Requirements to Apply for a Passport
It's your first trip out of the country and you've never applied for a passport. You're excited to get away, but a bit intimidated by the process. Applying for a passport is really a painless process; it's just a matter of gathering the proper documents and going to your local passport acceptance location.
Proof of Citizenship
You will need to present proof of citizenship when applying for a passport. Items like a certified birth certificate, previous nondamaged U.S. passport, naturalization certificate and certificate of citizenship will be acceptable forms of proof. Note that you will have to physically submit this proof, and it will be returned to you with your new passport. If you do not have one of these primary pieces of proof, you'll need a secondary proof including a state-issued Letter of No Record or birth record, in conjunction with an early record (baptismal certificate, hospital birth certificate, census record, early school record or doctor's record). Early records need to show your name, birth date and place of birth.
You'll need an appropriate ID to demonstrate your identity. A valid state driver's license, undamaged passport, naturalization certificate, current government ID or military ID will all be acceptable. If you do not have a primary piece of identification, you'll need to present as much secondary identification (Social Security card, credit card, employee ID, library card) as you can, or have a U.S. citizen witness that meets appropriate requirements attest to your identification by filling out form DS-72 at the acceptance facility.
Photos and Paperwork
Fill out form DS-11 Application for a U.S. Passport, but do not sign it until you're in the presence of the personnel who will be processing your application. You will also need two identical passport photos (2 by 2 inches) to be submitted with your DS-11 form. Photos need to be from within the past six months and show your current appearance. You should be wearing regular clothes without a hat or headband.
How to Apply
There are several cases in which you must apply for your passport in person at an acceptance facility or regional passport agency. If you need the passport within two weeks of your application or to obtain a foreign visa within four weeks, you should make an appointment at a regional passport agency. Otherwise, you can visit an acceptance facility, which includes many local facilities such as U.S. post offices, county courts and public libraries. To search for an acceptance facility, go to the link in "Additional Resources," below. Apply in person if any of the following apply to you:
It is your first time applying for a passport.
Your passport was lost, damaged or stolen.
You are under 16 years old.
Your previous passport was issued when you were less than 16 years old.
Your passport was issued more than 15 years ago.
You had a name change that you cannot legally document since your last passport was issued.
You will need to submit the appropriate fee when applying. Fees vary by age, type of passport and processing time required. See "Additional Resources," below, for link to a list of applicable passport fees. A variety of payment methods are acceptable including major credit cards, check and money order.
Special Requirements for Minors
Minors under the age of 16 need to submit their application in person with both parents or guardians present. Evidence of the relationship between parents/guardians and the minor must be presented. Such evidence includes birth certificate with parents' names, adoption decree with parents' names or court order establishing custody or guardianship. Parents must also present identification of themselves and sign the application in front of the agent. For more specific requirements for minors under 16, different custody situations and single parents, see "Additional Resources," below. Minors who are 16 or 17 may need to have parent/guardian submit proof of identification if they do not have their own, and demonstrate parental consent.
Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.