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How to Get a US Passport

Two Parts:Getting Your PassportConsiderations for Passports

All United States citizens, including newborns, must have a passport when traveling internationally by air. U.S. adults, and some children must also have one when traveling internationally by land or by sea. If you plan on traveling in the near future, then it's important to understand the protocol for getting a U.S. Passport.

Part 1
Getting Your Passport

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    Have the necessary documentation. The major necessary documentation are Proof of Citizenship and Proof of Identity. There are a number of different documents that can be used, depending on if this is the first time apply or if the passport is for a minor.
    • Proof of citizenship includes a previous US passport or a birth certificate for those born inside the US. For those born outside the US, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, Naturalization Certificate, or Certificate of Citizenship will be necessary.[1]
    • Proof of identity includes items like a previous US passport, driver’s license, current government or military ID, or a Naturalization Certificate. These items should have your photo and your signature.
    • If you do not have one of those forms of ID, you will need two forms of what are called “secondary ID”. These include items like a social security card, credit card or library card. You can also appear with an identifying witness, who will need their own sufficient forms of ID.[2]
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    Get a passport photo. You will need a passport photo. This is not just a normal photo: it must be a very particular size and you must be clearly visible. The easiest way to get this photo is to go to a place which takes these photos. Many large chain grocery and drug stores will do this if they have a photo lab.
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    Fill out the appropriate form. This is form DS-11 in almost all cases. This can be filled in by hand at the place where you submit the form, or online (after which you will need to print it out). This form asks for your details (where you live, where you were born, your Social Security Number, etc) as well as information like your height and eye color. Filling in your SSN is absolutely required.
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    Submit form and documentation in person. Unless you are renewing an adult passport, you will usually have to submit your application in-person. This can be done at your local passport authority, or at designated locations (often major post offices). You will also need to apply in person if you changed your name since your previous passport, if it has been more than 15 years since your last passport was issued, or if your previous passport was stolen,lost, or damaged.
    • Acceptance Facility. You may locate the Acceptance Facility nearest you, but visiting the Passport Acceptance Facility search page at Acceptance facilities may include post offices, clerks of court, public libraries or other state, county, township, and municipal government offices.
    • Passport Agency or Center. You must have an appointment in order to apply at a Passport Agency or Center, and an Expedited Fee is required for each application submitted in person at any agency or center. A list of Agencies is located on the Department’s website at
    • If expediting the process or requesting an emergency passport, some Passport Agencies and Centers require proof of international travel within two weeks, or proof of need to obtain a foreign visa within four weeks, so be sure to contact the center in advance in order to ensure that you have all the necessary information.
    • Passport renewal for previously issued adult passports can be done by mail, though this method is much less secure.
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    Have money for the fee. You will have to pay for your passport and it is relatively expensive, so be prepared. The fee for a basic, first-time adult passport totals $135. It is less if you are renewing or if you are getting a passport for a minor. This fee can be paid checks, credit cards, money orders, and sometimes personal checks, depending on the facility where you submit your application.[3]
    • If you only want to travel between the US and Canada or the US and Mexico (and you plan to drive, not fly), then you can get a passport card instead of a passport book. This will be cheaper.

Part 2
Considerations for Passports

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    Know that there are extra steps for a child’s passport. Getting a passport for a child is slightly more complicated (and children WILL need their own passport, even if they are infants). You will need to submit proof of relationship (such as a custody order or birth certificate with appropriate signatures), have your own appropriate ID (plus photocopies of that ID), and provide in-person consent from both parents (or one parent, plus written, notarized consent from the second or proof of sole custody).
    • Minors aged 16 or 17 can apply for adult passports but still require parental consent.
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    Apply well in advance of your travel date. The process of applying and receiving your passport can sometimes take a very long time (4-10 weeks, usually, depending upon demand). You will want to try to get a passport well in advance of needing one.
    • Expedite the process if necessary. It is possible to expedite the process by selecting and declaring this option when you submit your forms. There will be an extra $60 fee, plus shipping charges. The US government recommends 2-day overnight shipping.[4]
    • Passports can also be issued quickly in life or death emergencies. Contact your local issuing authority for more information.
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    Track your application online. You can track your application on the official website, which you should be informed of when you submit the application. It takes roughly a week after submitting the forms for your status to appear. You will want to keep an eye on it, since you only have 90 days from issue date to report that your passport has not arrived. Don’t forget about it and then need to reapply!
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    Apply outside of the US. You can also apply for a US passport while outside of the US, but the process will likely be a little different. The form will be the same, though the documentation may vary, but the submitting process changes based on your location. Call your local embassy to find out what you need to do.
    • Keep in mind that the expedited application process is not available overseas and your passport will be mailed to you from the US. Apply well in advance.
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    Make sure your child support is paid. If you are behind in paying your child support, you may not be able to get a US passport (for yourself, not a child).


  • Form DS-11 may also be obtained from your local Acceptance Facility, Passport Agency, or Walgreen pharmacy.
  • You may qualify for a no-fee passport book if: you are an officer or employee of the U.S. Government traveling abroad for the Government, the dependent of such as person accompanying them on their assignment, or you are traveling overseas in honor of a deceased family member in the U.S. Armed Forces. See the Department’s website at for more information about no-fee passport books.
  • Minors under 16 and those who gotten a passport when they are under 16 who are planning to get their passport renewed must get it renewed by person using the Form DS-11.


  • Be wary of expiration dates on passports. The expiration date is listed on the passport, but the US Department of State recommends renewing your passport six months prior to the expiration date. If the passport was issued to someone under the age of sixteen, the passport is valid for five years, and for people over sixteen years of age, the expiration date is ten years.
  • This might be impossible if you have a criminal record regardless of the place you committed the crime.
  • When applying in person, do not attach your passport photo to your Form DS-1.
  • If you ever lose a passport or have it stolen, report the theft immediately to local police and to the US Embassy or Consulate (or to the Department of State if in the US.) Once reported as lost, you cannot use the passport ever again, even if you later find it.
  • If you apply at an Acceptance Facility and submit identification issued by a state other than the state in which you are applying, you must also present an additional identification document. For example, if you apply at an Acceptance Facility in California with a Montana Driver's License, you must present a second ID containing as much of the following information as possible: your photo, full name, date of birth and the document issuance date.
  • Minor children may also need to submit evidence of their relationship to their parent(s) or guardian(s), identification for their parent(s) or guardian(s), a photocopy of each parent or guardian’s ID, and provide parental consent. For more information about obtaining a U.S. Passport for children under the age of 16, visit and for children ages 16 and 17, visit
  • If you have undergone or are in the process of undergoing gender transition, additional requirements apply. For specific information, visit the Department’s website at
  • If you are applying for your U.S. Passport from outside the United States, special rules for how to submit your application apply. Visit the Department’s website at for more information.

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Categories: Official Travel Documentation