Americans wishing to travel outside the United States via airplane need a valid U.S. passport. The process to renew a passport differs from the process of obtaining a passport for the first time. The best approach for you to renew your passport depends on your current age, your age when you obtained your passport and the physical condition of the passport.
Renewing by Mail
You can renew your passport by mail if the passport isn't damaged or lost, was issued when you were at least 16 years old and within the past 15 years, and contains your correct legal name or you can provide legal proof of name change. To apply by mail, you must submit a completed and signed Form DS 82 along with the expired passport, two passport photos, current passport fees, and a court order or marriage certificate if a name change is needed, in a padded envelope to the address listed on Form DS 82.
Applying in Person
You must apply in person to renew your passport if you're under age 16; your original passport was issued when you were under 16; your previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged; or the previous passport was issued more than 15 years ago. Applying under these circumstances to renew a passport requires a completed and signed Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport. You must also provide evidence of U.S. citizenship, current identification, a photocopy of the identification documents, application fees and two passport photos.
Minors Under 16 Years
Some special considerations exist when the applicant in need of a U.S. passport renewal is under 16 years of age, as the U.S. Department of State requires people under 16 to apply in person for a passport or renewal. In addition to a completed and signed Form DS 11, you must provide evidence of citizenship, such as your previous passport; parental consent and evidence of the child and parent's relationship (such as a birth certificate); a photocopy of the parent or guardian's identification; the application fee; and two passport photos.
Processing times for obtaining a passport renewal vary by season and other conditions. If you need the passport renewal within a short time-frame, you have several options. As of 2011, expediting the application for renewal will cost an additional $60. When applying by mail, applicants should write "Expedite" on the front of the padded envelope. If you need a renewal in less than two weeks, you need to make an appointment for renewal at a regional passport agency.