How to Get a U.S. Passport

Before you book your first trip abroad, you will need to make sure you have a valid U.S. passport. You will need to complete a passport application form if it is your first time or a renewal form if yours has expired.

Renewing your travel credentials is much easier than applying for your first passport. However, both the initial application and renewal will require a fee, an updated photo, and properly completed paperwork.

You will need to apply in person if:

  • You are applying for your first passport.
  • Your passport was damaged, lost, or stolen.
  • Your passport was issued more than 15 years ago.
  • Your passport was issued before you were 16 years old.

How much is a passport?

There are two types of passports you can apply for; a book and a card. The passport book is the traditional documentation that you will need for most international travel. The passport card, however, is valid for land and sea travel between the United States and:

  • Canada.
  • Mexico.
  • The Caribbean.
  • Bermuda.

However, you cannot use the card for air travel. While the card is more affordable, its use is limited to those local regions exclusively.

As an adult applicant, you will pay $145 for your first U.S. passport book and $65 for the card. If you purchase them at the same time, then it will cost $175 (you save $35). Likewise, renewals are $35 less; $110 for a book, $30 for a card, and $140 for both.

If you need to expedite or rush your application, then there is an additional $60 fee. Likewise, a supplemental $150 fee is charged for a File Search if you cannot submit proof of citizenship.

TIP: I’ve never purchased the card due to its restrictions. However, if you visit any of the above areas frequently, then the card is a great alternative since it is also cheaper to replace if lost, stolen, or damaged.

Passport acceptance facilities will accept checks and money orders but not debit and credit cards. A passport agency, however, will accept all payment methods include cash and prepaid credit and gift cards.

Where can I get a passport?

A passport acceptance facility accepts applications. A passport agency will process applications as well as renewals, name changes, and corrections.

While there are passport agencies in several major cities, some states do not have one and residents will need to go through their local passport acceptance facility.

Your travel date can influence where you need to apply for credentials. For instance, you will need to go to an agency if you need a passport in three weeks or less.

Going to a Passport Acceptance Facility

You must make an appointment to apply for a passport agency. An acceptance facility may accept walk-ins, but it is best to check beforehand to save time.

To obtain a passport for the first time, you will need to bring the following:

  • Passport application form PDF
  • Evidence of citizenship, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate
  • Valid identification, such as a current driver’s license
  • Photocopies of the evidence of citizenship and identification
  • Acceptable passport photos
  • Payment for fees

If you are renewing your travel documents, then you will need to have the following:

Keep in mind that you may not need to go to an agency or a facility if you are renewing your passport. You can submit your application by mail if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The book is undamaged (besides normal wear and tear)
  • The passport is in your possession
  • It was issued in the last 15 years
  • You were older than 16 years of age when it was last issued/renewed
  • It was issued in your current name (meaning your name hasn’t changed since then due to marriage, divorce, etc.)

You can only use a check or money order for payment when renewing by mail.

How long does it take to get a passport?

It’s always better to apply for your passport sooner than later. In fact, you may need your passport book number just to book your flight.

It can take six to eight weeks to receive your new passport. If you chose to expedite the service, then it may only take two to three weeks.

The U.S. Department of State makes it easy to track your passport application online.

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