Texas is one of the largest states in the continental United States, and boasts cosmopolitan Houston as its largest city. But the procedure for renewing an expired passport is governed by federal law, so if you're in Houston, you'll have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else. Fortunately, renewing a passport by mail is fast and easy; for a fee, you can expedite the service without setting foot in a Houston passport acceptance office.

Passport Renewal Service by Mail

In most cases, you can renew a U.S. passport by mail. You cannot renew by mail if your passport is lost, stolen or seriously damaged. You also can’t renew if your expired passport was issued more than 15 years ago or before you turned 16. In every other case, renewal by mail is the rule. And that's a boon.

Renewal by mail means that you don't have to locate a passport services office in Houston and make an appointment. You don't have to visit a passport agency for any part of the application process at all. Instead, download and complete application form DS-82, then send it in by mail together with your old passport book, a new photo and a check. Address the parcel to one of the National Passport Processing Centers. Sending in your passport renewal application costs the same as an initial passport, but you avoid paying that pesky execution fee. Enclose a certified copy of a marriage, divorce or name change order if your name has been legally changed since your last passport was issued.

Your new passport will arrive by mail within four to six weeks. If you need it earlier, you can pay to get an expedited passport. All you have to do is enclose the check, mark "expedite" on the envelope and send it to a special address. You'll get it in the mail within two to three weeks. Need it even faster? Simply pay for overnight delivery service for your application to reach the passport processing office or pay for overnight delivery of the passport to you. This doesn't speed up the processing time, only the mailing time.

You can also get a passport card if you’re traveling to a location where they are accepted. They take the same travel documents, and are issued at the same rate by the state department as passport books. If you’d like to read up on any other FAQ’s, visit travel.state.gov.

How to Renew a Passport in Person

If you're not eligible for the renewal process by mail, you'll be told to renew in person at an acceptance facility. In fact, the process is the same as if you were applying for the first time. You provide the same required documents to prove you’re a U.S. citizen, like your driver’s license, certificate of naturalization or your birth certificate. You also must submit a DS-11 form and pay the same passport fees.

You'll have to go into the Houston passport agency and present these documents and a passport photo to get your new passport started. The city has quite a few of these, many of them found in post offices. Call to find out the hours and business days that they take passport applications, and try to make an appointment. Walk-in appointments are usually subject to a longer wait.

You can get expedited services at a passport office by showing evidence that you have a ticket for international travel within two weeks, or within four weeks to a country that requires you to get a visa. Of course, you will need to pay an additional fee.