How to Apply for a Passport

Four Parts:Preparing to Apply for a U.S. PassportApplying for a U.S. PassportGathering the Right Documents for the PassportApplying for Passports from Other Countries

National passports are essential for travel overseas. If you can prove your citizenship and identity, then you can apply for a passport in your country of citizenship. These instructions include guidelines for U.S., UK, Canadian, and Australian passport applications. Work ahead! Passports require a lot of documentation.

Part 1
Preparing to Apply for a U.S. Passport

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    Determine your eligibility. You can do this by using a wizard online through the U.S. State Department. The wizard will start by asking your current residence, your date of birth, and whether you’ve had a U.S. passport before. [1]
    • You won’t be able to get a U.S. passport if you can’t provide evidence of U.S. citizenship or naturalization.[2][3] U.S. citizens must get a passport for overseas travel.
    • The U.S. State Department handles the issuance and approval of U.S. passports. Work ahead. Although it’s possible to order an expedited passport, you will need to collect various documents, so it’s a good idea not to wait until the last minute. It will cost you less, too.[4]
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    Determine whether you need to apply for the passport in person. The rules are different for certain categories of applicants. For example, the U.S. government requires that people apply for a passport in person if they fall in several categories:
    • If it’s your first U.S. passport or you are under age 16 or your previous passport was issued when you were under age 16.
    • If your previous passport was damaged, lost, or stolen or issued more than 15 years ago.
    • If your name has changed since you obtained your last passport and you can’t legally document the name change.

Part 2
Applying for a U.S. Passport

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    Applying for a first time passport. Fill out the application form for a U.S. passport. This form is called a DS-11. You can print it out from the Internet and complete it offline. You can also obtain the form in many post offices. However, you will need to submit it in person.[5]
    • Do not sign the application until the acceptance agent says you can do so.
    • You will need to provide your social security number. If you leave it or other information off the form it could delay your request.
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    Find an authorized passport application acceptance facility or passport agency to submit the form. You must submit the DS-11 application form in person at one of the agencies. There are many of them in each state.
    • You can search online through the U.S. State Department for the nearest passport acceptance facility in your area. The form allows you to search by zip code.[6] Many of these locations are post offices, clerks of court, public libraries, and other government offices.
    • If you apply at a passport agency instead, you will need to pay an expedited fee, and you might be required to show proof of international travel within two weeks. You will also need an appointment. People usually only choose this option when they need the passport extremely fast.[7]
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    Gather evidence of citizenship. When you apply for the passport in person, you are going to have to submit evidence of U.S. citizenship with the DS-11 application form. The documentation will be returned to you. Ways to prove U.S. citizenship are:
    • A previous U.S. passport that is undamaged (5 years for minors and 10 years for adults)
    • A certified U.S. birth certificate that was issued by city county or state of birth; lists the bearer’s full name, date of birth and place of birth along with the parent(s) full names; has a date filed with the registrar’s office that is within one year of birth; has a registrar’s signature; and has an embossed, impressed or multicolored seal of the registrar. Photocopies and notarized copies won’t work.
    • A consular report of birth abroad or certification of birth.
    • A naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship.

