Are you wondering when you should renew your passport? There are a lot of factors involved in figuring out the best time for your passport renewal. It’s not just all about when your passport expires! There are other reasons that you may need to renew your passport, and yes, there are times of the year that are better or worse for passport renewals!
The Best Time of Year to Renew Your Passport
It’s always possible to get fast service for your passport renewal – especially if you use a passport expediting service – but the US Passport Agency does experience surge times every year when they get large volumes of passport requests. The highest numbers of passport services are requested every year in early spring and again in late spring/early summer, as tourists prepare for spring break and summer vacations. Fewer applications are sent in during the fall and winter, so if that timing works out for you, you may want to plan to renew your passport during one of the chillier months of the year!
The State Department is also urging travelers whose passports will expire soon to renew early. There was a huge boom in passport issuance in 2007. More than 6 million more passports were issued in 2007 than in 2006! All of the adult passports issued in 2007 will expire in 2017, so the State Department expects to be very busy next year with passport renewals. If you renew now, you’ll beat that rush.
Renew Your Passport Before It Expires
We always recommend that you renew your passport before it expires. That way, you’ll ensure that you always have a valid passport and are ready to travel. It’s particularly a good idea to renew your passport before it expires because so many countries enforce the “six month rule”. The nations that follow that standard won’t allow you to enter unless your passport has at least six months validity past the date that you will return to the US.
Renew Your Passport After It Expires
It happens all the time… you pull out your passport to prepare for a trip, and realize with a sinking heart that it is expired! As long as it hasn’t been expired too long, don’t panic. You can still renew your passport if it has been expired for less than five years. The key is to look at the date of issue and make sure it has been less than 15 years since your passport was issued. If it has been more than 15 years since your passport was issued, you’ll need to go through the new adult passport procedure again.
Renew Your Passport If It Has Minor Damage
There is a difference between a mutilated passport and a worn or slightly damaged one. If a passport has torn pages, a loose or missing cover, or unauthorized markings on the information page, it is damaged enough to be considered invalid, and would need to be replaced using the mutilated passport procedure. Minor damage, like curling pages or threads hanging from the cover, does not invalidate the passport, but can cause problems with border guards or airline officials when you travel. It’s a good idea to renew your passport if it is showing wear, to make sure that your passport will be accepted wherever you go.
Once you have your new passport, protect it from damage by keeping it inside a passport cover or wallet. Don’t carry your passport in your back pocket, where it can be damaged by sitting on it. Actually, it’s a good idea to keep it out of your pockets entirely – one of the top reasons for passport damage is if a passport is left in an article of clothing that winds up in the wash!
Renew Your Passport If You Run Out of Blank Pages
The US State Department stopped adding pages to valid passports at the end of 2015. This means that now, if you run out of blank visa pages in your passport, you will need to renew your passport! The good news is that you can request a large passport with 52 pages instead of the standard 28 page book. There’s no additional fee for the large book, but if the Passport Agency doesn’t have large books in stock, there’s a chance you may be issued a standard-size book instead.
Renew Your Passport If Your Appearance Changes
There’s a reason there is a photo printed on your passport. Whenever you show your passport to an official, they will check your photo to make sure it’s really your passport. If your appearance has changed radically since your passport was issued, you should renew your passport so you can have one that looks like you!
Since passports are valid for 10 years, it’s expected that your appearance will change a bit over time. You don’t need to get a new passport if you’ve grown a beard, or dyed your hair platinum blond, or if you’ve started to wear horn-rimmed glasses. You would only need to renew your passport if your appearance has changed so much that you are not recognizable as the person in your passport photo! We’re talking about radical changes of appearance, like losing 150 pounds, or having major reconstructive facial surgery, or transitioning to a different gender. When you submit for a passport renewal due to a change in appearance, you should submit a letter explaining why your appearance changed along with all the other standard requirements.
Renew Your Passport If You Change Your Name
A legal name change is one of the reasons you may need to renew your passport before it expires. If your passport was issued more than one year ago, and you have legally changed your name through marriage, divorce, or by court order, you’ll need to do a passport renewal to have a passport issued in your new name. (If it’s been less than a year since you got your passport, you can do a reapplication instead).
When you apply for a renewal to change the name on your passport, you’ll need to submit all the normal passport renewal requirements. You’ll also need to submit a certified copy of your name change document (marriage certificate, court order, or divorce decree) and a copy of your driver’s license or Social Security card showing your new legal name.
Do you have questions about passport renewals, and whether it’s the right time to renew yours? Let us know!