Whether you want to expand your small business into additional countries or visit a manufacturing facility outside the U.S., you need a passport.
Americans can no longer simply drive to Mexico or Canada. They would not be able to get back into the U.S. without a passport if traveling by air.
When traveling by land or sea to Canada or Mexico, you must have at least a passport card.
Due to COVID, there may also be additional restrictions or requirements.
Preparing for an international trip can be exciting but the thought of getting a passport can douse the excitement a little bit.
That’s because applying for and getting a passport is typically a complicated process. Little wonder many people put off the idea until it is absolutely necessary.
Regardless of the complicated process involved, it is worth the effort and can make things a lot easier when you are ready to travel out of the country.
This article is for you if you are interested in knowing how to get a US passport starting from the requirements, application process, and even the cost.
But first, let’s take a quick look at who can apply.
Who is Eligible for a U.S. Passport?
Not everyone living in the United States has a legal right to have a passport. You must meet one of the following conditions to apply for and get a US passport.
You must be a US Citizen by:
- Birth (persons born in the United States or its territories, including the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico).
- Naturalization (non-citizens who are granted citizenship after meeting the established requirements).
- Being a National (non-citizens who owe their sole allegiance to the United States). For example, born in the disputed territory of Swain’s Island or unincorporated territory American Samoa.
How to Apply
If you are eligible, you can proceed to apply for the vital international travel document from within or outside the United States.
Complete the process online or at a consulate or US embassy (for those applying from outside the States).
Also, you can visit a passport acceptance facility near you to start the application process.
Some of the officially recognized acceptance facilities include:
- Public libraries
- Post offices
- Local government offices
These facilities accept applications and administer oaths on behalf of the US Department of State.
You need the following documents to apply for a US passport, according to the US Department of State.
- Application for a US Passport: Complete this form if it’s your first time applying for a US Passport or if you’re applying for an underage child below 16 years of age.
- Primary or Secondary Evidence of US Citizenship: You are expected to provide documents to prove your citizenship. The document can be your birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or citizenship, or a certified copy of your citizenship.
- Proof of Identity: This can be your driver’s license, identity card, or other acceptable forms of identification.
- A recent color photo: Selfies are not accepted. Your photo should not be more than 6 months old, with your face showing clearly and no eyeglasses or face masks.
- Passport application fees: depend on certain factors (we’ll cover that in a bit).
Here’s an important thing to keep in mind about the DS-11 form: You can fill out this form online or print it out and fill it by hand.
In both cases, you should not sign the form until you go to apply in person and authorized passport personnel instructs you to do so.
Renewing Your US Passport
You don’t have to visit a consulate or passport application facility in person to renew your passport. Simply mail the required documents and pay the fees. To renew your passport, provide the following:
- Completed DS-82 form
- Old passport
- A recent passport photo
- Renewal fee
However, you can’t simply mail in your documents for renewal if your passport was issued more than 15 years ago, you’ve had it before your sixteenth birthday, or it is damaged, stolen, or lost.
Also, you won’t be able to renew your passport if your name has changed since the previous issue and you don’t have any legal document to support the name change.
If any of the above is true, your best bet would be to apply for a new passport using the DS-11 form. You can also use Visa Express to help you expedited your passport renewal or travel visa applications.
How Long Does It Take to Get One?
It is best to start your passport application process at least three months before your trip time if you are planning an international flight by air.
As of 2021, the standard processing time is around 10 to 12 weeks.
Track the Status
Once you have completed the application process at an official acceptance facility or online, you can track the status.
Usually, it takes roughly 7 to 10 days before you can track the status online. Once your information is uploaded to the online system, you can see when it is sent out to you.
All you have to do is enter a few personal details, including your name and the last four digits of your social security number.
You can track the status of your passport whether you are requesting a renewal or it is a fresh application.
Speeding up the Processing Time
You can get a passport sooner than the routine time if you pay to expedite. It will cost you more but you can expect to receive it a lot sooner.
Expedited Passport Services are available if your trip is within a few weeks or even within days. Here are the different situations and what you can do:
- If your trip starts within two to three weeks and you’ll like to get a US passport without having to wait for the standard processing time, your best bet would be to request an expedited passport in person at the nearest acceptance facility. You can also request expedited service by mail.
- For life or death emergencies requiring a US passport within three business days (or 72 hours), you need to call the US Department of State on 1-877-487-2778 or 1-888-874-7793. You still have to provide all the required paperwork and documentation, including proof of your emergency.
- If you are not in any type of emergency but still want to get your US passport within four to six weeks, you can visit any passport acceptance facility in person to request expedited service. Requesting by mail is also an option if you want it processed within four to six weeks.
In all of the above situations, you are expected to pay the required passport fees in addition to an additional fee for the expedited service.
What It Costs
The total fees involved vary slightly depending on a few different factors.
For example, you may be applying for your very first passport or renewing it, or you may be applying for a child (minor). The cost can also change if you want expedited service.
The fee is comprised of an application fee and the execution fee. Both fees are non-refundable, regardless of whether or not a passport is issued.
As of January 2020, all passport application fees are paid directly to the Department of State, while execution or acceptance fees are paid to the acceptance facility.
Here is a list of fees for the different categories:
- First-time adult: The total standard fee is $145 ($110 application fee and $35 execution fee).
- Child (minor): This has a total standard fee of $115 ($85 application fee and $35 execution fee).
- Renewal: Renewing does not require an execution or acceptance fee. It only has an application fee of $110.
- Replacement: The total replacement cost for a damaged, stolen, or lost passport is $145 ($110 application fee and $35 execution/acceptance fee).
- Expedite fee: If you’ll like a faster processing service, you are expected to pay $60 in addition to the required fees for the category you want.
- 1 to 2 days delivery: In life or death emergencies, application will require an extra cost of $17.13 in addition to the required fees.
As with every other thing involving costs, passport fees are not static and can change from time to time. For this reason, it is best to use the USAGov calculator to know the latest official fees.
Traveling During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We live in uncertain times with the COVID-19 Pandemic ravaging the entire world. You may want to connect with people in other countries to ask what is currently happening there.
The current global situation can make local and international travel rules and recommendations change very quickly.
That means travelers need to stay up-to-date with the latest information before grabbing their luggage and jetting off.