In Travel

How to Get a US Passport Renewal Expedited by Mail (WITHOUT Paying a Shady Agency!)

Honestly, I’m surprised I even need to write a post on how to get a US passport renewal expedited. For something so common and major as this, I can’t BELIEVE how hard it was to find information on how to do it. Even the State Department website left me with so many questions.

If you Google “how to get a us passport renewal expedited,” you will find a TON of websites for third-party agencies offering US passport renewal expedited services. Please note these agencies charge up to hundreds of dollars in extra fees, while the State Department itself only charges $60 extra to expedite your passport renewal.

The ONLY difference is the third-party agencies can sometimes get your passport as fast as 1 business day without you needing to be there in person, while the State Department requires you to show up at a passport processing center in person to get your passport within 24 hours for emergencies. I got my passport renewal expedited via the State Department by mail, and got my new passport in just 11 days (though I could’ve received it in 8 days if I’d paid $15.45 for overnight shipping).

This post will walk you through the US passport renewal expedited process and answer ALL your questions (because I am painfully detailed like that).

US Passport Renewal Expedited - How to Renew a US Passport the fast way!

Before we begin, are you eligible to get your US passport renewal expedited by mail?

Most people renew their passports by mail, but you MUST meet these requirements to be eligible to do so. According to the State Department website, you can renew by mail if your most recent passport:

  • “Is submitted with your application
  • Is undamaged (other than normal “wear and tear”)
  • Was issued when you were age 16 or older
  • Was issued within the last 15 years
  • Was issued in your current name (or you can document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)”

If you do NOT meet ALL of these requirements, you must apply in person.

What you’ll need to have your US passport renewal expedited

  1. Your most recent passport
  2. $170 (payable by check or money order—not cash!)
  3. Form DS-82
  4. One passport photo (See the detailed passport photo requirements)

How long does it take for the US passport renewal expedited?

Officially, 2-3 weeks door to door. For me, it took 11 days.

If you want to go the routine (and cheapest route), the processing times are 6-8 weeks. For me, that was a long time to be without my passport, so I went expedited.

How much does it cost to expedite a U.S. passport?

To get your US passport renewal expedited WITHOUT overnight shipping: $170

To get your US passport renewal expeditedWITH overnight shipping: $185.45

For a routine renewal: $110

Breakdown of costs:

  • Passport renewal fee: $110
  • Expedite fee: $60
  • Overnight shipping fee (OPTIONAL): $15.45

Do I write two separate checks for the passport renewal fee + expedite fee, or can I combine them into one check?

Again, I couldn’t find this answer ANYWHERE, so here it is: YES, you may combine the passport renewal fee with the expedite fee into ONE check. That’s what I did, and it was fine.

PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT apply to you if you are getting your passport for the FIRST time. If so, you do have to write two separate checks because one goes to the U.S. Department of State, and the other goes to the Acceptance Agent.

Who do I make the check out to?

Make the check payable to “U.S. Department of State” and BE SURE to write your name and date of birth ON the check itself. I wrote it at the top. 

You can also send a money order, and the above applies to that too. Make it out to the U.S. Department of State and write your name and date of birth on the money order.

Where do I renew my passport?

You basically have four options:

  1. Print this online form, fill it out and mail it along with your most recent passport via USPS.
  2. Go to the nearest U.S. post office that offers passport services, and fill out the paperwork there. (This is how I did it!)
  3. If you need your passport REALLY FAST (less than two weeks), you have to make an appointment with your nearest Passport Processing Center and go in person.
  4. If you have lots of money to spare and want your passport fast, then there are third party passport expeditors that will do your expedited passport renewal for you. Just be aware the charge fees IN ADDITION TO the State Department fees.

Where can I get my passport photo taken?

You basically have three options:

  1. Go to Walgreens or CVS or any other store that offers passport photo services
  2. Go to your nearest post office that offers passport photo services
  3. Take the passport photo yourself. There are a ton of strict requirements though, so be sure to read them.

