Q: Hello, Peter. My passport expired about six or seven years ago. It was required on my job, since I traveled extensively on work-related matters. However, after I moved from Florida to California, my expired passport was misplaced. I know it is not lost. Is there a way I can renew my passport without the old one, without having to start from scratch?
–Manuel, Ponce, Puerto Rico
A: Unfortunately, you can't officially renew a passport unless you know where the old one is. Without it, you'd basically have to apply for a new one from scratch. Considering that the procedure for getting a new passport is a bit more complicated and expensive than the procedure to renew an old one, my first recommendation would be to start digging around for your expired passport.
If you manage to find it, you can do a simple renewal by mail. You'll have to fill out form DS-82, pop it in the mail with your expired passport, two recently approved photos, and $75, then wait about four to six weeks. Bear in mind that renewals by mail can only be done if the old passport was issued within the last 15 years.
If you don't find it, here's the deal: You have to submit a new application in person, to an official Passport Agency or Acceptance Facility. You'll need to present form DS-11 (Application for U.S. Passport), proof of U.S. citizenship (such as a birth certificate or a certificate of citizenship), a valid form of identification (such as a driver's license or military ID card), and two regulation passport photos (2-by-2 inches, front view, taken in the last six months, against a light, plain background). It'll cost you $100 for regular delivery (within four to six weeks) or $160 for expedited service (in two or three weeks).
You should also submit form DS-64 (Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport). The Department of State is mainly interested in receiving this form if a non-expired passport was stolen, so the government can flag the number in a database to make sure someone else does not try to fraudulently use it. Even though yours was merely misplaced and is long-expired, it wouldn't hurt to fill out the form. It will help the DOS keep track of your passport history, and will help them understand why you answered "yes" to the question "have you ever been issued a passport before?" on form DS-11, but didn't provide the actual passport.
Forms and information on how to apply (including directories of Passport Agencies and Acceptance Facilities) can be found on the State Department Web site.