Renewing a U.S. passport is simple when the right information is available. The process is easiest if you still have your most recent passport. If you do, and it is undamaged, is less than 15 years old, and was issued when you were sixteen or older, then it is possible to renew by mail. Besides your old passport, send a current photo, the appropriate form (Form DS-82), and a check or money order for the renewal fee of $110. If you've changed your name since the last time a passport was issued, you must also send any supporting documents, such as a marriage certificate or court order. Only originals or certified copies are accepted. Don’t worry, though. The government sends back these documents.
If you no longer have your most recent passport or any of those conditions can’t be met (including not having supporting documents for a name change), it will have to be renewed in person. Any U.S. citizen living abroad, with one exception, will also have to renew in person. All U.S. citizens living in Canada are the exception to this rule and can renew by mail. Since an official agency requires you to pay for expedited service, it would be better to apply in-person at an authorized acceptance facility. While expedited service returns your passport in 3 weeks instead of 4 to 6 weeks, the $60 fee is a steep price to pay. An authorized acceptance facility includes any participating post office, library, or municipal office. Visit the State Department website for a facility listing. Also, be aware that people applying in person must use Form DS-11 and will pay an extra $25. Proof of citizenship and an ID are required as well.
When Renewals Aren’t Necessary
Some updates don’t require a renewal at all. For instance, if a name change is required and less than a year has passed since your previous one was issued, simply submit the proper form (Form DS-5504) along with your old passport and a photo. No fee required. If it has been more than a year, you’ll have to treat it like a renewal and follow the steps above. If you've been fortunate enough to have traveled so much that pages need to be added, the government is happy to assist you with that as well. It will kindly add 24 or 48 blank pages when you send in your current passport, the right form (Form DS-4085), and the fee of $82. The fee is the same no matter how many pages you ask to be added. All forms can be found on the state department website, and some can be picked up from the post office. The post office also takes photos, but these are more affordable if taken elsewhere.