Today, at a time when many tasks can be completed online, many US citizens filing a passport application may also want to apply for their US passport online, especially when getting ready to travel. Online applications for passports would be more convenient and might save time, but currently, the US Department of State does not generally allow online applications. However, for the busy traveler, there are many online resources and passport services which can be useful.
First, you need to determine whether you need a United States passport. Generally, if you are a US citizen and will be traveling outside of the US, a passport is mandatory. A US passport allows you to travel freely and return to the US. If you need visas or other authorization to enter another country, your passport provides a place for this authorization. While you are outside of the US, your passport acts as identification and authorization of travel. If you get into legal or personal trouble away from the US, your US passport can help you secure the services and the assistance of US consulates and embassies overseas. For all these reasons, having a passport is crucial when you travel.
If you currently do not have one, you will need to apply for a new passport. If you have never had a US passport or you are under the age of 16 or were younger than 16 when you had your last passport, you will need to file Form DS 11 to apply for a passport. You will also need to file Form DS 11 if you have not had a US passport for more than 15 years or if your current passport was stolen or lost.
You can download Form DS 11 and other important passport forms from the US Department of State website. You will generally need to apply in person. If you will be traveling soon, you may not have time to go through the passport application process in the typical way. Instead, you may need to apply to your Regional Passport Agency for an expedited process. If you do not need a new passport, but rather need a current passport renewed, you can usually visit the US Department of State website to download the relevant passport forms and you can apply in these cases by mail. As well, the US Department of State website allows you to check your US passport application status online. If you have applied for a new passport, you can use the website to see when your United States passport is processed and sent.