Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
If you have plans to travel internationally, it’s essential to know what travel documents you’ll need and how long it will take to get them. Whether you’re a first-time international traveler or an experienced road warrior, applying for a new passport or renewing an expired one can take longer, or require more paperwork than you might have realized.
Here is everything you will need to know to apply for a passport and get it in a timely manner.
How to apply for a passport?
You must apply in person if any of the following are true:
- You are applying for your first U.S. passport
- You are under the age of 16
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under the age of 16
- Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago
If you need to renew your passport and none of the above apply, you can renew by mail. The requirements to renew by mail are:
- You have an existing passport and it is submitted with your application
- The submitted passport is undamaged (other than normal “wear and tear”)
- The passport was issued when you were age 16 or older and was issued within the last 15 years
- The passport was issued in your current name (or you can document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order)
What Documents are Required to get a Passport?
Evidence of US Citizenship
You must submit one of the following. Photocopies and notarized copies are not acceptable.
- Fully valid, undamaged U.S. passport (may be expired)
- U.S. birth certificate that meets the following requirements:
- Issued by the city, county, or state of birth
- Lists your full name, date of birth, and place of birth
- Lists your parent(s)’ full names
- Has the date filed with the registrar’s office (must be within one year of birth)
- Has the registrar’s signature
- Has the seal of the issuing authority
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Certificate of Citizenship
You must present one of the following identification documents (IDs) to the acceptance agent. The ID must readily identify you.
- In-state, fully-valid driver’s license
- In-state, fully-valid non-driver ID
- Fully valid, undamaged U.S. passport (may be expired)
- Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship
- Government employee ID (city, county, state, or federal)
- S. military ID or military dependent ID
- Valid foreign passport
- Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular Identification, commonly used by the parent of a U.S. citizen child applicant)
Photocopy of the Identification
Submit a photocopy of the front and back of each ID that you present when you apply.
Special Circumstances – Do they apply to you?
If any of the below categories apply to you, you may have additional requirements for your passport application. Please see the relevant page for more information.
- Children under 16
- Children 16-17
- The previous passport was lost or stolen
- Owe child support
- In process of or completed gender transition
- Official, diplomatic, or another special issuance passport
Provide a Passport Photo
You must provide one photograph with your application. Please note the special requirements for the photo
Prepare your payment
The first time, an adult passport book will typically cost around $135. A passport card will run $55 and if you get them both it will cost you $165.
Child passport books will cost $105, a child passport card will cost $40 and both together will cost $120.
Complete the Passport Application
Passport Application Form DS-11 – This is the official government application form.
Submit your completed application to a Passport Acceptance Facility
What’s the difference between a passport book and a passport card?
The passport card cannot be used for international air travel. For the most part, it is for people that cross the Canadian and Mexican border by car. It can also be used for seaports in the Caribbean and Bermuda. For this reason, it really does not make sense to get just a passport card. Either get a passport book or both, but not just the card.
Where do I submit Passport Documents?
Now that you have all of the required passport information compiled, it’s time to turn it in for processing. You will have to submit your completed application, including citizenship evidence, photocopy of ID, passport photo, and fees, in person at a passport acceptance facility. This is typically a post office, city, or county office.
How long will my passport take to arrive?
The standard processing time for most first-time applicants is 6-8 weeks after submitting all the paperwork. The passport will arrive via the mail.
As far as expedited passports go, you can either expedite via the US Passport agency or there are third-party providers, such as rushmypassport.com that will expedite the passport process anywhere from 1-12 days, depending on how quickly you need it and how much you want to pay to get it fast.
Additional Passport Information
Here are some other articles that address passport requirements of popular destinations for U.S. Citizens
- Passport Requirements for Puerto Rico
- Passport Requirements for Hawaii
- Passport Requirements for the Bahamas
- Passport Requirements for the U.S. Virgin Islands
- Passport Requirements for Canada
- Passport Requirements for Mexico
Tim is a business road warrior and avid leisure traveler who has flown over two million miles in the air and spent well over a thousand nights in hotels. He enjoys sharing tips, tricks, and hacks to help readers get the most out of their travel experience and learn how to “travel like a pro”!