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You found the perfect destination, booked your suite at a discount and bought your tickets well in advance. But have you checked the expiration date of your passport? It has been years since many of us have gone overseas, and you might just find that your passport has expired or is approaching the limbo known as the “six-month validity period.”
Renewing or updating your passport can be as complicated as applying for your first. That’s why we researched the most commonly asked questions surrounding how to renew a passport, including how long it takes, how you can track your renewal status and how to change a name on your passport.
Here is a breakdown of everything you’ll find answered on this page:
- How Long Does it Take to Renew a Passport?
- How Do I Track My Passport Status?
- How Long is a Passport Good For?
- Where is the Passport Document/Book/Card Number?
- How to Change My Name on a Passport After Marriage?
- How to Change My Address on Passport?
- Without a Passport, Can You Travel?
- Is Your Social Security Number on Your Passport?
- Does My Passport Address Have to Match My License?
- Which Countries Do Not Require 6 Months of Passport Validity?
- Can I Travel if My Passport Expires in 3 Months?
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How Long Does it Take to Renew a Passport?
Although average passport processing times have shrunk significantly from the height of the pandemic, it can still take up to nearly three months to get your passport in hand, according to the State Department. In addition, processing time can take up to two weeks to start, which doesn’t include mailing times. The bottom line is that if you plan to leave the country, apply for your renewal TODAY.
How Do I Track My Passport Status?
Checking the status of your passport renewal is a reasonably straightforward process. You will need the last name on your passport, your birth date and the final four of your social security number. If your application status returns “not available,” do not worry; it can take up to two weeks for your application to enter “processing” status. You can check your passport application status online with the State Department or by phone at 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 (TDD/TTY).
How Long is a Passport Good For?
If you were 16 or older when your passport was issued, your passport is valid for ten years from the issuance date. If you were 15 or younger at the time, your passport is valid for five years, according to the State Department. But in reality, your passport is only valid for 9.5 or 4.5 years because most countries require a minimum of six months of passport validity before entering the country, regardless of how long you intend to stay. Check the date of expiration on the data page of your passport book to find out exactly when your passport expires. The data page is where you will find your picture and other identifying information.
Where is the Passport Document/Book/Card Number?
Nothing is more frustrating than a minor communication problem while on vacation. One source of that frustration can be the many ways people will ask for your passport number. To clear the confusion, your passport number, passport document number and passport book number are all the same. You can locate this information on one of the first pages of a passport book, called the data page, where you will find your picture, name and other personally identifying details. Look for a nine-digit number at the top right corner of that page; it is often labeled, but sometimes not! If you have a passport card, the number is in the same location but starts with the letter C followed by eight digits. If you have one of the new, Next Generation Passport books that began issuing in 2021, the number will also start with a letter followed by eight digits. The gazillion-long number at the bottom of your passport book does contain your passport number, but it also has other information irrelevant to you. Stick with the 9-digits at the top right corner.
How to Change My Name on a Passport After Marriage?
This question is, unfortunately, one of the less straightforward to answer, and the answer is ultimately the dreaded “D” word — it depends. There are four routes this will go down for you:
Name change request less than one year after your passport issue date.
You can get a “replacement” passport with your corrected name by mailing a correction form with your current passport to the National Passport Processing Center. Here you will find these instructions.
Name change request more than one year from the original issue date, and you are eligible for renewal by mail.
If your passport was issued over one year ago, you might be eligible to renew by mail. The conditions for this are:
You have your old passport.
You were 16+ when your last passport was issued.
Your passport is no more than 14 years old.
Your passport is not damaged or stolen.
You did not have a special circumstance passport with limited validity.
You can submit certified documentation to prove your name change (certified marriage certificate or courter order).
Here you will find the instructions for completing a name change for a mail-eligible renewal.
Name change request more than one year from the original issue date, and you are NOT eligible for renewal by mail.
Read through the conditions for eligibility in the bullet point above; if you answer NO to ANY of these, you are not eligible to change the name on your passport by mail. You must apply in person. Here you will find instructions for how to change your name on a passport in person.
You are already using a different name than on your passport, and you do not have certified documentation proving this change.
You must correct your passport at an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency. Find acceptance facilities near you using this page. You need form DS-11 — the same form for first-time applicants. We recommend printing and filling it out before heading down. Download the form here; it’s located halfway on that page. You also need evidence of U.S. citizenship and a valid ID with the name you wish to start using on your passport.
How to Change My Address on a Passport?
Good news, you don’t have to change your address on your passport! The ONLY time you would need to worry about this is if you are moving while your passport application is processing, according to the State Department. In that case, you will need to update your mailing address by calling the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 (TDD/TTY). Unfortunately, there is no online option to update your address. You can also update your address on your passport’s Personal Data and Emergency Contact page (usually the next page after your data page). You can update your address here in pencil as often as you need, in addition to your emergency contact information. If you would still like to let the State know of your change of address regardless of what we’ve said, you can call the Passport Center at 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 (TDD/TTY) to let them know — this is not a formal process, and you will not receive confirmation.
Without a Passport, Can You Travel?
U.S. citizens can travel anywhere in their country without a passport. If you’re still itching to get outside the U.S. without a passport, you will need to enroll in a particular program that allows you entry — typically only to Mexico or Canada. The NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST are the most well-known, and most will not be worth it or applicable to the average traveler. Alternatively, if the passport book cost is part of the reason for wanting to travel without one, a great alternative is the passport card. These cards are much cheaper and used only for entry to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda. They are valid as long as passport books and only cost $65 for first-time applicants instead of $165 for the passport book. Here you will find a complete breakdown of the differences between a passport card and a book.
Is Your Social Security Number on Your Passport?
Although you can find your social security on many important documents, your social security number is not on your passport. You can usually find your social security number on tax or bank statements and forms besides your social security card.
Does My Passport Address Have to Match My License?
Not at all! Just as you don’t need to worry about changing your address on your passport, you don’t have to worry about an address mismatch between your passport and driver’s license. You only want to update your address with the National Passport Information Center if you are moving while your application is still processing. Call the center at 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793 (TDD/TTY) to update them on your move.
Which Countries Do Not Require 6 Months of Passport Validity?
Since we are no longer in the days of 18-week passport processing, we highly recommend that you renew your passport before travel. With that said, you can visit a few locations with less validity remaining on your passport. The Europe Schengen Area allows U.S. travelers a minimum of three months of passport validity. Outside of this area, Albania, Belarus, Croatia, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Macau, Panama and New Zealand all have varying rules, but require less than six months of passport validity, according to The Points Guy.
Can I Travel if My Passport Expires in 3 Months?
You will find very few countries that allow you entry with only three months of validity remaining on your passport. The countries that will grant access with less than three months left are Hong Kong*, Macau and the UK, according to The Points Guy. Hong Kong and Macau require one month of validity, and the UK only needs your passport to be valid during your stay. It’s best to renew if your passport is at this stage of its life.
*Hong Kong is a city and unique administrative region in China — it is neither totally independent nor entirely part of China.