How to Get a U.S. Passport

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Introduction: How to Get a U.S. Passport

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With Passports now required for travel to even Mexico and Canada* getting a passport before you need it is wise. If you have never had a Passport or yours is older than 15 years or you were 16 before receiving it follow these instructions.

You will need:
To apply in person
Form DS-11 completed
Proof of citizenship
Proof of identification
Money to pay for the processing

*If you are traveling by land or sea to Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, or Bermuda you can use the Passport Card which applications are being accepted for beginning on February 1, 2008.

Step 1: Fill Out Form DS-11 and Find an Acceptance Facility

Go to the U.S. Department of State website and fill out form DS-11. Print out the form but do not sign it. Locate a Passport acceptance facility. You can find those nearby by using the Passport Acceptance Facility search page. Make an appointment if necessary, ask what forms of payment are accepted and see if they provide picture taking services or if you need to bring your own photos.

Step 2: Gather Your Documents and Money

Accepted proof of citizenship include:

Certified birth certificate ("A certified birth certificate has a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal, registrar's signature, and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office, which must be within 1 year of your birth." Be certain that your birth certificate is certified and not just an unofficial copy.) IF you need a new certified birth certificate just go to the website of the state you were born in (usually their department of health and division of vital records) instead of going to a commercial service. I just compared a PA certificate: at the state site is $10 and at a commercial service is $32.
Certificate of Citizenship
Naturalization Certificate
Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth

If you don't have any of these you need a Letter of No Record issued by your state and as many of these as you can provide:

Census record
Baptismal certificate
Doctor's record of post-natal care
Hospital birth certificate
Early school record
Family bible record

Further options are available including an Affidavit of Birth (form DS-10) with more information available on this page.

You also will need a current and valid proof of ID:

Naturalization Certificate
Driver's license
Government ID: city, state or federal
Military ID: military and dependents

Photographs:

You may provide your own photograph or have one taken if you go to a Passport Acceptance Facility that will provide that service. A fee may be added for taking the photograph. Your photos must be:

2x2 inches in size
Identical
Taken within the past 6 months, showing current appearance
Color
Full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background
Between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
Taken in normal street attire

(Uniforms should not be worn in photographs except religious attire that is worn daily. Do not wear a hat or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline. If you normally wear prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles, they should be worn for your picture. Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless you need them for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required.)

Payment:

If 16 or older the fee is $97. Under 16 the total is $82. For faster delivery of your passport and proof of citizenship ID add an additional $60. You will want to verify with the Acceptance Facility which methods of payment they will accept.

Step 3: Check the Status of Your Application Online

The Department of State provides a site that lets you check the status of your applicationcheck the status of your application.

It currently can take up to 12 weeks for your Passport to be processed and sent to you.

This Instructable was written with extensive reference to the Department of State Passport Services Office website. I also just in February went through this process so had just gone through the hoops myself.

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    33 Comments

    I have an id from Washington and I live in Idaho. I work during the week so I can't get my id from here. Could I get my passport from here with a different state?

    oh what the point i have 3 passes 1 for ussr ( got it a long time ago ) 1 4 U.S.A
    1 for germany i like to travel a lot

    oh what the point i have 3 passes 1 for ussr ( got it a long time ago ) 1 4 U.S.A
    1 for germany i like to travel a lot

    It's now something like $130 for a passport, plus $20 for "processing fees".

    Since this Instructable was posted, some things have changed. For US travelers going to Canada or Mexico, a passport card is now available at a fraction of the cost of a passport book. (If you already have a passport book, you don't need to get the card, but I'd rather leave my passport book at home if I'm just heading to Toronto.) Visit the U.S.State Dept's site to get an estimate of when to expect your passport (in my experience, it was accurate). For first timers, you will need to apply in person, and the State Dept site can also point you to locations where you get the pics done at the same time. I did, and it took about 15 minutes to finish applying.

    I got my UK passport in about a month if that :D

    1 reply

    m passport is kewl my nad knows obama and he made my asport gold and the american eagle its awsom and its signed by him im happy

    Regardless of the condition of this instructable, the wait is WAYYYYY more than 12 weeks. Its like six months now. Three if you get the express

    4 replies

    it took 3 days for mine:D but it is a TR passport

    Got mine in 11 weeks. Put it in in late February of this year. It is taking many people longer than the 10 weeks they say, but it does happen to some.

    I used both what was on the State Dept website and my experience. It took almost exactly 8 weeks for me to get mine (non-express). I did apply at an office in Washington DC though so that might have helped speed things along.

    I got my passport in less than a month via the "express" option, within the last month. The rest of the family's had better arrive in less than six months; they said it would at the post office...

    turkish passports are way simpler to get,just your id,some money,an appointment,and off u go!and records are made in police stations

    BTW, I spent WAY too long searching for my expired passport or birth certificate under the assumption that it would be a real PITA to get a replacement to send in for a new passport. When I finally gave up, I discovered that I could get a replacement birth certificate ONLINE and quite PAINLESSLY via VitalChek Express Certificate Service; it arrived in about 2 days. (Almost scary, that...)

    1 reply

    I highly recommend calling vitalchek for orders, they really helped me, and were very polite... even did away with some of my confusion for different state certificate payments, etc. so even LESS painful overall.

    What if I don't have proof of citizenship? Are there any loopholes, greencards, etc, places to find brides or grooms? Can I go on holiday, get married, then live permanently like that? .. Can I go to the USA if I have a criminal record? NO! Can I apply for itizenship? All of these burning questions, I think also need to be answered, if possible.

    1 reply

    On your first question - from step 2 - "If you need a new certified birth certificate just go to the website of the state you were born in" The rest of the questions do not have to do with obtaining a passport but they would be good questions for an instructable on becoming a citizen or being an immigrant.

    News on the passport wait...

    "The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security announced June 8, 2007 that U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda who have applied for but not yet received passports can nevertheless temporarily enter and depart from the United States by air with a government issued photo identification and Department of State official proof of application for a passport through September 30, 2007."

    Full press release here.

    I found out the hard way that there are two different types of birth certificates, short and long. I went 30 years only knowing one type, the short one. The post office asked for the long one and I was lost. It might be worth noting that somewhere so others can save themselves a couple of trips.

    1 reply

    Will do!