How to Get a US Passport

Processing your application for a US passport is a must if you wish to travel. For United States citizens, the passport is the most important travel document. Passports provide proof of citizenship, contain travel visas, and provide authorization for re-entry into the US. If you run into any problems while traveling outside of the United States, a US passport can help you secure vital emergency assistance from US consulates and embassies. Any US citizen traveling outside of the US and its territories is required by law to travel with a valid passport. Renew your passport as appropriate to keep it valid.

The application process

To get a US passport, you need to complete the passport application process. Certain aspects of the process can be complex. Applicants applying for a US passport for the first time, minors, applicants with name changes, applicants who have not applied for a passport in 15 years, and applicants who have had a passport stolen must apply for a US passport in person. Other applicants may complete US passport forms through the mail. All applicants need to complete the correct passport application form. For most applicants filing in person, that form is Form DS-11 (Application for a US Passport). It is important to not sign this form after filling it out; Form DS-11 must be signed in front of a passport agent. You will also need to pay the correct fee when submitting your US passport forms.

In addition to completing the correct US passport forms, applicants must also provide additional documentation in person. For example, when appearing in person to complete a passport application, applicants will need proof of USA citizenship, identification, and two passport photos. It is important for this supporting documentation to meet the standards established for the passport application because not all forms of identification are accepted. Verify ahead of time what documentation you will need. Keep in mind that some applicants will need to submit additional documentation with their passport application form. For example, most minors require parental consent to file for a US passport. In cases where custody is an issue, consent of both custodial parents may need to be established. These rules have been instituted to help prevent parental abduction.

Passports and cards

When applying for a US passport, applicants must also determine whether they prefer a passport book or a passport card. A passport card is a convenient credit card-sized document that easily fits into a wallet, but it can only be used for travel, by land or sea, to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. It is a convenient alternative for people who travel to these locations by land and sea only. A US passport card is less expensive and more convenient to carry, but it cannot be used for air travel or for travel to any country other than those listed.

Special applications for a passport

In some cases, you may not have time to wait for a passport application form to be processed in the standard way. If you need the process expedited, you will have to schedule an appointment in order to apply for a US passport in person. Expect to pay an additional fee to have the process sped up.

Some applicants can submit their passport application by mail rather than by presenting it in person. If you have a current US passport and are simply renewing a passport, you may be able to renew by mail, provided that your current passport can be submitted with your passport application form, and that it was issued within the last 15 years. In addition, you must not have changed your name or must be able to legally prove your name change through documentation. Finally, to apply for a passport via mail you must have had your last passport issued when you were at least 16 years old.

The passport application process does not have to be daunting. has a number of powerful resources that can help. Are you nervous about applying for your first passport? has a New U.S. Passport Application kit that includes all the forms and instructions you need. If you've lost your passport or had it stolen, take the stress out of the situation with the U.S. Passport Lost-Stolen Application kit. It contains everything you need to get your passport in the mail quickly. Don't delay or lose your travel privileges -- apply for a passport easily by using’s do-it-yourself kits. In a hurry? No problem -- kits can be downloaded instantly for your convenience. We can help you stay aware about which immigration forms pertain to you.

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