Maybe someone surprised you with a romantic trip to Paris. Maybe your boss wants you to check out the company’s new property in China. Or maybe your grandmother in Scotland has taken a turn for the worse. No matter the reason, you don’t want to make travel plans only to realize your old passport is no longer valid. But when might you need a new one?
If you fit any of the criteria below, it’s time to get a new passport!
Your Old Passport is Expired (or About to Expire)
Check the data page of your passport book or the front of your passport card to find the expiration date. If you were 16 or older when it was issued, your passport is valid for 10 years. If you were 15 or younger when you received your passport, it’s only good for five years. It’s an important distinction to remember. Too often, families get stuck at the airport when they discover their children’s passports aren’t valid.
You should renew your passport nine months before it expires. Some countries require six months’ travel time remaining on your passport before they will allow you to enter. If you don’t have the requisite time, you may want to expedite your renewal.
Your Passport has been Lost or Stolen
To avoid the potential of identity theft, report any loss or theft as soon as you realize your passport is missing. If you’re abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you’re in the U.S., call the U.S. Department of State at 1-877-487-2778 (TTY 1-888-874-7793) any time from 8:00am to 10:00pm EST, Monday—Friday (excluding Federal holidays). If you find your passport after declaring it missing or stolen, it’s no longer valid and should be mailed to:
U.S. Department of State
CA/PPT/S/L/LE 4th Floor 1150
Passport Services PL
Dulles, VA 20189-1150
Make sure you know where your passport is. Not all thefts are obvious: a passport may have been lifted from a car that was broken into. Losses aren’t always dramatic either; some people misplace their passports when moving, or throw them away after they’ve gone through the washing machine.
Your Passport has been Damaged
If you did happen to put your passport through the wash, or went swimming with it in your pocket, you may need a new one. Normal wear and tear is expected, but according to the Department of State, “water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch and other injuries may constitute damage” and will invalidate your passport.
Your Name has Changed
If you’ve gotten married, divorced, or otherwise changed your name, you’ll need to get a new passport issued in your legal name. The required forms and fees vary, depending on whether you changed your name within a year of acquiring a passport, whether you can verify your name change with court documents, and whether you are a minor.
The Information on Your Passport is Incorrect
Spelling errors and/or an incorrect date of birth can make a passport invalid, and you’ll need a new one.
Your Appearance has Changed Dramatically
Coloring your hair or growing a beard probably won’t invalidate the document, but you may need a new passport if you:
- Lost or gained a significant amount of weight
- Added or removed large or numerous facial tattoos or piercings
- Had substantial facial surgery or trauma
- Made a gender transition
Bottom line: If you don’t think you can be identified from your passport photo, you probably need a new passport.
Check your passport today. If you find you fit any of the categories above (or if you can’t find your passport), it’s time to get a new one. After all, you don’t want to miss out on your next big trip.
By Madan Goyal, Passport and Visa Express.