When (and Why) to Renew Your Passport

When (and Why) to Renew Your Passport

Posted June 10, 2016

Your United States passport allows you to travel anywhere in the world—provided it’s up to date and has enough pages free.  While this might not seem like a difficult thing to keep track of (after all, passports are valid for 10 years), the State Department recently added a few new wrinkles that you need to know about – or you could be in for an unpleasant surprise on your next trip.

No more extra pages

Up until December 31, 2015, frequent travelers who were running out of space in their current passports could get 24-page supplemental inserts put into their books.  But, citing security concerns as well as international passport standards, the State Department has discontinued this practice. So if your passport is quickly filling up with ink, it might be time to renew.

Know your destination’s rules

Every country has different rules for how long visitor’s passport must be valid.  For some, your passport need only be valid for the length of your stay.  Others require validity up to three months from the beginning of your trip, and in some extreme cases (Russia being one example), your passport needs to be valid six months after your exit date from that country.  It can often be difficult to find accurate information on this subject, so we recommend abiding by the strictest rules you find.  For example, if a country’s consulate says your passport needs to be valid through your stay, and the State Department says it needs to be valid for six months after the end of your stay, abide by the latter.  Odysseys recommends that passports be valid for at least six months after the date of your return to the United States.

When in doubt, renew early

The best way to avoid both of the issues noted above is to renew your passport sooner rather than later.  This advice is especially prudent now, as the State Department anticipates a flood of renewals stemming from the 10-year anniversary of the 2006 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which decreed that all Americans traveling abroad in the Western Hemisphere needed a valid passport.  The millions of travelers who obtained a passport at that time will be renewing soon, and the State Department expects this will lead to longer than normal renewal times.

How to renew

You can renew your passport with little trouble - and a $110 fee - if you meet the following qualifications:

  • Your current passport is undamaged
  • Your passport was issued in the last 15 years
  • Your name has not changed in that time, or you can provide an original or certified copy of your name change (including a marriage license)

Simply download the DS-82 form from the State Department website and follow the instructions.  Frequent international travelers will want to check the box requesting a 52-page passport (rather than the standard 28), which comes at no extra cost. 

When you receive your new passport, you may notice it looks and feels more robust than your old one – the government has beefed up the passport’s security features, including adding a data chip, new artwork, a watermark, and color-changing ink. This is all to ensure your safety and security abroad.

We hope these tips help you enjoy a worry-free travel experience, and you can begin to fill your new passport with stamps from across the globe.

Passport image via Flickr