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Complete Guide to Get a US Passport: Everything You Need to Know

As of 2016, only 42 percent of the American population holds a passport. Although that is less than half, it’s a 15% percent increase since 2007. Going back to the 1990s, only 4 percent of Americans had a passport.

If you’re thinking about getting a U.S. passport, there is a lot of information you need to know ahead of time. Lucky for you, we’re here to help.

Read on to learn how to get a U.S. passport. 

Getting Your Passport for the First Time

If you’re trying to get your U.S. passport for the first time, the process can be daunting for many. However, there’s no need to fear if you follow the steps below.

Before you submit any applications, you need to make sure you have all of the necessary documents or you will get sent back. The following things are required from all U.S. citizens:

  • Filled passport application forms
  • Proof of citizenship 
  • Identification 
  • Social security number
  • 2 passport photos
  • Fees

Once you’ve gathered everything on that list, you’re ready to start the process.

1. Forms

In order to apply for your passport, you need to have the correct and current passport forms. You can find printable forms online or you can pick them up at your local U.S. post office. 

Once you have your forms in hand, make sure you read the instructions carefully. The instructions are on page 1 and 2 of the application. After you review the instructions, then you can start filling up page 3.

2. Documentation

As we already mentioned, you need to show proof you’re a U.S. citizen in order to get your passport. There are a few documents you can use to prove your eligibility.

The most common one is a certified U.S. birth certificate. Most birth certificates are either certified by the state, city, or county. If you don’t have a certified copy, you will need to contact the government agency that issued your passport to obtain one. 

Make sure you provide the original certified birth certificate, if you provide a copy, your application will get denied. 

There are other ways to proof your eligibility than a birth certificate. If you were born outside the U.S. from American parents, you can show your record of birth abroad

If you recently became a U.S. citizen you can use your Naturalization or Citizenship Certificate. 

3. Identification

You will also need to show proof of identification. It has to be issued by a government agency. If this is your first time getting a passport, you might not have your previous passport to show your identity. 

If you’re renewing your passport, you can show your expired passport in most cases unless it’s damaged or altered.

Other forms of identification accepted include driver’s license, state ID, or military cards. 

4. Photos

In order to get your passport, you will need to provide the photos that will be featured in your passport. 

Remember, you need your passport pictures to reflect your everyday appearance, so don’t do anything that will alter it drastically. When you get your passport photo taken, make sure you wear simple everyday attire and nothing around your head.

If you wear glasses and think they alter your appearance, you should consider wearing them in the photo. You also cannot smile or make any odd facial expressions. 

Make sure the place you’re going to get your passport photos from is familiar with the requirements. Otherwise, you can always have your passport photo taken at the post office. Just make sure you call ahead of time to ensure they do take photos there.

5. Social Security Number

You will need your social security number to apply for your passport. If you don’t have it memorized make sure you double check your social security card.

The last thing you need is your passport application getting denied due to an error.

6. Fees

Get ready to pay for your passport. It’s important to note that passport application fees change all the time, so you should check online for the correct fee. 

If you’re getting your passport for the first time and you’re 16 or older, you will have to pay $110 plus a $35 processing fee. Children under 16 only have to pay $80 plus the processing fee. 

7. Processing Times

It’s important that you are aware of the processing times before you try to get your passport. Regular processing times are between 4 to 6 weeks. 

If your trip is sooner than that you might have to get it expedited. 

8. File Your Application

Once you have everything ready, take your materials to the closest passport office. The closest passport facility to you might be your local post office. 

Getting Your Passport Renewed 

Passport renewals are a bit like first-time passport applications, except, you don’t have to provide as much documentation. 

In order to renew your passport, you need to make sure your former passport is not damaged (aside from wear and tear), issues within the last 15 years, and issued after you were 16. 

You will need to fill out form DS-82, include your current passport, and provide passport photos. If you legally changed your name, you need to provide these documents as well. 

The application for renewals is $110 but make sure you monitor in case of changes. Unlike first-time passports, you can mail in your application without going to a passport office.

Expediting Your Passport

As we mentioned, you can expect your passport to arrive in 4 to 6 weeks. However, if you need to travel on short notice, you can expedite your passport. 

Keep in mind you will need to meet certain requirements for they don’t want everyone to rush their passport. 

If your trip is in two weeks or less, you need to bring your plane ticket or foreign visa (needs to expire within the month).

In life-or-death cases, you can obtain your passport within 3 days if you meet the requirements

Expediting your passport will also cost you an extra $60, so you need to pay $110 + $60 + $35 = $205.00.

Get a U.S. Passport the Easy Way

Now that you know how to get a U.S. passport, it’s time you pick your next international travel destination.

Remember to gather all of your documents, check the fees, and apply for your passport. Keep checking back for more informational posts like this for your travels right here on our blog.