New Surprise When Renewing Your Passport Online

by SharonKurheg

The U.S. federal government is currently in the midst of making passport renewals less of a hassle. Since April, they’ve been offering a pilot program, on and off, that allows many U.S. citizens to renew their passports online, instead of through the mail.

It’s an excellent idea. It saves reams of paper, to say nothing about saving you a little bit of time, at least on the front end, since you send your application electronically instead of through snail mail.

However, if you were considering doing the online renewal because you thought you’d be able to use your current, expiring passport until you got your new one, heads up that you’d be wrong.

This seems to be surprising to a few people. But it even says when you’re filling out the online application that your old passport will automatically become null and void upon completion of the online application.

Frankly, this kind of makes sense – it’s just like when you renew through the U.S. Post Office and have to mail in your old passport, which means you can’t use it. It’s the same kind of thing – you can’t use it – but now it’s just in your possession (and apparently doesn’t wind up with holes punched through it, either).

The State Department doesn’t say why you can’t use your “old” passport until your “new” one comes in – but I suspect it’s because typical people usually aren’t supposed to hold 2 U.S. passports at the same time, save for a handful of exceptions:

  • A foreign country will deny a visa or entry to you because your passport has stamps showing travel to certain countries. Example: an Israeli entry or exit stamp in some countries in the Middle East.
  • You need multiple visas on an ongoing basis because of frequent international travel. Example: you work for an international airline or a multinational company
  • You need a U.S. passport for urgent international travel but your application for a foreign visa is delayed or cannot be processed in time for your travel.
  • When you need special validation for travel to a restricted country or area.

And if you’re in any of the above situations, you’re still required to get your new passport the old-fashioned way and mail in your application.

So if you thought you’d be able to use your old passport while waiting for your new passport to arrive, I’ve got some bad news for you – no can do. Make sure you won’t need to do any international travel while waiting for your new passport – or follow the State Department’s guidelines for getting a passport quickly.

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