How to Get a Passport

How to Get a Passport
You can submit an application for a US passport by person or by mail through the United States Postal Service. A passport is required upon entrance into the United States from every foreign country, including Mexico and Canada. It takes about 8 weeks for your application to be processed.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Applying for a Passport

Things You’ll Need:
  • DS-11 form Proof of citizenship Social Security number Previously issued U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, valid driver's license, current government-issued identification card or current military ID card Outside of the United States only: another piece of identification listed above Photocopy of identification on plain white, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper Applicable fees Two copies of color passport photo
  • DS-11 form
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Social Security number
  • Previously issued U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, valid driver's license, current government-issued identification card or current military ID card
  • Outside of the United States only: another piece of identification listed above
  • Photocopy of identification on plain white, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper
  • Applicable fees
  • Two copies of color passport photo
Step 1
Complete and submit a DS-11 form, titled "Application for a U.S. Passport." You can download this form from the US Department of State website. You can turn your form in to an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency, both of which can be found at http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/.
Step 2
Provide evidence of US citizenship when you submit form DS-11. Only one of the following qualify as acceptable documentation: an expired US passport, a certified birth certificate, a report or certification of birth abroad, a naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship. These items will be mailed back to you with your newly issued passport.
Step 3
Submit a photocopy of your identification document from step 2. The photocopy must be on plain white, 8 ½-by-11-inch paper and show both sides of your ID on the front of the sheet. You may submit two pages of white paper, with each side of your ID, if you are unable to photocopy both sides onto the front of one piece of paper. Please do not write anything on this sheet of paper; it should be free of extra images and markings.
Step 4
Submit applicable fees. A fee schedule can be found at http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/fees/fees_837.html. At a Passport Agency, you may pay by credit card, check or money order. At an Acceptance Facility, you may pay by personal check, money order and exact cash at participating locations. An additional fee is added at some locations as well.
Step 5
Provide two passport photos. The following are passport photo requirements: They must be identical; in color; measure 2 by 2 inches; taken within the past 6 months showing your typical appearance, full-frontal face view with a plain white or off-white background; there must be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to top of the head; normal street clothing must be worn, including religious attire that you wear on a daily basis; do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures your hair or hairline; if you wear glasses, a wig or hearing device on a daily basis, you must wear these items in your photo. Qualified passport-photo stores can instruct you on proper appearance.

Applying for a U.S. Passport In Person

Step 1
Apply for a passport in person at a Passport Agency. You must bring acceptable identification, including one of the following: a previously issued US passport, naturalization certificate, valid driver's license, current government-issued identification card or current military ID card. If you are applying for a passport outside of the state your primary ID was issued, you must bring secondary, approved identification. When applying for your passport in person, do not sign your DS-11 form until you are at the Passport Agency and are instructed to do so by an agency witness.
Step 2
Pay by check or money order. Local foreign currency will be accepted when applying for your passport at a US embassy or consulate.
Step 3
Pay additional fees. They are applied if you need your passport in fewer than 8 weeks. For a passport needed in less than 2 weeks for international travel, or less than 4 weeks to obtain a foreign visa, you should make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency.

Tips & Warnings

 
Review the official State Department's website before submitting your application. Changes and amendments may be applied at any time.
 
Unless these steps are followed exactly, your applications will be denied and returned.

Article Written By Shannon Marks

Shannon Marks started her journalism career in 1994. She was a reporter at the "Beachcomber" in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and contributed to "Philadelphia Weekly." Marks also served as a research editor, reporter and contributing writer at lifestyle, travel and entertainment magazines in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Temple University.

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