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How Do I Renew My British Passport In The US?

If you are a citizen of the UK either visiting or living in the United States and your passport has or is due to expire, the good news is that it is possible to renew your British passport where you are. In this article, we will explain how to renew your British passport from the United States, the processing times, and the application fees which apply.

The UK Passport Application And Renewal Process From Overseas

Historically, it was necessary to make an appointment with and visit a local British consulate or embassy to renew a UK passport, however, this is no longer necessary. The process of applying for a new passport is now completed online on the UK Home Office website. That said, you may still be required to attend an interview in some circumstances. At present, the UK passport service is advising that applications for passport renewals are taking around four weeks.

We recommend using the passport service checker to ensure you complete the correct application process. When using this service, you will be asked about where you live currently, your date of birth, whether you have had a UK passport before, whether your current passport is lost or stolen, when your last passport was issued and by which authority, whether your passport is damaged, and the nationality on your passport. Having completed this process, it will advise if you can renew your passport and the type of application you will need to make (e.g. adult renewal). If you can apply overseas, the online system will take you through the three-step application process, as follows:

Step 1) Have a digital photo taken

In the digital age, applicants now have a range of options to have their passport photo taken, including taking a photo on a mobile phone, using a photo booth, or using a photography shop. The photo taken must meet the following specification:

  • be clear and in focus
  • be in colour
  • not be altered by computer software
  • be at least 600 pixels wide and 750 pixels tall
  • be at least 50KB and no more than 10MB
  • contain no other objects or people
  • be taken against a plain light-coloured background
  • be in clear contrast to the background
  • not have ‘red eye’

You must also ensure that you:

  • are facing forwards and looking straight at the camera
  • have a plain expression and your mouth closed
  • have your eyes open and visible
  • do not have hair in front of your eyes
  • do not have a head covering (unless it’s for religious or medical reasons)
  • do not have anything covering your face
  • do not have any shadows on your face or behind you
  • are not wearing sunglasses or tinted glasses

Some professional passport photo services will give you a code that can be entered on the Home Office website when making your renewal application; this is instead of uploading a digital photo.

Step 2) Apply online and pay the passport renewal application fee

Once you have your digital photo (or code), you can then proceed to apply for a passport renewal. At this point, you will need to enter all of the details required to support your application and also pay the application fee. The current application fee is £86. In addition, to have your passport couriered to your address in the US, you will need to pay a postage fee of £19.86.

Step 3) Send your old passport back to the UK passport service

Once your application is submitted and accepted and you have paid the required fees, you will then be asked to send your old passport back to the UK passport service. We recommend using a tracked courier service to enable you to ensure your passport arrives safely.

Once your application has been processed and approved, your new passport will be sent to you at the address on your application form.

What If I Am In The US And Need To Renew An Expired British Passport Urgently?

In some situations, having to wait three or four weeks may not be feasible. If you are an ex-pat and need to return home urgently for compassionate reasons, or if your passport has simply expired while travelling in the US and you will be returning soon, you may need to apply for an Emergency Travel Document. You will be able to apply for an Emergency Travel Document if you:

  • are a British national
  • are outside the UK
  • have a passport which has recently expired
  • you do not have time to renew or replace your passport before you travel
  • you can provide proof of your travel plans, for example, booking confirmations (or detailed written travel plans if you cannot book ahead)

An Emergency Travel Document enables you to travel to your intended destination through a maximum of five different countries, and if needed, you can use it to return to the US at the end of your trip. It is important to note that the process of securing an Emergency Travel Document is not instant; it can take up to two days – this may be longer due to COVID-19 or if:

  • you applied for a child under 16
  • you have not paid or given the right supporting documents
  • you have not given enough or correct information

To apply, you will need to complete the online application form and pay a fee of £100. You may also need to attend your nearest British embassy or consulate (you will be advised if you do when you apply).

Final Words

If you are in the US with an expired British passport, you have two main options which will ultimately allow you to secure the right to travel. If you still have concerns or are unsure of the correct process given your circumstances, speak to the British embassy in the United States or contact an immigration Solicitor in the UK who will be able to assist you.

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