Texas may be the largest state in the continental United States and Houston 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, and, for a fee, you can expedite the service, all without setting foot in a Houston passport acceptance office.

How to Renew a Passport by Mail

In most cases, you can renew a passport by mail. You cannot renew by mail if your passport is lost, stolen or seriously damaged. Nor can you renew if your expired passport was issued more than 15 years ago or was issued 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 acceptance office in Houston and call up to make an appointment. You don't have to visit a passport acceptance office at all. Instead, download and complete form DS-82, then send it in by mail together with your old passport, a new photo and a check. A renewal by mail 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, pay an extra fee (currently under $100) and get it expedited. 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 and/or pay for overnight delivery of the passport to you. This doesn't speed up the processing time, only the mailing time.

How to Renew a Passport in Person

If you're not eligible to renew by mail, you'll be told to renew in person. In fact, you're simply applying for a new passport, using the same form (DS-11), providing the same documents (proving citizenship and identity) and their photocopies and paying the application and execution fees.

You'll have to go into a passport application acceptance office in Houston 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 they take passport applications, and try to make an appointment to prevent a long wait.

You can expedite at a passport application acceptance 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. You will, of course, need to pay another fee.