1. Travel
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

How to Get A Passport in the USA

By

Passport photo - passport in pocket - copyrighted photo

Get a Passport, Get to Travel!

© Kathleen Crislip
A passport is an easily recognized travel document authorizing travel and identifying you. You need a passport to enter and return to the US from most countries. Get a passport through the US government, not commercial passport application agencies, even if you need to get a passport fast.

Let's learn how to get a passport in the USA.

Info sources include the US Department of State.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Indefinite

Here's How:

  1. Get the US government forms you need to get a passport and start the application process. You can get a passport application at a US post office or download passport application forms.
  2. Follow the instructions on pages one and two. Print (if you downloaded) and complete page three and print (if you downloaded) and read page four. If printing, note this advice from the government: "The forms...must be printed in black print on white paper. The paper must be 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, with no holes or perforations, at least medium (20 lb.) weight, and with a matte surface. Thermal paper, dye-sublimation paper, special inkjet paper, and other shiny papers are not acceptable."
  3. Gather proof of U.S. citizenship in the form of any one of the following, according to the US Department of State:
  4. Be prepared to prove your identity with any one of these:
    • Previous US passport (altered or damaged passports are not okay)
    • Naturalization certificate
    • Certificate of citizenship
    • Current, valid:
      • Driver's license
      • Government ID: city, state or federal
      • Military ID: military and dependents
  5. Get two photos taken. In photos, wear your normal, everyday clothes (no uniforms) and nothing on your head. If you usually wear glasses or other items that alter your appearance, wear them. Get US passport photos taken at the post office -- they'll know the drill and requirements. If you get passport photos taken elsewhere, read up first on passport photo requirements.
  6. If you don't have your Social Security number memorized, write it down and add it to the materials you've assembled -- you'll need it at the time of passport application.
  7. Prepare to pay the application and execution fees; get those dollar amounts online as they change periodically (for example, in February, 2008, passport fees went from $97 to $100; in July 2010, passport fees went to $110 plus $25). For an extra $60 plus overnight fees, you can get a passport fast (more on rush time frames in Step 8). Check with the location where you'll be applying to find what payment methods are accepted.
  8. Get a passport! Find the passport office location nearest you (might just be the post office). Provide your departure date and expect to receive your US passport in two weeks to two months. For an additional fee of $60 plus overnight delivery fees, you can rush a US passport application, and you may even be able to get a US passport on the same day that you apply. Learn more about rushing a US passport application -- you don't have to pay a passport expediting agency.
  9. Check your application's status: beginning about a week after you submit your application, you can check your application's status online to see when your passport might arrive -- learn more.

Tips:

  1. The US passport fee is $110 (plus $25 fee) if you are over 18, and the new US passport is good for ten years.
  2. The US passport fee is $80 (plus $25 fee) if you are under 16, and the new passport is good for five years.
  3. Some countries require that your passport be valid for a six month period after you leave that country for return to the US.
  4. Remember that you need a passport or other WHTI-compliant document to travel back to the US from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda. (Learn what WHTI-compliant means.)
  5. Leave a copy of your passport at home, and email a copy to yourself with other important travel documents. Learn how and why to email yourself travel documents.

What You Need

  • Passport application forms
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Proof of your identity
  • Two current photographs
  • Your social necurity number
  • Applicable fee payment method

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.