Part 3
Gathering the Right Documents for the Passport

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    Present identification when you apply for the American passport. When you show up in person to apply for your passport, you will be asked to present identification that includes a photograph of you. Identification that works:
    • A previously-issued undamaged U.S. passport or a certificate of naturalization or citizenship or a valid driver’s license or a current government ID (city, state or federal) or a current military ID (military and dependents).
    • You will need to also bring a photocopy of the front and back of each ID document that you will present upon applying. It must be on plain white 8.5 by 11 inch standard paper stock. The photocopy must contain images on only one side of each page submitted. Present two separate pages for front and back for each ID. The paper cannot contain other markings. You can’t decrease the size of the image.
    • If you can’t submit primary identification, you can submit secondary identification. You must submit as much as you can. You can submit a combination of secondary documents (but not one by itself), such as a social security card, a credit card, an employee ID, and a library card. Present anything you think can confirm your identity.
    • You could also bring an identifying witness to swear you are who you say you are. They have to be a U.S. citizen who has known you at least 2 years, has a valid ID, is willing to fill out an affidavit, and is present at the time of your application for a passport.
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    Provide a passport photo. You will have to provide one passport photo with your application. It’s possible that the passport acceptance facilities in your area will take your photo for your passport for a charge. It’s not a great idea to take this photo yourself because it must meet very precise requirements. Some drug stores offer passport photo services.
    • Your photo[8]has to be in color, printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper, and be 2X2 inches (51X51 mm in size). The head must be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
    • It must represent your current appearance and be taken in the last 6 months. The photo must also be taken in front of a plain white or off-white background. Your full face must be facing the camera. And your facial expression must be neutral or a natural smile, with both eyes open.
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    Pay the required fees. It’s not inexpensive to obtain a passport, and if you don’t pay the required fees, it can slow down the process.
    • The State Department publishes a current list of application and execution fees online. [9]
    • You can pay the fees with credit cards, debit or check cards, checks payable to “Department of State,” money orders, or cash with exact change. The checks or money orders must draw on U.S. financial institutions and must be payable in U.S. dollars.
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    Figure out the rules for minors if you’re applying for a passport for a child. Every child has to have a passport to leave the country. Children’s passports are valid for 5 years.
    • If the child is under 16 and hasn’t had a passport before, you must submit the application in person at a passport agency or authorized site. The child and both parents or guardians must be present. You can fill out a parental consent form if both parents/or guardians can’t be present. In this form, the absent parent or guardian attests to the fact he or she is allowing the child to travel overseas. There are procedures available if the other guardian is deceased or had their rights terminated.
    • To apply for a minor’s passport, you need to prove U.S. citizenship, evidence of parental relationship, photo identification, parental consent, passport photo, application forms, and passport fees.
    • Evidence of U.S. citizenship can include a certified U.S. birth certificate that meets the same rules as above for birth certificates. Other evidence of U.S. citizenship includes a previous U.S. passport as long as it’s undamaged, a consular report of birth abroad, a certificate of naturalization or a certificate of citizenship.
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    Request expedited service. You can request that your passport is sent more quickly, but it costs more.
    • You can use overnight delivery when submitting the application. Expedited service is only available in the U.S.
    • Write “EXPEDITED” clearly on the outside of the envelope.
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    Renewing your passport. If you are simply renewing your passport, you can apply by mail or in person at a passport agency if you are residing in the U.S. If you are residing abroad, other than in Canada, you must apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
    • Adults who are living in Canada can submit form DS-82 to renew their passports. Checks or money orders must draw on U.S. financial institutions and be payable in U.S. dollars. [10]
    • You can only apply for renewal with the mail in form if you were at least 16 when your most recent passport was issued, and if it was not lost, stolen, mutilated, or damaged. You also must use the same name or had your name changed by marriage or court order, which you can submit proper documentation to prove.
    • Fill out the DS-82 form. Submit your most recent passport book or card. It must have been issued in the past 15 years. It will be returned to you. [11]
    • Pay the applicable fee in the form of a personal check or money order made out to “U.S. Department of State.” Don’t send cash through the mail. If your name has changed, also submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate or court order.
    • Submit a passport photo. Do not bend the photo. Staple it to the application. Use 4 staples vertically in the corners as close to the outer edges as possible. Mail to National Passport Processing Center Post Office Box 90155, Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155

