How I Got My Passport Renewed in 12 Days
Former State Department spokesman gives a step-by-step guide to follow for renewal by mail, urgent process and get back your old passport
Like many people, I let my passport renewal slide during the pandemic. I realized it in October when I thought I might be traveling overseas. I was the deputy press secretary at the State Department years ago, but I didn’t want to use my contacts for help for my mistake.
There were a record number of passports issued last year, so I was expecting it to take a long time. To my surprise, I got a new passport in the mail in just 12 days. Then I got my old passport back to keep as a souvenir.
This 14-step guide below is how I did it, updated with 2023 policy changes. I also provide steps to follow for the fastest, most urgent service and how to get back your old passport.
If your passport is expiring within the next six months, you need to start the renewal process now.
Paying subscribers can ask me anything in the comments at the bottom.
The State Department issued a record 22 million passports in 2022. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken testified before Congress last month that 2023 has an “unprecedented demand for renewed travel", with 500,000 passports applications each week.
Blinken said it now takes an estimated 7 to 9 weeks to get an expedited passport (10 to 13 weeks for a regular one.) But people report it is taking longer.
I wrote on social media in March that I was pleased by the State Department’s efficiency. In response, people demanded to know how I was able to overcome the huge backlog.
As you read in the angry travelers’ responses above, I’m one of the few who has been able to get through to the passport staff by phone. I didn’t use any inside sources or backchannel. I just called (877) 487-2778 and hit numbers until I got a human being.
The woman who answered was helpful and friendly. She spent a long time on the phone with me. While much of the information she gave me is on State’s various website pages, she talked me through the order and details in a way that was easy to follow from my notes of our conversation.
This step-by-step guide below will make it easier to follow the process easier and ensure you don’t make any errors that will cause further delay.
You may want to print these steps out and use them as a checklist.
14 Steps to Renewal
The passport office recommended I renew by mail. You have no choice now because State stopped the online renewal pilot test in March.
Fill out form DS-82 (here) and print it.
Get passport photos. I went to FedEx. Tip: You can ask FedEx to take the photo anywhere in the store with a white wall behind you, so move toward a window to get more natural light and a more flattering photo.
Staple the photo to form DS-82 with exactly four staples as shown.
Write a check payable to “U.S. Department of State.”
Make out the check for $209.53. That is $130 for the adult Passport Book renewal + $60 expedited fee + $19.53 for 1-2 day delivery. (Postage increased since mine was $208.32.)
Put your name and birthdate on the memo line of the check.
Get your old passport.
Make a copy of your old passport identity page, the form DS-82 completed and the check. Tip: You can scan them with your phone or take pictures.
Go to the post office and get an Express Mail envelope. Tip: This is not the same as the Priority Mail envelope.
Write “Expedite” on the outside of the envelope. I wrote it on both sides.
Address the envelope to National Passport Processing Center, Post Office Box 90955, Philadelphia, PA 19190-0955. This address is only for expedited renewals, not regular ones.
Pay postage for “expedited delivery” which will include a tracking number and insurance up to $100. The cost depends on where you are mailing from. I paid $8.95.
Get the receipt from the post office because it has your tracking number on it. Tip: Take a photo of the receipt with your phone so all the documents are together.
Track status online. Since I got mine in less than two weeks, I never got to use this service. But after two weeks, you can track the process here.
Fastest Urgent Service
It’s important to understand that urgent service is not guaranteed. Your goal is to try to get one of the few in-person appointments at a passport agency to renew.
This was tricky when I did it. The State Department woman told me I could not get the urgent service to renew in person if I had already applied by mail. I decided not to risk it and stick with the mail, which was the right decision.
The policy seems to have changed with the long backlog of applications. So, I recommend you apply by mail and use this urgent process if you don’t get your new passport by the time your travel is within 14 days.
The woman at the passport call center said to follow these instructions:
Call on the exact date that you are 14 days from your travel because appointments book up quickly.
Call (877)487-2778 and hit option 2.
Call at 8 a.m. when they open for the best chance of getting an appointment.
You can call back to try to get an even more urgent appointment in person if you are within five days of travel.
Get Back Your Old Passport
I have kept all my passports since I was a teenager and love to look through the stamps.
I asked the woman at the passport office how to get mine back when I sent it for renewal.
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