Passport Laws in the USA

Passport Laws in the USA
U.S. passport laws cover areas such as eligibility requirements, re-issuance and usage as a means to secure the nation's borders and to combat fraud. Familiarizing yourself with these laws can help prevent unnecessary aggravation before and during your outdoor adventure trip abroad.


Only U.S. citizens or nationals qualify for U.S. passports. Non-citizens from outlying possessions (American Samoa and Swains Island) are considered nationals, and qualify for a specially annotated passport showing their status.

Required Documentation

To apply for a passport, you must provide primary evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as a certified birth certificate issued by a local government, a consular report of birth abroad or a nationalization certificate. You must also provide photo identification such as a valid driver's license or a government or military ID.


You may renew your passport by mail if your previous passport is undamaged, was issued in the past 15 years and you were at least 16 at the time it was issued. Otherwise, you must appear in person at a passport agency or acceptance facility (certain post office branches, for example) with required citizenship proof and identification. If you find yourself overseas at the time, visit the nearest embassy or consulate.


To replace a lost or stolen passport, you must appear in person at a passport agency, acceptance facility or overseas embassy or consulate with required documentation.

Border Security

In the past, U.S. citizens could travel to and from certain western hemisphere countries with just a birth certificate and driver's license. As a result of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, you are now required to use a passport or other approved travel document whether entering the U.S. by air, land or sea, unless you're a U.S. citizen traveling directly to or from a U.S. territory.

Article Written By Jennifer A. Richter

Jennifer Richter has worked in a variety of fields, including foreign diplomatic service, education and journalism. She is eager to share her varied cultural and professional experiences through her writing and has been published in Futures Mystery Magazine and eHow. She holds a B.A. in economics and political science from Hofstra University.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.