How to renew a passport abroad

My passport renewal experience

In this post I discuss how to renew a US passport while outside of the United States. As you might suspect, I decided to write this article on how to renew a passport abroad because I’m now going through the process myself. Currently in Tirana, Albania, where I visited the US Embassy to renew a passport abroad. I came to Tirana simply to renew my passport and I came here because the entire process is simple. Tirana is a small, fun convenient city and the turn around for U.S. Passport renewal is short, about 2-3 weeks.

The embassy is 5 minutes walking from my flat. I dropped off my application, shared laughs with fellow Americans working in the embassy and paid the fees (roughly $130 or 12,400 local currency). Yes, that conversion is correct, $130 is about twelve thousand Albanian Lek! If you’re wondering, I used local cash (Albanian leke) in the featured image above. The entire process took 30 minutes from the walk over to time spent inside the embassy. An estimated 2-3 weeks for processing, I’ll soon pick up my new passport and be on my way. 

Eligibility for passport renewal abroad

Regarding your US passport, if all the following are true, you may apply from outside the United States.

  • I can submit it with my application
  • It is not damaged (other than normal wear and tear)
  • I have never reported it lost or stolen
  • It was issued within the last 15 years
  • It was issued when I was age 16 or older
  • It was issued in my current name, or I can provide another document such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree that is evidence of my name change
  • It was not limited to less than the normal 10 year period of validity for an adult passport due to multiple passport thefts or losses, or due to issues with passport damage or mutilation

Applying for a US passport renewal while outside the United States requires one to use Form DS-82. If one or more of the above bullets are not possible, you’re unable to renew from outside the United States. Please note, do not sign your application until your embassy or consulate has instructed you to do so.

What you’ll need

  • Current US passport
  • 1-2 printed photos (to be used on new passport)
  • Printed passport renewal application
  • Appointment confirmation page
  • Passport card (if renewing)

Please note* you may not have a passport card and therefore, disregard information pertaining to passport cards. You do not need one and need not apply if you do not want one.

While living and/or traveling outside of the United States, you’ll likely need to visit the local US embassy or consulate to renew your passport. Most do not offer service by mail. However, some do offer mail in applications such as in Canada, if you meet all requirements. Be sure to check with your embassy or consulate to confirm the process at their location, whether in person or application by mail. We’ll discuss all of the steps you’ll need to take in order to successfully renew your passport while abroad. 

Locate embassy to renew a passport abroad

To renew a passport abroad, perform an online search to locate your US Embassy or Consulate. If there isn’t one located in your city, locate the nearest location within your country. If there isn’t an embassy or consulate in your country, locate the nearest location in a neighboring country to inquire if you can apply with them. Again, be sure to read the rules for appointments and processing at this location. You can find this on the appropriate embassy or consulate website. It’s possible you’l be able to renew by mail but most US embassies and consulates require you to submit your passport renewal application in person.

Apply online

Now that you’ve located your embassy or consulate website, follow the prompts on their website for renewing your passport while abroad. Here is where you’ll schedule your appointment online. If your local office offers mail in applications, follow the prompts and instructions for doing so. Be sure to read everything thoroughly and complete all required tasks. Remember, you can always contact your local embassy or consulate with questions. On the application form, you’ll see contact information. I emailed back and forth with the embassy in Tirana and their responses were within one business day. 

Tips for renewing passport online

It’s best to avoid delays in the process considering the significance of a passport and ID, especially if you are traveling. If your passport is nearing 6 months to expiration and you travel often, it’s time to renew your passport! Many countries will not let you enter if you are less than six months from the date of your passport expiring. The six-months rule begins on the last day of your trip, not on the date you arrive. For more information, have a look at rules for entering different countries and requirements for US passport holders.

Depending on how busy your local office is, you may need to wait before you’re either able to schedule an appointment or until your appointment date arrives. If you have time before your passport expires, start the process early to learn how much time in advance you’ll need to schedule. In most cases, you’ll be able to get an appointment within 2-4 weeks. I’ve seen morning and afternoon availability but again, it depends on local protocols for appointment days and times. 

Passport photo

You’ll be required to bring 1-2 printed photos to be used on your new passport and/or passport card. Certain specs must be met when printing your photo so please review the photo requirements for passport renewal before printing and/or submitting your passport photo.

Locate a print shop

You can find print shops in most major cities, which is likely where your in-person passport renewal appointment will be help. A quick online search should locate one or more options. Be sure to call or write the print shop beforehand to confirm their ability to assist your needs and photo requirements. You may be on a short schedule if traveling so again, best to line everything up ahead of time.

Now, you’re all set to renew your US Passport while abroad. Not worry if you don’t have a permanent address in your current location. Unless your embassy only issues passports by mail, you’ll need to provide an address for shipping. In most cases, you’ll be able to visit the embassy or consulate to pick up your passport once it’s ready. Reach out to me if your questions, concerns were not addressed. Happy travels!

Travel blogger. Solo/budget traveler living on my terms, visiting and "living like a local" in unique and interesting places, some which most people don't hear about and certainly do not live in. It's an interesting lifestyle which I make happen on a modest budget. Join me, let's go!

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