Can I smile in my U.S. passport photo?

I found SO much conflicting information on this! In countries like Canada and the UK, you are NOT allowed to smile in your passport photo. For the U.S., however, it is different.

So the answer is “yes you can smile, but be careful.” The State Department website states, “You must have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open.”

I smiled in my previous passport photo, and I smiled in this new passport photo too, and I showed teeth both times. My passport photos were accepted both times, and there were no problems!

If for some reason your photo is not accepted, they’ll let you know, and you’ll have to send a new one. Just realize this will delay your renewal processing.

Do I need to staple my passport photo with 4 staples?

I agonized over this because the instructions on the State Department site are SO DARN SPECIFIC! It states:

“Staple the photo to the application. Please use 4 staples vertically in the corners as close to the outer edges as possible.”

But when I handed the post office clerk my application, she only used ONE staple to affix my photo to the application and she put it REALLY far inward, almost an inch away from the edge toward the center of the photo. I was panicked, but I decided she probably knew what she was doing. And guess what? It was fine. My passport photo was accepted, my application went through, and I received my new passport.

Can I use a UPS Store mailbox address on my U.S. passport application?

Yes, you may for the “Mailing Address” portion but NOT the “Permanent Address” section. The Mailing Address section will ask you to put “In Care Of” if you do not live at the mailing address, but when I asked the post office clerk, she said there was no need. So in the Mailing Address section, I just put my name and my UPS store mailbox address, leaving out “In Care Of,” and there were no issues. I received my new passport at the UPS store.

Can I leave the “Travel Plans” section of Form DS-82 blank?

Yes, you may leave it blank. I left it blank because I didn’t have any travel plans set in stone. It will not delay your application, and it is not required.

Do I need to write “EXPEDITED” on the outside of the envelope? If so, where do I write it?

Yes, but this depends. I did my U.S. passport renewal at a post office, so they simply affixed a small sticker that said “Expedited” on the outside of the envelope, next to the address. I did not physically handwrite it on there, even though that’s what the State Department website says to do, and there were no problems.

Do I need to pay the extra $15 to have my new passport overnighted to me?

Nope, it’s not required. This confused me because the State Department website says ” ” but it is only suggested, not required. My guess is that if you need your passport SUPER FAST, then you’ll want to overnight it. I just waited and did the regular Priority Mail, and it still arrived in like 2 days.

Where do I mail my US passport renewal application?

PLEASE note that where you send your renewal application depends on

  1. If you want routine or expedited service
  2. Where you are

And yes, if you are an American passport holder currently in Canada, you may mail your renewal from Canada. If you are outside the U.S. and Canada, read these guidelines from the State Department. Sorry, but applying outside the U.S. and Canada means you can’t expedite the process.

Routine Service (If you live in CA, FL, IL, MN, NY, or TX):

National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 640155
Irving, TX 75064-0155

Routine Service (If you live in any other state or Canada):

National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90155
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155

If you want your  US passport renewal expedited: 
Write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the mailing envelope (or the post office can affix an expedited sticker), and then mail it to:

National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90955
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0955

What happens if they lose my passport in the mail?

This was my nightmare and I’m thankful to say it didn’t happen. First off, all passport applications are sent via USPS Priority Mail, which means they get a tracking number so you can see where it is during the process.

Second, you can track your passport online.

Third, if the worst happens and for some reason your passport gets lost, here’s how to fix it:

  1. You’ll need your certified birth certificate
  2. If you don’t have that, you’ll need to order a new one
  3. Send these documents to the Passport Processing Center

It’s a hassle, and it’s VERY UNLIKELY to happen. But just know it’s not the end of the world if it does happen. Breathe!

Related: 5 Surprising Items I NEVER Travel Abroad Without!

How will my new passport arrive?

If you didn’t pay extra for overnight shipping, your expedited US passport will arrive via USPS Priority Mail in one of those Priority Mail red-white-and-blue envelopes. No one will need to sign for it, so don’t worry if you’re not there when it arrives.

