How to Get a US Passport Book (First Time)

If you've never had a US passport before, this article outlines how you go about getting a passport book (not passport card) for the first time if you're living in the US and are an adult.

Steps

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    Figure out how much time you need before your trip. Standard processing takes 4-6 weeks, not including the time it takes for your new passport book to get to you. With standard processing, you should submit your application no later than 8 weeks before your travel date. For example, if you're traveling on April 24, 2015, you should submit your application no later than February 27. Ideally, though, you should submit your application by February 13 (10 weeks out).
    • If you're in a time crunch, consider paying an extra $60 for "Expedited processing" which shortens the processing and shipping window down to 2-3 weeks.
    • If it's very urgent, you can pay $60 for "Expedited at Agency Processing" which is processed in 5 business days or less based on need. To get this, you must make an appointment at a passport Agency and provide proof of travel within 2 weeks, or 4 weeks if you also need to apply for a visa.
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    Find your certified US birth certificate. If you were not born in the US, you can substitute a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship. The US birth certificate must be certified (no print-outs or copies) and fulfill all these requirements:
    • Issued by City, County, or State of birth
    • Lists bearer's full name, date of birth, and place of birth
    • Lists parent(s) full names
    • Has date filed with registrar's office (must be within one year of birth)
    • Has registrar's signature
    • Has embossed, impressed, or multicolored seal of registrar
    You can find a list of wikiHow articles for obtaining your birth certificate here.
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    Take passport photos. Many large chain grocery and drug stores take them for you according to the requirements if they have a photo lab. You can take them yourself, but they must meet the requirements:
    • In color
    • 2 x 2 inches in size
    • Printed on thin, photo-quality paper
    • Taken within the past 6 months, showing current appearance
    • Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
    • Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
    • Taken in normal street attire:
      • Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily
      • Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline
      • If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture
      • Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons (a medical certificate may be required)
      • Articles worn for religious or medical reasons should be accompanied by a statement to that effect.
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    Fill out form DS-11, but don't sign it yet. You can either print it and fill it out by hand, or fill it out online and then print it. You cannot submit it online; you'll be bringing it with you to an Acceptance Facility with all of your other documents.
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    Make a photocopy of your photo ID. You will need to present one of the following, and submit with your application a copy of it:
    • Valid Driver's License (plus a second ID if issued in a different state than where you apply)
    • Certificate of Naturalization
    • Valid government ID (city, state, or federal)
    • Valid Military ID
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    Find your local Passport Acceptance Facility here. It will probably be a local DMV or post office. Call them ahead of time to ask how the fee is accepted (don't assume that your preferred method of payment is accepted).
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    Go to the Acceptance Facility and bring with you the following (make your list, check it twice!):
    • Certified birth certificate
    • Photo ID and copy
    • Passport Photos
    • Form DS-11, completed but not signed
    • Fee - With standard shipping and standard delivery, the total will be $135.
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    Sign the form only when instructed to do so.
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    Wait for your new passport. You can check the status online here.

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Categories: Air Travel