Renewing an expired (or expiring) passport right now is a little more challenging than in the pre-COVID days and takes some planning. In order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the US Department of State—the government department that handles passports—has “significantly reduced passport operations,” according to the official website. This has included the temporary suspension of expedited passport requests unless there is a life or death situation. The Department is keeping an eye on the pandemic’s progress and how states are responding as re-openings begin nationwide. This means the Department is resuming “normal” operations in tiers.
This also means you can renew your passport right now, but it might be more challenging and take longer than usual. Since early August 2020, there are now six passport agencies in phase two of reopening as well as 12 centers in phase one. You can find out exactly which centers close to you are at what stage at the official site.
GETTING A PASSPORT RENEWED
You have two options for applying for a passport renewal, either in-person at a facility near you or you can renew by mail. Just keep in mind that delays will happen unless you can prove a life or death situation is dependent on your passport application. You will need to mail your expired passport and citizenship documents (such as a birth or naturalization certificate). If you can’t find copies of these documents, you can order your birth certificate overnight to speed up the process.
You will also be required to complete Form DS-82, available online, or at the facility. This form is exclusively for passport renewal applications, not for new passport applications. A social security number is required for this form. If you do not have one, you must include a statement that is dated and has the phrase: “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the following is true and correct: I have never been issued a Social Security Number by the Social Security Administration.” Through these steps, you can renew either your passport book, passport card, or both. Some applicants choose the larger passport book with 52 pages for no additional fee if international travel is common.
MORE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR PASSPORT RENEWAL
In addition to the documents mentioned above, if you have changed your legal name, you also need to provide proof of a name change. This could be a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or official name change form. A certified copy is required, and bear in mind that all original documents submitted for a passport renewal are returned to you except for the photo.
One photograph is required for a renewal, and there are specific guideline requirements. The photo must be stapled to the application precisely with four vertical staples in the corners. Photos cannot be bent, and you cannot wear glasses in the photo (without a note from your doctor).
HOW MUCH DOES A PASSPORT RENEWAL COST?
Fees vary based on what kind of passport you are renewing. A passport book renewal is $110 regardless of whether you opt for the larger book or not. A passport card is $30. Both types together are $140. Extended delays are to be expected at the moment, and there is no option for expedited processing unless, once again, you can prove a life or death circumstance is the catalyst for your application.
The US Department of State continues to accept and process applications and payments, keeping your documents safe as always. However, due to the pandemic, there is no stringent timeline for when you can expect a renewed passport to arrive. It is unwise to plan an international trip at the moment since there is no way to know when your renewed passport may arrive. Additionally, the majority of countries either aren’t allowing US citizens to enter, or there is a required two-week self-quarantine period upon arrival. Countries are continuing to change these requirements as the pandemic progresses, so watch for shifts in the countries you plan to visit for more details.
Just because the US Department of State is not processing passport renewal as quickly as they used to doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. It’s always a good idea to have an up to date passport, so apply today, and you’ll still get a response sooner than if you wait for things to “get back to normal.”