How to Get a U.S. Passport

If you are a U.S. citizen and you want to travel internationally, you must have a valid U.S. passport. If you’ve never had a passport before, applying is fairly straightforward. Just gather the right documents and apply in person at a passport acceptance facility. If you’re renewing your passport, send the documents by mail. There may be additional requirements if you need to expedite your passport or if you are applying under special circumstances.


EditGathering the Proper Documentation

  1. Start the process at least 10 weeks before you need the passport. While it takes generally 6-8 weeks to get your passport after applying, it could take longer if there is a backlog. Start the process as early as you can. If you need your passport faster, you can pay a fee to expedite it.[1]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 1.jpg
    • Expediting your passport generally costs about $60, plus an additional $15.95 if you want it shipped overnight to you.
    • If you need to renew your passport, it is generally recommended to do so 6 months before the expiration date on your old passport.
  2. Get a passport book to travel anywhere or a card for more limited travel. When you apply, you will be asked to check a box for what type of passport you want. Consider what type of passport will be most useful for you.[2]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 2.jpg
    • A passport book is required for all international air travel. You can use it for travel by land, sea, or air. It is valid for all international destinations.
    • A passport card lets you travel by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda only. You cannot use it to fly internationally.
  3. Apply in person if you’re getting a new passport or are younger than 16. If you are renewing an old passport, you must renew by mail. If this is your first passport or if you are getting a passport for someone under the age of 16, you must apply in person. You may also need to apply in person in certain circumstances, such as:[3]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 3.jpg
    • Your last passport was issued more than 15 years ago.
    • Your name has changed and you have no documents to prove it.
    • Your last passport was damaged or lost.
  4. Find proof of United States citizenship. You must bring either the original document or a certified copy of your proof of U.S. citizenship. Documents that you can use include:[4]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 4.jpg
    • An old, undamaged U.S. passport (this is the only option acceptable for renewing a passport by mail)
    • A U.S. birth certificate
    • Certificate of Naturalization
    • Certificate of Citizenship
    • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  5. Make photocopies of your proof of United States citizenship and photo ID. In addition to the original documents, you must also provide a photocopy of your proof of U.S. citizenship as well as a photocopy of your ID. Copy the front and the back of the document on paper. The copies will not be returned to you.[5]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 5.jpg
    • This is only necessary if you are applying in person.
    • If you don’t have a copier, you can visit a local office supply store or a printing shop.
    • Acceptable forms of photo ID include an old passport, a driver’s license, a military ID, a certificate of naturalization or citizenship, or a government employee ID.
  6. Go to an approved location to get a passport photo taken. A passport photo is a photo of your face. You can get your passport photo taken at post offices, printing shops, or some drug stores. The photo must be printed on photo quality paper, and it can’t be altered in any way. A passport photo must fulfill the following guidelines:[6]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 6.jpg
    • You must face the camera directly with a neutral expression (no smiling).
    • You must have a plain white or off-white background.
    • In the photo, your head must be from the bottom to the top.
    • You may not wear glasses, hats, or head coverings, unless you have a signed written statement saying that they are necessary for medical or religious reasons.
    • You cannot have headphones or other devices in the photo.

EditApplying for a Passport in Person

  1. Make an appointment at a local passport acceptance facility. Many post offices, clerks of court, libraries, and other municipal offices will process your application for you. To find your closest facility, you can search your zip code here:[7]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 7.jpg
    • To make an appointment, click on the facility you would like to visit. The webpage will tell you how to contact that office and make an appointment.
    • Some passport acceptance facilities will not require an appointment, but most will.
  2. Fill out form DS-11 before you go but do not sign it. Read the instructions on the first 4 pages carefully. Then, fill out the form. You will need to provide your name, social security number, address, an emergency contact, and other identifying information.[8]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 8.jpg
    • Do not sign the form yet. When you bring the form to the appointment, the official will tell you when you can sign. Furthermore, you should not attach the photo yourself to the application. They will do it for you.
    • On this form, you will need to check whether you want a passport book, card, or both.
    • You can find the form here:
  3. Double-check that you have the right documents and copies. Go through your checklist and make sure you have all of the right documentation. Once again, you will need:[9]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 9.jpg
    • Proof of citizenship
    • A photocopy of your proof of citizenship
    • A photo ID
    • A photocopy of your photo ID
    • A passport photo
    • Completed form DS-11
  4. Go to your appointment. At your appointment, the official will look over your documents to make sure everything is correct. They may ask additional questions. When it is time, they will ask you to sign form DS-11.[10]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 10.jpg
    • If you don’t have an appointment, you may need to wait. Go to the facility early in the day.
  5. Pay the passport fee with a check or money order. The check or money order must be payable to the “U.S. Department of State.” Credit cards, debit cards, and cash are not accepted. All fees are in USD. As of 2018, the fees are as follows:[11]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 11.jpg
    • Adult passport book: $110
    • Adult passport card: $30
    • Adult passport book and card: $140
    • Child passport book: $40
    • Child passport card: $15
    • Child passport book and card: $95
  6. Pay the $25 execution fee separately. This is the fee given to the passport acceptance facility. Ask the facility ahead of time about what types of payment they accept. All must accept money orders. Some may accept cash, credit card, or check.[12]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 12.jpg
  7. Receive your passport in 6-8 weeks. Your passport will arrive in the mail at the address you put on your application form. These times can vary if there is a backlog.[13]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 13.jpg

