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How To Get a US Passport

February 26th, 2010 by Romona Paden

Passport Services

US citizens are eligible to apply for a US passport.  Applying for a US passport is not mandatory, but necessary for those US citizens who wish to travel internationally.  Passports or other recognized documents, such as enhanced driver’s licenses that indicate citizenship or cards issued by trusted traveler programs, are now required to enter the United States after travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

First time applicants must appear in person to apply for a US passport.  Subsequent passport renewals can be handled through the mail.

Step 1: Complete Form DS-11, Application for a US Passport.  Do not sign this application.  This application must be signed in front of an Acceptance Agent at the time of submission.

Step 2: Submit Form DS-11 along with the required supporting documents.  This submission must be made in person at an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency.

Submit the following documents along with the application:

  • Evidence of US citizenship

This evidence could be a certified birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Certificate of Citizenship.

  • Personal identification plus one copy

This evidence could be a Naturalization Certificate, valid driver’s license, current government employee ID, or current military ID.  The copy should be of the front and back of your personal identification.

  • Two (2) identical passport photos

These should be color photographs measuring 2 inches by 2 inches.  The photos should be a front view of your full face with a plan white or off-white background.  Applicants may not wear a uniform, hat, or other headgear that obscures the hair in this picture.  Applicants who normally wear prescription glasses should wear them for this picture.

  • Application fee

 

Applicants should check for current application fees on the Department of State’s website.

Minor children under age 16

 

Minor children under age 16 must apply for a US passport in person with either parents or guardian(s).  They must provide all of the same supporting documents as adults as well as some additional documentation.

  • Evidence of relationship to the parent(s) or guardian(s)

This evidence could be a certified US or foreign birth certificate with both parents’ names, a Report of Birth Abroad with both parents’ names, an adoption degree with the adopting parents’ names, or a court order establishing custody or guardianship.

  • Identification of parent(s) or guardian(s) plus one copy

Both parents must present identification.  This identification could be a US passport, a Naturalization Certificate, a valid driver’s license, a current government employee ID, or a current military ID.

  • Provide consent

Both parents need to give consent.  They can both appear in person to sign Form DS-11 in front of an Acceptance Agent.  Or one parent can appear and bring a notarized Statement of Consent by the second parent.  This statement can be provided on Form DS-3053.  If the minor has only one parent, that parent must submit evidence that he or she is the sole parent.

Once submitted, passport applications can be tracked online through the Department of State’s website.  Expedited processing of passport applications is available for an extra fee.  Passports are valid for ten (10) years for adults and five (5) years for minors under age 16.

Passport Cards

The US passport card is a wallet-size document that can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda at land border crossings.  This card cannot be used to enter the US via international air travel.  Passport cards are less expensive than traditional passports and may be more convenient for people who travel frequently over land to and from the above countries.  People who have never had a US passport before must make their application for a passport card in person using Form DS-11.

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