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Overseas travel on your horizon? Not so fast: Don’t forget to include a passport in your plans. Especially if you’re not sure when it expires: Some destinations require six months validity on your passport in order to enter the country; others require at least two blank pages for entry. But it can take a long time to get a new passport, especially during certain times of the year. And while you’re at the passport paperwork, you might want to peek at when your handy Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck expire, which can also take a very long time to process. Here’s a handy guide to all three processes, and where to get the information you need.
Why, How, and When to Renew a Passport
First, let’s start with the urgency of why you need to be thinking about renewing your passport, especially in and after 2020: Real ID.
As the October 2020 deadline for the Real ID Act looms, it’s vital for you to a) know whether you live in any of the states where current driver’s licenses don’t meet the new criteria; and b) go out and get a Real ID once your state offers them, so that come October 2020 you’ll be able to fly domestically with your license. Here’s a quick and easy guide to What You Need to Know About Real ID in 2020. And if you don’t have a Real ID in time for the deadline, you’ll need another valid form of ID, like a passport, to get past airport security.
When to renew: According to the U.S. State Department, the very best time to apply for a new passport, or renew an expiring one, is between September and the end of December. In other words, that’s the department’s off-peak season, when demand for passports dips and applications can be processed faster. High season is “January through August when passport demand is extremely high and when applications may take longer to process.” And while adult passports are valid for 10 years, children’s are only valid for five years.
How to renew: Renewing a passport (or acquiring your first one) can usually be done via mail. All that’s required is filling out an application, paying the processing fee, and mailing in all the correct materials—including your prior passport, which you’ll get back with your new one. Here’s the State Department’s guide to applying for a passport, including all the correct forms, fees, and special situations. Passport renewal processing times are typically six to eight weeks. There’s also the option to expedite a passport application, which costs $60. The step that’s most often messed up when renewing a passport is taking an acceptable photo for your new passport, which can delay the process: Here’s a guide to How to Take Your Own Passport Photo.
How to renew fast, in an emergency: If you need an emergency passport renewal ahead of a trip, here’s How to Renew a Passport in 24 Hours.
Why, How, and When to Renew Global Entry
Long renewal wait times for Global Entry (six months) have been getting longer–which is why you should apply for renewal as early as possible, up to a year before it expires. But if your five years of Global Entry validity is due to expire soon, don’t panic: You can now continue to use your old card for one year after the listed expiration date, so long as you applied for renewal before your card expired.
This extension is relatively new, and was needed because U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) has fallen far behind in processing Global Entry renewals. The backlog of hundreds of thousands of applications is reportedly due to last year’s government shut-down and an apparent worker shortage. Here’s everything you need to know about Global Entry privileges and other basics.
When to renew: If your Global Entry is about to expire, you need to apply for renewal ASAP, and before your card expires. You can apply up to one year before your card expires, and as long as you accomplish that, you’ll have a year grace period to keep using that card, even while your online application for renewal says “pending.” And it could for a while: Global Entry users currently undergoing renewal have reported wait times well over six months. It’s worth noting that there’s no penalty in the price of your Global Entry for applying a year early; meaning, your new card’s expiration date will still be another five years off from the prior card’s expiration date, and you’ll pay the same fee.
How to renew: Here’s SmarterTravel’s Guide to Global Entry Renewal. For an abbreviated look at the process, here’s how U.S. Customs and Border Patrol identifies the steps to renewing Global Entry membership:
- Log onto your TTP System account here. Select the BLUE Renew Application under Program Membership. The Personal Information page will display. Complete and pay for your renewal.
- Upon renewal, you may be required to interview again. This is determined by the vetting center and the determination cannot be appealed. If conditionally approved, you will need to schedule an interview to finalize your renewal if you still wish to be a member.
- Also, a renewal may be approved without needing to schedule another interview. In this case, a new card will be mailed to the address on file.
Why, How, and When to Renew TSA PreCheck
If you have Global Entry, you also have TSA PreCheck. That means the above extension period also applies to your TSA PreCheck via your Global Entry card. If you have a standalone TSA PreCheck that’s coming up for renewal, though, you’ll need to act fast.
When to renew: Like Global Entry, TSA PreCheck also last for five years. If you don’t have Global Entry, you can apply for TSA PreCheck renewal up to six months in advance of expiration. Again, there’s no penalty to the price of your membership for applying early; meaning, your new membership expiration date will still be another five years off from the prior card’s expiration date, and you’ll pay the same fee.
How to renew: By logging on to the TSA PreCheck renewal homepage with your Known Traveler Number and paying the fee. You can find out how to look it up here if you forgot it. Your Known Traveler Number will remain the same with your renewed membership; you may or may not be asked to reinterview for the membership. Here’s SmarterTravel’s Guide to renewing TSA PreCheck.
Traveling? Consider These Carry-On Options
Editor’s note: SmarterTravel’s Ed Perkins contributed to this story.
More From SmarterTravel:
- Do You Need a Passport to Go to the U.S. Virgin Islands?
- 9 Surprising Passport Facts You Need to Know
- Passport Book vs. Passport Card: Which Do I Need?
SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon is a former news reporter who writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.