With travel documentation now required not only for global travel, but also for travel to areas formerly exempt from United States passport requirements, such as Canada and Mexico, it is more critical than ever before to maintain an up-to-date passport.
While most travelers are well aware of the perils of departing the country with an expired or invalid passport, fewer realize how many pitfalls are possible in the passport renewal process, where very specific guidelines must be closely followed to ensure successful processing by government agencies.
As the passport renewal process is an occasional task for all but the most frequent of fliers, it is all too easy to slip up on an application, thereby needlessly delaying processing of a passport renewal.
The veteran Passport & Visa Consultants at Travel Document Systems, Inc. have seen countless variations in customer mistakes during the renewal process, but they name the gaffes below as the top culprits in slowing down passport renewal applications on a day-to-day basis.
1. The passport renewal application
Be certain to accurately complete your application in full and to sign your complete legal name at the end. The passport office will not accept or consider partially completed applications; nor will it consider any application lacking your signature. Forgetting to sign the application form is all too common for travelers busily multi-tasking in preparation for their trip!
2) The passport photo
The importance of a recent, clear passport photo, shot on a plain white background, in which you appear normally dressed, well groomed, and are directly facing the camera, cannot be emphasized enough when applying for a passport renewal. Generally, most people have undergone significant physical changes during a decade’s time, so be sure to make an appointment or drop by a local pharmacy for an updated photo to include with your application. Bear in mind that your photo will be closely scrutinized by government officials. When preparing for a passport photo, steer away from clothing with unusual images or symbols, jewelry, or decoration containing anything that could be deemed questionable, or excessive makeup.
3) Letter of Authorization
If you choose to utilize a processing service for your passport renewal they must receive a copy of this letter, which demonstrates the legal right to act on your behalf to the United States Passport Agency. Be sure to sign and include the letter with your application.
Finally, note that a passport is only a “renewal” if the prior passport was issued within a 15-year span. Beyond that time period, the application will be considered new and is subject to an alternate set of application procedures. For more information, see the US State Department website at www.travel.state.gov.