Passports 101: A Guide for Applying and Renewing Your Passport in 2020

Applying for a passport – or renewing an expired passport – may seem daunting, but we’re here to walk you through it. The good news: it’s easier than ever today, so don’t let passport woes stop you from traveling outside of the United States! Timing is everything, so it’s best to apply for a passport (even if you are just renewing it) several months in advance to ensure that you receive it in time for your trip. Here is the Explore Up Close guide to applying for a passport – happy globetrotting!

If you are applying for a first-time passport, you can apply in person at many post offices. Post office locations can be found here. While the closest location may be the most convenient, sometimes wait times are much less in post offices just outside of the city. For example, I live in Spartanburg and there is a post office not far from my house, but I went to the post office in Moore to renew my passport and was served almost immediately after walking in the door. Whatever post office you choose, it is best to make an appointment. Before your appointment, you will need to fill out the DS-11 form, which can be found online here. Proof of citizenship and identification will be required at the appointment, as well as a photocopy of each. Your evidence of citizenship must be an original or certified copy. In addition, you will need to bring one 2″ by 2″ color photo.

If you need to renew an expiring/expired passport, you can do this easily by mail. You will need to fill out the DS-82 form, which can be found online here. Then you will mail in the form as well as your most recent U.S. passport, one 2″ by 2″ color photo, necessary fees, and any other required documents. If you have urgent international travel within 14 days, you can make an appointment at a post office, or other passport center, and pay an additional $60 expedite fee.

Photo Tips. You can take your own photo, but it is best to get photos made at places like CVS, Walgreens, or FedEx stores. If you have a Costco membership, this will be the cheapest place to get a photo made. Photo requirements can be found here.

For more complicated situations, or additional information, take a look at the State Department’s website, found here.