“I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.”
How to Apply or Replace or Renew Your US Passport
This blog was written before the COVID Pandemic. The COVID epidemics played havoc on the travel business. In 2022, Fifty Plus Nomad decided to focus on traveling and living in Mexico and language learning posts. We will only update these long-term travel-related posts on a time-permitting basis. We would appreciate your comments and updates on these posts.
How to Apply for a US Passport
Nowadays, you need a passport (or passport card) to travel outside the country. (This includes travel to Mexico and Canada).
You must apply for a new passport at a ¨acceptance facility¨ (most post offices) in the US. You must provide proof of citizenship (usually a birth certificate), appropriate forms, processing fees, a photo, and a photo ID. You can find the requirements and forms online. (See here for more details on US requirements and here for Canada).
Generally, you should submit the application and supporting documentation to the ¨acceptance facility¨ 4-6 weeks before travel. (It may take much longer in 2021-2022).
The ¨passport acceptance facility¨ will do a cursory review and send the application to a processing center. You will receive the passport usually within a couple of weeks afterward.
You may be able to get everything processed within fourteen days of your trip for extra money (with proof of travel) by going IN-PERSON to an application center. (Most application centers are in larger cities like Boston or Seattle, and here is a complete list of where you can apply).
You can only get a passport for immediate travel in the case of an emergency. (More details here).
A Note on US Passport Photos
The most common reason for rejecting a passport application is that the photo does not meet the criteria. Fortunately, the processing center or consulate staff should refer you to the correct photo shop. (I recommend that you try to find a photo shop that has dealt regularly with taking the type of photos required.
Renew or Replace Your US Passport Abroad
Since Fifty Plus Nomads travel and live abroad for extended periods, there is a good chance that we will need to renew or replace our passports while overseas. If this is the case, you must apply through your consulate or embassy.
In Merida, Mexico, getting a replacement was relatively expensive (around $200) but straightforward once I got to the consulate. (The process required filling out the application with a photo and fee, and I also had to prepare a FedEx return envelope).
The biggest problem was getting an appointment at the consulate. I went to the consulate of Merida’s website to schedule an appointment online and found no available spots, and I had to make several calls to get the consulate to open up new slots. Then I had to wait two weeks to get the next available appointment. I do not know what would have happened if I did not have a month to wait for the appointment and processing.
Many countries will not allow you to enter their country if you have six months or less duration left before your passport expires. For this reason, I continually renew at least eight months before expiration, even if I have no immediate travel plans. (Six months before expiration plus two months for processing).
I also have information about travel visas, applying in advance for visas (only necessary for a few countries), and staying longer than three months in another country.