not allow entry once your passport is set to expire in 6 months.

If you’re still set to travel, you have other options. Germany, Italy, and France are happy to accept visitors as long as their passports are good for at least 3 more months.

After this mark, your travel options are limited. However, Costa Rica, a popular travel destination, is still a viable choice as long as your passport has 1 month remaining.

Because of these entry requirements, it’s in your best interest to renew your passport in advance. Otherwise, you may plan for a luxurious international vacation only to be turned away at the terminal.

2. How Early Should You Renew a Passport?

There are two different timetables to renew a passport. Routine service will take about 1 to 2 months.

With this in mind, you should renew your passport when it’s set to expire in 7 or 8 months. You could cut it closer to the wire, but you’ll be locked out of traveling to countries with strict entry guidelines. However, if you don’t have any trips planned, there’s no harm in taking your time.

But what if you’re in a hurry? Maybe you’ve realized your passport is expiring and you may be barred from entry. There are faster options available.

For an additional fee, you can pay for expedited service. The agency will prioritize your passport and you’ll receive it in about a month’s time.

Is that still not fast enough? Visit a passport agency with proof of travel. They’ll expedite your passport in less than 3 weeks.

Lastly, in emergency situations, it’s possible to renew a passport in fewer than 3 days. This requires proof of a life-threatening situation.

While processing times vary, they take longest during the Spring and Summer. You may want to apply earlier to avoid the rush of the busy travel season.

In short, the best time to apply varies based on your travel requirements. You should renew your US passport at the 8-month mark if you want to play it safe. However, if an accident occurs, there are options available to streamline the process.

3. How Do I Renew a Passport?

Surprisingly, you must renew a passport through mail or in-person. There is no online method available due to security reasons. This is yet another method to plan ahead since mail delivery can be fickle.

You’ll need to include the following in your mail package:

  • Form DS-82
  • Passport Book
  • A Color Photo
  • Payment for Processing

You can find form DS-82 online. The agency will not accept a damaged passport book. Passport fees can vary, so refer to this post for more details.

If your passport is lost or damaged, you’ll have to apply for a new one. This is also true if the passport is over 15 years old or you’ve changed your name and can’t provide proof.

Applying for a new passport has a different process. It must be done in-person.

Look online to find a passport acceptance agent. You’ll find them across the country at public locations such as a post office or county court.

You’ll need to provide different documentation when applying:

  • Form DS-11
  • Birth Certificate
  • Government Photo-ID
  • A Color Photo
  • Payment for Processing

Keep in mind that you cannot renew your passport with an acceptance agent. However, it’s possible to renew in-person at a passport agency.

4. Passport Book Alternatives

You may not need a passport book depending on your travel needs. A passport card is an alternative travel option. Although it’s cheaper than a passport book, it comes at the cost of restricted travel.

A passport card allows international travel to Canada, Mexico, the Carribean, and Bermuda. It should be noted that it cannot be used for air travel. This type of identification is only accepted at land borders and seaports.

Due to its convenient size and price, it’s a great option if your travels take you to the accepted countries. The best part about a passport card is using it as an additional form of government ID.

You’re more likely to have this small card on you wherever you go. The same can’t be said for a large passport book.

The next time you renew your passport, consider paying a bit extra for a passport card. By buying both at the same time, you’ll save money on processing fees.

Don’t Miss Out on Travel Plans

If you run your passport too close to its expiration date, you may be in for a rude awakening. Nothing is worse than planning an unforgettable trip and then missing out at the last moment. Keep the passport expiration rules in mind so you’re always eligible for international travel.

Not sure when your passport even expires? It’s time to give it a good look before making any travel plans. If you enjoyed this travel information, find more right here on our blog.

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