Editor’s Note: The U.S. Department of State has temporarily reduced its passport services because of public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Passports will be available only to customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency—such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths among immediate family members—and who need a passport for international travel within 72 hours. While some locations are still accepting passport applications, applicants should expect significant delays and are encouraged to wait until normal operations resume. Passport applications submitted before March 20 are still being processed, but customers should expect delays.

You may think you have time to figure out the logistics of your upcoming travels, but if you’re planning to go out of the country, you may want to look at how much life is left in your passport sooner rather than later.

Even if the expiration date is after your trip, it may still be time to renew your passport. That’s because some countries require your passport to be valid for six months past the dates of your trip—and many airlines abide by this rule, too. Plus, starting early to renew your passport can help you avoid travel delays and additional fees. For example, expedited service for last-minute applications costs $60 in addition to the $110 renewal fee for a passport book, $30 for a passport card or $140 for a passport book and card. (However, please note you cannot use a passport card for international air travel.)

So, don’t let an out-of-date passport end your international trip before it even begins. Use this step-by-step guide to find out how to renew your passport now, so you can avoid unwanted stress later:

In order to renew your passport, it must meet these requirements:

  • Undamaged, aside from normal wear and tear
  • Issued after your 16th birthday
  • Issued within the past 15 years
  • Bear your current name, unless able to provide proof of name change

If your passport doesn’t meet all of the above requirements, stop at this step as you won’t be eligible to renew your passport. Instead, you must apply in person and follow standard application procedures.

Need to renew your passport that was issued before your 16th birthday or over 15 years ago? You’ll also need to apply in person, as if you’re applying for a passport for the first time.

If your passport is eligible for renewal, you will need to provide it in addition to the following:

  • A completed Form DS-82
  • A valid passport photo, adhering to all current requirements, such as not wearing eyeglasses (effective as of November 1, 2016)
  • A money order; or personal, certified or cashier’s check for fees
  • A certified copy of your legal name change document, if your current name doesn’t match your most recent passport (acceptable documents include marriage certificates, divorce decrees or court-ordered name-change documents.)

To ensure your application to renew your passport complies with State Department requirements, you’ll need to thoroughly double-check each document for accuracy. In 2015, more than 200,000 applications were rejected for photos that did not meet the State Department’s exact standards.

Your AAA Travel Advisor can offer discounted rates on passport photos. AAA Plus Members receive two free sets of passport photos per year, and AAA Premier Members can receive unlimited sets per year.

Now it’s time to send off your application, which you can only do by mail to renew your passport. Keep in mind that you’re sending important documents, so be sure to use an envelope large enough to fit the entire application without folding or bending.

Next, consider a safe, trackable delivery method like USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation or Signature Confirmation. You may expedite your service to renew your passport (not the package itself) by writing “Expedite” on your application envelope, but this will incur an extra charge of $60 that you will need to include in your personal check or money order.

The mailing address for passport renewal applications can be found on the State Department website.

Now, it’s the waiting game—and just how long you wait depends on whether you chose to expedite your application to renew your passport. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Routine: 4–6 weeks
  • Expedited: 2–3 weeks

Both processing times include the time your passport is in the mail, too.

While you wait, you can address other travel needs, like ensuring your state-issued driver’s license or ID card will be valid throughout the duration of your international trip. AAA can also help with your International Driving Permit and ordering foreign currency.

Need to renew your passport but still traveling within the country? Keep in mind that beginning Oct. 1, 2020, your state-issued ID or license must be REAL ID-compliant for domestic air travel. (However, other forms of identification will still be accepted, like a valid passport.) The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, is intended to make driver’s licenses and other forms of government-issued ID more secure.

Lastly, consider ways to help you feel more secure while traveling. For example, AAA offers ProtectMyID fraud resolution, in the event that sensitive information, such as your passport, is lost or stolen.

Let Us Handle the Rest

Your AAA Travel Advisor can help you plan and book your trip and can offer exclusive perks and insider tips.