How Long Does It Take to Renew a Passport? | Condé Nast Traveler

International travel is reopening in a major way, with vaccinated Americans now able to visit a host of different countries around the world. But as travelers dust off their passports, they might notice something panic-inducing: the expiration date.

Earlier in the pandemic, renewing passports was a near impossible task. Many convenient passport couriers—which help with express renewals—paused their services, and standard renewal by mail was taking as long as sixteen weeks.

Fortunately, processing times have shrunk back to pre-pandemic timelines (or close), and many passport renewal operations are up and running once again. Travelers can now get a passport renewed in as little as a week, although those express options come with hefty price tags. To be on the safe side, travelers should follow the State Department’s latest guidance and submit their passport for renewal at least four to six months before planned international travel.

If you’re attempting to renew by mail, be sure your passport meets the State Department’s requirements. Only passports that were issued in the last 15 years, when the traveler was age 16 or older, and are undamaged aside from wear-and-tear are eligible for mail renewal. The passport must also be in your possession to mail in along with your application and be issued in your current name (or you should be able to document any name change).

Additionally, if you’re traveling for a life-or-death emergency or other urgent matter, there are official shortcuts that can put your renewal ahead of the rest.

One day soon, these onerous renewal processes will be a thing of the past. Last December, the Biden administration told the State Department that it would need to create a way for Americans to renew passports online, without mailing any documentation. But for now, travelers are stuck doing things the old fashioned way.

Here’s how to renew a passport right now.

Routine government renewal

The cheapest option to renew a passport is to submit a routine application through the mail to the National Passport Processing Center in your region. With this option, you only need to pay the standard $130 renewal application fee along with shipping costs.

It’s probably not surprising that as the cheapest option, routine service also has the longest turnaround time. The State Department estimates current routine processing to take eight to 11 weeks. Plus, that estimate doesn’t include shipping times—it could take an additional two weeks from the day you mail your documents until your application is “in process” with officials, and then they have to mail it back. So if you’re going with the routine renewal option, you should calculate a minimum total door-to-door time frame of about 13 weeks to be on the safe side.

Expedited government renewal

For an additional $60, on top of the $130 renewal application fee, you can pay for the government’s expedited processing option. Travelers still submit their documents through the mail to a National Passport Processing Center, but once it arrives there, your application goes to the top of the pile, thanks to that extra $60 you paid.

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