How to Get a Passport: A Step-by-Step Guide - Newport Paper House


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How to Get a Passport: A Step-by-Step Guide

Getting a passport can seem like a daunting process, but it doesn't have to be. With some preparation and by following the step-by-step instructions, you can get your passport issued in as little as 4-6 weeks.

Determine if You Need a Passport

The first step is deciding if you need a passport. U.S. citizens need a passport for international travel, including trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Passports are also required for most cruises, even if they depart from and return to a U.S. port.

You may also need a passport for domestic travel if you:

  • Fly to a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Are a child traveling with only one parent or guardian
  • Are traveling with a school or youth group

If you only need identification for domestic travel, a state photo ID or driver's license is sufficient.

Gather Documents and Photograph

To apply for your first U.S. passport, you will need to provide the following:

  • Passport application form DS-11 - Available to print from the U.S. Department of State website or you can fill it out online.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship - Certified birth certificate or previous U.S. passport. Naturalization certificate if you derived citizenship.
  • Primary identification - Valid driver's license, government ID, or military ID.
  • Passport photo - Must be 2x2 inches, with a white background. Many pharmacies and shipping stores take passport photos.
  • Payment - Application fee by check or money order. Expedited fees are paid separately.
  • Parents' IDs - If applying for a child under age 16, parents must provide IDs and written consent.

Make copies of all documents before submitting your application.

Complete and Submit Application

There are a few options for submitting your passport application:

  • By mail - Send all materials to a passport processing center. Allow at least 8 weeks for processing.
  • In-person - Make an appointment at a passport agency or acceptance facility to apply in person. Can be processed in 4-6 weeks.
  • Expedited service - Pay an extra $60 fee for expedited processing in 2-3 weeks. Only available by mail or in person.

triple check that you have filled everything out correctly before submitting. Follow all instructions carefully to avoid any delays.

Track Application Status

Once you have applied, you can check your application status using the passport agency's online status check page. It will let you know once your passport has shipped.

If you provide a phone number, you may also receive text message updates. Allow up to 8 weeks before contacting the agency about status, unless you paid for expedited service.

Verify Passport and Sign Immediately

As soon as you receive your new passport by mail, open it and check all the details carefully. Make sure your name, birth date, and photo are accurate. Sign it immediately with a black pen in the designated area. Not signing it can invalidate the passport for travel.

Once signed, your passport is valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors. Store it in a safe place until your travel date. Consider making a photocopy as an extra precaution.

With your shiny new passport in hand, you're ready for international travel and adventure! Just be sure to allow enough time for processing when planning any trips abroad.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting a Passport

Here are answers to some common questions about getting a U.S. passport:

How long does it take to get a passport?

Normal processing takes 4-6 weeks by mail or in person. Expedited service cuts the time to 2-3 weeks but has an extra fee.

How much does a passport cost?

A first-time adult passport is $145. To renew, it's $110. For minors under 16, it's $115 or $80 to renew. Expedited service adds $60.

What if I need a passport quickly?

You can pay an extra $60 fee per application for expedited service to get your passport in 2-3 weeks instead of 4-6. Only available by mail or in person, not online.

Can I get a passport on the same day?

Some passport agencies and centers provide same-day emergency service in limited circumstances that justify the urgent need for travel within 3 business days. Contact your regional passport agency to schedule an appointment.

How do I renew my passport?

If your passport is undamaged and was issued within the past 15 years, you can renew it by mail using form DS-82. Just send your current passport, new photo, and payment. No supporting documents are needed.

Is a passport card sufficient for air travel?

No, the passport card can only be used for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. You must have a passport book for air travel.


Getting your first passport does not need to be difficult if you follow the step-by-step guide. Be sure to allow enough time - at least 4-6 weeks for routine service, or pay extra for expedited processing if you have upcoming international travel plans. With some preparation, you can have your passport issued quickly and smoothly. Just follow all instructions carefully, provide complete documents, and sign them promptly when it arrives. Your passport can then provide you with a lifetime of convenience and adventures across the globe. Safe travels!

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