Part 4
Applying for Passports from Other Countries

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    Apply for a UK passport. Pick up a passport application at your local post office location for a UK passport. You can also complete the initial application online.[12] Plan to submit your application four or more weeks in advance of overseas travel.[13]
    • Fill out the passport application with ink and capital letters. If you are filling out the form online, you will be asked a series of questions and you must type in your personal details.The sections you fill in will depend upon your age, the country where you were born and other factors. Read the notes on the application very carefully.
    • Find an original copy of your UK citizenship, including a birth certificate that includes parents’ names and places of birth. You must also provide original marriage and/or divorce certificates. You will also be asked to submit your parents’ birth certificates and/or marriage certificate if you were born after January 1, 1983.
    • Take an adequate passport photograph. You will need two copies of a full color, full-face photo with a white background. The size must be 45 by 35 mm (1.77 by 1.38 inches).
    • Find a counter signatory. This is a British citizen who has known you for at least two years. They must fill out the counter signatory section and write, “I certify that this is a true likeness of (insert name)” alongside a signature and date.[14]
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    Submit your UK application form online. Wait to receive a copy in the mail. You must wait to receive it and sign it to submit your final application to HM Passport Office. Bring a form of payment. An adult British passport costs £72.50. It can be submitted by debit card, credit card, check or postal order.[15]
    • You could also go to the Post Office’s Check and Send Passport Office. Find a service online.[16] For a fee of £9, the post office will check the passport for errors and submit it.
    • Send the passport application by mail with your supporting documents, either using this service or using the pre-addressed envelope that came with your passport application.
    • Your passport will be sent back to you by Royal Mail if it is accepted. Applications usually take three to four weeks to be processed.
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    Apply for a Canadian passport. Download the Canadian passport application. Go online[17] to obtain the form.
    • Print it out and fill it in using blue or dark blue ink and capital letters. You can also type the information onto the form and then print it out on your computer. Fill out the 3 application pages within 12 months.
    • Ask a guarantor to fill out the fourth page. A guarantor is a Canadian citizen over the age of 18 who can vouch for your identity. They must have a valid Canadian passport issued to them.
    • Find proof of your identity. You will need a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, government ID, United States permanent resident card or a Canadian passport that has been invalid for less than one year. Find citizenship documents. You will need to include an original copy of your birth certificate, citizenship certificate or immigration certificate.
    • Take passport photos. A commercial photographer must take the photos. They must be 70 mm high (2 ¾ inches) and 50 mm wide (2 inches), and your face must be at least 31 mm high (1 ¼ inches).[18]You must be facing forward on a white background. Your eyes should be open with a neutral expression.
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    Submit your Canadian passport. Pay a fee of $120 to $160 for an adult passport. Additional charges apply for people shipping the passport to the U.S. or applying from the U.S.
    • You can submit payment by debit card, credit card, certified check or money order.
    • Submit your signed application fee, passport photos, documents and fee by mail to “Passport Canada Program, Gatineau QC K1A 0G3, Canada” or in person at Passport Canada Office. Search for an office online.[19][20]
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    Apply for an Australian Passport. Go online[21] to apply for your passport. Blank forms can’t be downloaded. You can also pick up a form at an Australia Post outlet.
    • Fill out your application online and then print it out to sign. Make sure to use ink and capital letters if you are filling it out by hand.
    • Take passport photos. Go to the Australia Post to have passports taken or ask a photo outlet to take them for you. You need two copies. Find a guarantor. You will need an Australian citizen over the age of 18 to sign the back of one photo to vouch for your identity. Read your application carefully so that they know what to write and where to sign.
    • Find an original document that proves your citizenship. This could be a birth certificate, an immigration certificate, a previously issued valid passport or a naturalization certificate. Find ID documents. You will need photo proof of your ID, such as a driver’s license, government ID or military ID.
    • Make an appointment for an interview at an Australia Post location to submit your application and prove your identity. Find a location online.[22] The interview should take about 5 minutes.[23]Pay $244 to $366 to submit your application. Payments can be made by credit card, electronic funds transfer or cash at the time of your appointment.


  • Don't try to take your passport photo yourself. There are too many ways to mess up the specifications.
  • Work ahead. However, if you are desperate to get a passport fast, don't stress out. The expediting works well.


  • Children under the age of 16 must have permission and signatures from their parents to apply for a passport. Ask your local post office what you must provide for your son or daughter in addition to the materials listed above.

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