If you did pay extra for overnight shipping, then your expedited US passport will arrive via USPS Express.

Will I get my old passport back?

YES, though the old passport may come in a separate mailing from the new passport (this is what happened to me).

US passport renewal expedited - my old passport returned to me in the mail

I got my old passport returned in a separate mailing. Notice they punched holes in it to mark it as invalid now that I have a new one

My US Passport Renewal Expedited Story

Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

I walk into the post office in Springerville, Arizona, and tell the clerk I need to renew my passport. She hands me the Form DS-82 and I fill it out in the corner at a counter. A man behind the “Postmasters Office” door asks me if I need a photo, and I say yes. They have a DSLR camera and a white background set up in the office.

“Am I allowed to smile?” I ask him.

“Hm…where are you going?” he jokes.

“Canada?” I reply.

“Okay, then you’re allowed to smile.”

I then go back out and continue filling out my Form DS-82 while the pictures print.

I take photos of my completed application plus my passport, in case anyone tries to tell me I didn’t fill something out correctly I want proof. Then I hand it to the post office clerk. She puts it inside a Priority Mail envelope.

I noticed she put the wrong address on the form because I failed to tell her I need it expedited. They have to fix the address to send it to the expedited address.

They print out a receipt with a tracking number, and I am on my way! I hope for the best.

I check my tracking number on the USPS website incessantly, but it hasn’t processed yet. Later that night I see that it has left the post office in Arizona and is on its way to Philadelphia! The estimated delivery date is Saturday, June 31.

Saturday, June 31, 2017

I check the tracking number, and my passport has not yet arrived at the Passport Processing Center in Philadelphia.

Sunday, July 1, 2017

My passport has arrived in Philadelphia!

In the ensuing days, I obsessively attempt to track my passport renewal online, but it’s not showing up in the system. Please note the website does say it takes at least 7 business days for it to show online.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My passport finally shows up in the online tracking system! It states that it will take up to 3 weeks to process and that I requested Expedite Service. I input my email address to receive email updates so I don’t have to obsessively check manually. 😂

That night at 9:47 p.m., I receive an email notification from the State Department entitled “Passport Application Status.” I open it to find the same information I saw earlier that day. I guess the notification was just delayed.

Friday, July 7, 2017 at 10:46 a.m.

I get another email from the State Department entitled “Passport Application Status.” I open it up to find my USPS Priority Mail tracking number and an expected delivery date of July 15, 2017. WOW, that was fast! My new passport is on its way!

Monday, July 10, 2017

My brand new passport arrives in the mail! 🙌🏽 I can’t believe how fast that was—only 11 days have passed since I mailed out my renewal application! June 29 to July 10. I am so relieved to have my new passport in hand.

US passport renewal expedited - My new passport received in the mail via USPS Priority Mail

OF COURSE I shared my new passport on Instagram Stories—what kind of millennial blogger do you think I am??

My Tips for Getting Your US Passport Renewal Expedited

  • Do it as soon as possible. If your passport is expiring within a year or so, go ahead and send it off for renewal. You never know if processing times will get backed up, or if you’ll need to travel last minute. Also, many countries require 6 months left on your passport to even enter the country.
  • Go to a US Post Office to have it done. Check online to find a post office with passport services (not all of them have this). They know what they’re doing, and they’ll be able to assist you and answer all questions.
  • Take photos of your completed application and most recent passport before you mail it. You want to have proof, just in case something goes wrong. I have a friend whose passport renewal was delayed because they claimed she failed to put her social security number on the application. That’s why I’d take photos to show as proof in case they claim something is missing.

Related: What to Wear in Paris in the Fall and Winter + My Paris Packing List

Have a Smooth Expedited US Passport Renewal!

I hope my passport renewal story has put your mind at ease! I know it’s anxiety-inducing to send away your beloved document that gives you the freedom to travel, but it’s a necessary evil every 10 years. Armed with these tips, get your passport renewed, sit back and relax, and then enjoy your travels!

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