There are two types of passports that U.S. Citizens can apply for:
U.S. Passport Book (commonly referred to as a “passport”) – this is the most common type of passport:
- Valid for international travel by air, sea or land.
- Valid for 10 years (adult) and 5 years (minor under the age of 16).
- As of September ’14, the cost for first time applicants is $135 for adults and $105 for minors under the age of 16. The cost of a renewal is $110 for adults.
- There are two sizes:
- 28 page book which is standard
- 52 page book which is non-standard
- When applying or renewing, you will have the option to request either size book. The 52-page book is for people who travel frequently. The more times a traveler goes through immigration, the more pages they will need.
- There are two types of Passport Books:
- The U.S. Electronic Passport (e-passport) has a small contact-less integrated circuit (computer chip) embedded in the back cover. Since August 2007, the U.S. has been issuing only e-passports.
- Passports without the above-noted chip. These are the older type passports and will be valid for the full extent of their validity period.
U.S. Passport Card (commonly referred to as a “passport card”) – this has limited use:
- Valid when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. The Passport Card is not valid for international travel by air.
- Valid for 10 years (adult) and 5 years (minors under the age of 16)
- As of September ’14, the cost for first time applicants is $55 for adults and $40 for minors under the age of 16. The cost of a renewal is $30 for adults.
Note: U.S. citizens can apply for one or both of these passport types.
Obtaining a U.S. Passport
You must Apply in Person if any of the following situations are applicable:
- You are applying for your first U.S. passport
- You are under the age of 16 (note that both parents must appear in person and provide consent; if one parent is unable to appear in person then the application must be accompanied by a signed, notarized Form DS-3053: Statement of Consent from the non-applying parent/guardian; if there is only one parent/guardian then see the requirements on the Department of State website)
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under the age of 16
- Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen or damaged
- Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago
- Your name has changed since your U.S. passport was issued and you are unable to legally document your name change
Required steps for submitting an application for U.S. passport
- Fill Out Form DS-11: Application For A U.S. Passport
- Submit Completed Form DS-11 In Person
- Submit Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
- Present Identification
- Submit a Photocopy of the Identification Document(s) Presented
- Pay the Applicable Fee
- Provide One Passport Photo
Locations where you can apply in person:
- Acceptance Facility – many post offices and public offices
- Passport Agency – some of these are only for expedited processing
- Passport Center – this is only for expedited processing
You can Renew by Mail if all of the following are true regarding your most recent U.S. passport.
- It is undamaged and can be submitted with your application.
- It was issued when you were age 16 or older.
- It was issued within the last 15 years.
- It was issued in your current name or you can legally document your name change.
- If any of the above are not true, then you must Apply in Person.
Required steps for submitting an application by mail
- Fill Out Form DS-82: Application For A U.S. Passport by Mail
- Submit your most recent U.S. passport book and/or card
- Submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate or court order if your name has changed
- Pay the Applicable Fee
- Provide One Passport Photo
- Mail application (note the mailing address is different for Expedite Service Requests and Routine Service Requests)
The National Passport Processing Center will return your old passport to you, after it is cancelled, in a separate envelope from your new passport. You should retain this in a safe place because it is considered proof of your U.S. citizenship.
When to Renew Your Passport
The Department of State suggests renewing your passport about 9 months before it expires. If you have a pending trip, I suggest renewing it earlier. You should consider the following.
- Routine passport service can take up to 6 weeks.
- If you need a visa(s) prior to your trip, you will have to submit your new passport to the country’s embassy or consulate that is located in the U.S. This process can take a few weeks. Note that some countries do not require U.S. passport holders to have a visa and some will allow for a visa upon arrival.
- Most countries require your passport be valid for six months from the date of arrival in their country and some even require six months from the end of your intended stay. You cannot just enter a foreign country with two months validity left on your passport.
- When in doubt, renew early!!!
Passport processing times
There are three types of service:
- Routine service: 4-6 weeks processing time (as of September ‘14)
- Expedited service: 3 weeks processing time door to door (as of September ‘14). There is an additional fee of $60 for this service.
- Schedule an appointment at one of the Regional Passport Agencies if you have international travel in less than 2 weeks or need to obtain a foreign visa within 4 weeks. You may be required to provide proof of travel.
You can check the status of your application online 5-7 days after applying.
Add pages to your passport book
If you originally obtained a 28-page book and are running out of blank pages well before the passport is to expire, you can add pages to your current passport. Note that some countries require 2 to 4 blank visa/stamp pages. Some airlines will not let you board if this requirement is not met.
Lost or stolen passports
You should report a lost or stolen valid passport immediately using one of the following methods
- Contact the Department of State by phone by calling toll free 1-877-487-2778
- Complete, sign and submit Form DS-64 to the address on the form
- If you lose your passport when traveling in a foreign country, you should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a temporary replacement passport.
To replace your lost or stolen passport if you are in the U.S., you should submit the following forms, in person, at a Passport Agency or Center (if traveling within 2 weeks) or at a Passport Application Acceptance Facility (if not traveling within 2 weeks)
- Form DS-11 (Application for a U.S. Passport) and
- Form DS-64 (Statement Regarding a Lost or Stolen Passport)