Well, that time comes around every so often when one needs a passport renewal. Yes, it takes 10 years for it to come around. But, it always seems to be at the most inopportune time. Like, when you are ready to take a trip!!!
Schedule Your Passport Renewal
Yesterday, the alarm on the mobile phone sounded and a note reminded me, “renew passport.” I have no idea when I set that alarm, but probably one day when I was wondering when my passport expired. I must have found the passport in my chest of drawers and checked the expiration. Then, trying to be a prepared traveler, I set the alarm several months before the expiration.
Even though my passport does not expire until September, the U.S. Department of State recommends renewing a passport 9 months before it expires. This is one thing all current passport holders should note. I do not have any international flights planned (I’m sorry to say) so I decided I should do as my alarm instructed and renew.
Visit the Department of State
Since it had been 10 years since the last renewal, I didn’t really remember what to do. And, I did not want to go wait in line at the post office to find out, so I searched the internet. The U.S. Department of State has a great website for renewing passport holders and new applicants.
The site provides direct and easy-to-read instructions for renewing. To renew, 4 things must be sent in: completed application, passport photo, payment and the recent passport. On the website, the renewal application is available to print and complete by hand. Or it can be completed online with the Passport Application Wizard. I chose online. With my old passport in hand, it could not have been easier. I printed out the application, wrote a check, paper-clipped the passport with those two and only needed a passport photo.
Well, that was the problem. Did I go to a place to have one made? Or, try to take selfie and print it at the office on photo paper and in color. I tried the selfie. My arms were not long enough to hold the camera far enough away to make my head fit in the size required on the application.
I had to have a friend take my photo at various distances from my face while I stood against an off-white wall. After printing 4 of the photos, I measured my head in each one and finally found one that would work. Soon, I had another problem.
Passport photos need to be 2″ x 2″. I could measure with a ruler, but thought there must be a 2″ x 2″ square if I search the internet. Sure enough, I found a whole page of templates for 2″ x 2″. Next, I printed those, cut one out, placed it over my face and cut around the edges. I pulled the ruler out again, measured – I cut too much off!!! It was too small.
After trying again, the print and scissor work seems to have paid off. Granted, I am not very technically savvy, so your efforts could be rewarded much more quickly. But, I stapled it to the application and took everything to the post office and mailed it off. Passport renewal in progress!
Routine or Expedited
Because I do not have any travel plans in the near future, I chose routine processing. Of course, there are instances where someone needs to renew a passport quickly. The site has detailed instructions on how to request expedited service by mail (2-3 weeks) and in person (8 business days). The 8 business day option is only if you have an airline or cruise ticket proving you are traveling within 2 weeks or have an emergency. These expedited services have a special fee in addition to the renewal fee.
As long as a new passport is returned, I will stick with my assessment that this must be one of the easiest things to do with the government. If my application is returned because of my homemade photo, I will let you know.
Even if you have trouble, the site offers help! “If you have questions about passports, please contact the National Passport Information Center.”
Need to apply for your first passport? Go to the Department of State’s website to find out how.
I mailed my renewal on May 16. And, on May 31, guess what arrived in the mail? New passport good for the next 10 years! Passport renewal success!
I’m ready for Paris anytime! I could even make new itineraries if the 5 and 10 day are not enough!