How to Get a Passport

By Ashley Watters, Abshier House

If you want to travel internationally, you will need a passport. Passports are approved by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. In order to apply for a passport, you need to fill out the application, collect the appropriate documents for submission, prepare the fees, and submit your material to an acceptance facility.

passport

To submit a non-expedited, first-time passport application, you will need:

  • Form DS-11: This and other forms necessary for passport applications or renewals are available at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs Forms page.
  • Identification documents: Your identification can be authenticated with a
    • U.S. passport (may be expired)
    • Driver’s license
    • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship
    • Government employee ID
    • U.S. military ID
    • Valid foreign passport
    • Matricula Consular (Mexican Consular Identification)
  • Proof of citizenship: This could include
    • A U.S. passport (may be expired)
    • A U.S. birth certificate
    • A Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth
    • A Certificate of Naturalization
    • A Certificate of Citizenship
  • A current photo: Some passport acceptance facilities will provide this photo for a charge. The photo must be 2 x 2. You should be facing the camera, wearing normal clothing, with no adornments on your head or face (including hats, glasses, or headphones). Check the Bureau of Consular Affairs website for more specific requirements regarding passport photos.
  • The required fees: Make sure you have separate payments prepared for the application fee and execution fee. This table outlines the fees associated with the regular six to eight-week processing period.

Once you have collected all of the necessary documents and have the fees prepared, you will submit all material to a passport acceptance facility or at a passport agency (if you meet the requirements for expediting).

How long does it take to get a passport?

The normal processing period for a passport is six to eight weeks. However, if you are experiencing special circumstances, you can sometimes expedite the service so that you receive your passport more quickly. Certain situations may qualify for expedited service.

Without explanation, you can apply for expedited service with an additional fee of $60. In this case, you should receive your passport within 2-3 weeks. If you are experiencing special circumstances, you may be able to get a rush order. These situations include

  • A travel date within two weeks: In this case, you must make an appointment with a passport agency or center.
  • A life or death emergency in your immediate family: If this situation should arise, you will need to make an emergency appointment with a passport agency or center. Find more information on the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Where to get a passport

The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Passport Services/Customer Service elects certain entities to accept passport applications as a representative. Typical places that accept passport applications include:

  • Libraries
  • Post offices
  • Local government offices
  • Clerks of court

Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website to find a representative in your area. Simply enter your zip code and adjust the distance requirements to find the passport acceptance agency nearest to you.

If you need a passport within two weeks or less, you must visit an actual passport agency or center, rather than an elected passport acceptance facility.