If you travel internationally on a relatively frequent basis, you probably have some idea of when your passport expires. If that’s the case, unless you’re a habitual procrastinator, you renew it as needed, either before its expiration date or however many months before it expires, as per the rules of whatever country or countries you’re going to.
But if you’re an infrequent traveler, it’s another story. Say you went to Paris that summer after you graduated from college and haven’t gone further than 3 states from home ever since, but now your work wants to send you to China. Your passport might be years and YEARS expired.
What do you do? Do you start fresh? Or is there something “special” you need to do because you did have a valid passport way back when?
As it turns out, it depends.
If your passport expired less than five years ago
According to the U.S. Dep’t of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, if your passport expired less than 5 years ago (read: it was issued within the past 15 years), you can renew it by mail, providing you/it meet the following criteria:
1. You have your passport in your possession to submit with your application
2. It’s undamaged, other than normal wear and tear
3. Was issued when you were age 16 or older
4. Was issued within the last 15 years
5. Was issued in your current name or you can document your name change
If you can answer yes to all 5 of those criteria, you can renew by mail, the same as someone whose passport hasn’t expired. This page explains what you have to do to renew by mail.
If your passport expired more than five years ago
If your passport expired more than 5 years ago (read: it was issued more than 15 years ago), or if you answered NO to any of the criteria mentioned above, you’ll have to pretty much start from scratch. This page of travel.state.gov gives you a step-by-step of what you’ll need to do to get a new passport, which includes scheduling an in-person visit at an acceptance facility.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary