Ready to go on your first international trip and need your passport to get there? Don’t let the process of obtaining your new passport keep you from enjoying yourself! Let’s review how to get a passport.
How to get a passport for the first time
The basics of the process are simple; gather your documents, fill in your DS-11 Form, and visit a Passport Acceptance Agent to submit your application. If you’re age 16 or older and you’re applying for your passport for the first time, here’s what you need to do:
- Complete and print a DS-11 Form (PDF) but don’t sign it yet; you’ll need to do that in the presence of a Passport Acceptance Agent.
- Gather your Proof of Citizenship.
- Gather your ID and Proof of Identity (basically, you should provide a copy of both sides of your ID).
- Obtain a passport photo.
- Calculate your passport fee.
- Visit your local Passport Acceptance Agent so they can witness your passport application signature. You’ll pay your $25.00 execution fee to the agent and the other fees to the U.S. Department of State (more on payment fees).
Do you need to apply in person?
You must apply in person if you meet any of the following requirements:
- You are applying for your first U.S. passport; or
- You are under age 16; or
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16; or
- Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged; or
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago; or
- Your name has changed since your U.S. passport was issued and you are unable to legally document your name change.
If you need to renew your passport, or correct it, you may mail in your application rather than applying in person. If you renewing outside of the United States or Canada, there are different instructions to follow. Also, if you’re applying for a passport for a minor under the age of 16 there are some additional steps.
How fast do you need your passport?
If you can wait a while, routine passport processing will save you a bit of money. It currently takes around six weeks to process a routine passport application. You can pay an additional $60 fee and expedite your passport which will reduce the processing time to around three weeks.
If you have verified travel plans within two weeks you can apply at a Regional Passport Agency. The $60 expediting fee still applies, but they can process the application within eight days and sometimes faster if you can prove an urgent need.
Finally, you have the option to take advantage of a Registered Passport Expediter. These are private companies that charge additional fees to assist you and expedite your passport application faster than the traditional methods. They are registered with the U.S. Department of State, work directly with the Regional Passport Agency to secure passports, and can help make the process less stressful. They can provide service as fast as next business day. We’ve put together a list of recommended Registered Passport Expediters who have a proven track record of success.
Ready to Get Your Passport?
If you're in a hurry and need your passport quickly, we've got you covered. Find out more about expediting your passport and choose from our curated list of Registered Passport Expediters.