Six common mistakes US travelers make when renewing their passports
Many are anxious to travel and bookings are up to destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, which are presently open to American travelers. But you’ll need a current passport to travel outside of the United States. To help the wanderers among us, passport and travel experts share the six most common mistakes travelers make when renewing their passports.
- Waiting too long to begin the renewal process
- Paying for poor quality passport photos
- Disrespecting the signature
- Skating on shipping
- Not adding a passport card
- Overpaying for third-party services
Waiting too long to begin the renewal process
Despite news of resuming four to six week expedited services, the Department of State is still working through a backlog of hundreds of thousands of passports. Beginning the renewal process early will not only give you peace of mind and ensure you have documents in hand, but will also save you the $60 government fee the Department of State charges for expedited services. It is crucial you begin the renewal process at least 12 weeks before your scheduled departure date.
A little-known rule, a U.S. passport must be valid for at least six months beyond a traveler’s scheduled return date to the United States to be valid for departure. One of the most common reasons travelers are turned away at the airport and left behind is because they are still not aware of this strict travel rule.
Paying for poor quality passport photos
Submitting an inferior photo is the number one reason passport applications are rejected. Not all photos are accepted, even if you pay to have them taken at a drugstore or post office.
Disrespecting the signature
The signature on your passport is critical in nature and should be taken seriously. Passport applications are often rejected for using initials, computer generated signatures or sloppy marks in the signature line. The Department of State prefers to see a full signature of your first and last name. If your signature has changed dramatically over the years or if you are no longer able to sign your name as you once did, you should consider submitting proof of a similar mark found on another official document and include it with your application along with a signed note of explanation.
Skating on shipping
Do not make the mistake of skimping on shipping when you put passport documents in the mail. Be sure to get a shipping label and receipt that allows you to track the package. This recommendation is even stated directly on the passport application.
Not adding the passport card to your renewal application
For just a $30 government fee, travelers can add a REAL-ID Passport Card to their application, which can be used in lieu of the traditional passport book when traveling to Mexico and Canada by car, to the Caribbean by boat or a standard driver’s license when traveling domestically. The Passport Card is valid for 10 years, is the size of a standard credit card and it does not display your address, protecting your privacy while traveling. The passport card is also REAL-ID compliant, and all travelers will be required to have a REAL-ID to fly domestically beginning October 2021. It is the best $30 you will spend.
Overpaying for third-party services
Traveler Beware! This mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars. Many third-party services charge more than $250 in additional fees just to help process a standard passport renewal. If you have a life and death emergency or need to renew your passport immediately, those fees soar to $399, none of which include government fees. Many of these services also include policies that do not allow cancellation once you realized you’re overpaying.