EditRenewing a Passport by Mail

  1. Fill out form DS-82. On the first page, there will be a checklist with a series of conditions for renewing your passport by mail. If you answer “no” to any of these, you must apply in person. Read the instructions on pages 1-3 carefully before filling out the form.[14]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 14.jpg
    • Make sure to check the box on this form stating whether you want a passport book, card, or both.
    • You will need to provide your name, address, Social Security Number, and other identifying information.
    • You can find the form here:
  2. Attach the passport photo to the application. There is a box on the application for the passport photo. Attach the photo with 4 staples as close to the edge of the photo as possible. The box will show you where to put the staples. Do not use glue or tape to attach your photo.[15]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 15.jpg
  3. Provide your old passport and any documentation of a name change. You must include your most recent passport with your application. Furthermore, if you have changed your name since your last passport, include documentation of this change. Documentation includes a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or a name-change document from a court.[16]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 16.jpg
    • You do not need proof of citizenship or a copy of your ID with your renewal. Your old passport will count as both for you.
    • If your old passport is badly damaged or lost, you must apply in person.
  4. Include a check or money order made out to the “United States Department of State.” Do not send cash, as it will not be accepted. On the front of the check or money order, make sure that your name or the name of the applicant is clearly written in the memo line. As of 2018, the fees for renewing are:[17]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 17.jpg
    • Passport book: $110
    • Passport card: $30
    • Passport book and card: $140
  5. Mail the application with your documents through the United States Postal Service (USPS). Only the USPS can deliver your passport renewal application to the proper PO box. Get certified mail so that you can track your package and make sure it gets to the right place.[18]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 18.jpg
    • If you live in California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, or Texas, mail your application to this address:
      National Passport Processing Center
      Post Office Box 640155
      Irving, TX 75064-0155.
    • If you live in any other state or Canada, mail your application to this address:
      National Passport Processing Center
      Post Office Box 90155
      Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155.
  6. Receive your passport in 6-8 weeks. Your passport will arrive in the mail. They will send it to the address you listed on your application. It may take longer or shorter based on how many applications they are processing.[19]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 19.jpg

EditDealing with Special Circumstances

  1. Call the National Passport Information Center if you must travel within 3 days. If there has been a death, serious injury, or illness in your immediate family that requires you to travel, you can get your passport expedited for a “life or death emergency.” To do this, call to make an emergency appointment.[20]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 20.jpg
    • Call 1-877-487-2778 on Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm eastern time. This line is closed on federal holidays.
    • For teletype (TTY/TTD), call 1-888-874-7793 on Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm eastern time. This line is closed on federal holidays.
    • Outside of business hours and on federal holidays, call 1-202-647-4000.
  2. Pay a $60 fee to expedite your passport. If you need your passport in under 2 weeks or if you need a foreign visa in 4 weeks, you must make an appointment at a passport acceptance facility. If you need your passport in 4-6 weeks, you can expedite it in person or by mail.[21]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 21.jpg
    • If you are expediting in person at a passport acceptance facility, you must bring form DS-11, regardless of whether you are renewing or not.
    • If you are expediting by mail to renew your passport, still use form DS-82. Add the expedite fee to your passport fee. Write “EXPEDITE” in large, clear letters on the outside of the envelope.
    • The expedite fee is $60 USD. You may also choose to include an extra $15.95 to have the passport shipped overnight to you.
  3. Contact the United States embassy or consulate to apply outside of the country. Each country may have a different procedure for applying. Call the consulate or visit in person. Ask which fees, forms, and documentation you need to apply.[22]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 22.jpg
    • You may need to provide your old passport, your social security number, your current visa, or other identity documents.
  4. Attend the appointment if your child under 16 needs a passport. Both parents or guardians must appear at the appointment with the child and provide consent. They must show proof of their relationship with the child, such as a birth certificate, adoption decree, or guardianship documents.[23]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 23.jpg
    • If a parent or guardian cannot attend, they can fill out and sign Form 3053 and get it notarized. Send this form with the other parent or guardian to the appointment. The form can be found here:
    • If there is only 1 parent or guardian, a court order, adoption decree listing only 1 parent, birth certificate with only 1 parent, or custody agreement must be provided.
    • If consent cannot be received from the other parent because of special circumstances, fill out Form 5525 here:
  5. Provide additional documentation if you are transitioning gender. If you are applying for a new passport but you have started transitioning to a different gender since your old passport, you will need additional documentation. These may include:[24]
    Get a U.S. Passport Step 24.jpg
    • Certification from a doctor that you are currently undergoing or have previous undergone medical treatment for transitioning.
    • A photo ID that resembles your current appearance.
    • Court documentation of a name change (if you changed your name).


  • The expiration date is listed on the passport. For people above the age of 16, a passport lasts for 10 years. For children under 16, it lasts for 5.
  • If you ever lose a passport or have it stolen, report the theft immediately to local police and to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate (or to the Department of State if in the US.) Once reported as lost, you cannot use the passport ever again, even if you later find it.

EditSources and Citations


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