The time to renew your passport is about eight months before it expires. This allows for processing times, and avoids snags for international travel, as most countries require your passport to be at least six months from expiring before you can enter.

The U.S. Department of State makes simple work of renewing your passport through its online tool. You can fill out the application to print out and mail, or find the closest location if you prefer or require an in-person renewal.

The fees

Just how much does it cost to renew a passport? As of June 2017, the prices were:

Age 16 and older $110
Children under age 16 $80
Expedite fee (optional) $60
Overnight delivery (optional) $15.45

Passports have 28 pages, 17 of which can hold visas and stamps, and they are valid for 10 years (five for children). If you think you’ll be doing a lot of traveling within that time, ask for a 52-page passport when applying. There is no additional fee.

How do you pay? When you go in person to a State Department passport agency, you can pay with a credit card (like maybe the travel rewards card that has made your latest adventure possible), or with a check, a money order, cash or a prepaid debit card. If you renew by mail or at a passport acceptance facility, personal checks and money orders are the only acceptable forms of payment.

Criteria for renewal

You are eligible to renew your passport by mail if you have it in your possession (it hasn’t been lost or stolen), it is not damaged beyond the normal wear and tear, it was issued to you when you were at least 16 years old and within the past 15 years, and it is in your current name.

If the passport is not in your current name, you can still renew by mail with official documentation proving the name change, such as an original (or certified copy) marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order.

If any one of these criteria is not met, you’ll need to apply in person. Additionally, if you are living outside of the United States, you’ll need to renew your passport in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The fees for renewing outside the U.S. are the same as inside.

Mail it in

To renew your passport by mail, fill out form DS-82 online and print it out. Mail the completed form, your passport, documentation of name change if applicable, fees, and a 2-by-2-inch recent color photograph of yourself that meets the criteria outlined in the DS-82 form. Any documentation you send in will be returned by mail to you.

Apply in person

If you need or prefer to renew your passport in person, use the State Department’s Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page to find the location nearest you. Many post offices, clerks of court, public libraries and other government offices are designated to accept passport renewal applications.

You’ll need to first fill out and print form DS-11 to take with you, along with your passport, name-change documents if needed, photo and fees. You’ll also need a photocopy of your passport bio page on white 8 ½-by-11-inch paper.

Be sure to call the acceptance facility before going to verify if an appointment is required. Some facilities may also accept payment by credit card or cash, so it’s worth a call to ask.

How long does it take?

Processing times vary depending on the time of year and other circumstances. As of January 2017, the State Department’s posted processing time is four to six weeks for passport renewal and two to three weeks if you choose to expedite the application.

Your new passport will be mailed to you via Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation, unless you’ve chosen Overnight Express.

The fine print

  • If you are behind in child support payments by $2,500 or more, you’ll have to clear that up before renewing your passport.
  • If your passport is expired, you can still renew, as long as it was issued within the past 15 years.
  • You may request a gender designation change when renewing your passport with the proper medical certification and any applicable name-change documentation.
  • If your passport is seriously damaged, you must provide other documentation proving your identity and citizenship.
  • In most cases, your old, canceled passport will also be returned to you, although it may be mailed separately.
  • If your passport is lost or stolen, contact the State Department immediately to report and renew it.