When sending in your old passport for renewal the Dept. of State recommends that applicants use a trackable shipping method, such as Priority Mail Express. It is recommended that applicants mail their documents in a sturdy envelope such as a Tyvek envelope, which will protect damage in transit.

You May Need to Renew Sooner Than You Think
Don’t take your passport’s expiration date at face value. Some countries have a six-month or three-month passport validity rule that requires your passport to be valid for a certain amount of time after your date of entry.

Your Passport Has Identity Theft Deterrents
If your passport was issued after August 2007, you’ve got an e-passport with a small integrated chip in the back cover that stores your passport information and a biometric identifier based on your photograph. There are metallic
elements in the cover of the passport, making it impossible for the passport to be digitally “read” until it’s physically open.

Weight Change? You May Need a New Passport
If you’ve lost (or gained) a lot of weight, so much so that you look different than you do in your passport photo, you’ll need a new passport. The same is true or if you’ve added or removed large facial tattoos or piercings.

Photo Restrictions
The photo must have been taken within six months of your application date, and must reflect your current appearance. You must directly face the camera and your expression should be neutral. According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, “Photos with exaggerated expressions and squinting will not be accepted.” And uniforms and “clothing that looks like a uniform” are forbidden as well.

Damage Can Render Your Passport Invalid
If your passport has been significantly damaged, it’s time for a new one. Water damage, significant tearing (especially on the book cover or the page with your personal data and photo), unofficial marking on the data page, and torn out visa pages are among the types of damage that will likely mean you’ll need to apply for a replacement.