How to Apply for Your First U.S. Passport


If you’re planning to travel internationally anytime in the near future, you’ll need a U.S. Passport Book or U.S. Passport Card. If you have never applied for a U.S. Passport, you’ll need to gather a few documents and arrange to go to the nearest U.S. Passport application acceptance facility in the United States (or Consulate or Embassy if applying outside the United States). If you follow the steps, the application process should be fairly straightforward. Then, you’ll be on your way to international travel.

Next, we’ll discuss how to apply for your U.S. Passport the first time in-person.

Applying for Your U.S. Passport In-Person For the First Time

You must apply in person for a U.S. Passport Book or U.S. Passport Card if:
  • You are applying for your first U.S. passport;
  • You are under age 16;
  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16;
  • Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged;
  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued more than 15 years ago; or
  • Your name has changed since your U.S. passport was issued and you are unable to legally document your name change
You should also note that special requirements apply for: (1) minors under age 16; (2) minors ages 16-17; and (3) for diplomatic, official, and regular no-fee passports.

You may also be eligible to renew your U.S. Passport by mail, if you are a previous U.S. Passport Book holder and you are eligible to submit Form DS-82. Please read "How To Renew Your U.S. Passport" for further details on how to renew your U.S. passport.

Next, we’ll discuss where you’ll need to go if you have to apply in person.

Where to Apply

First-time applicants can apply at any one of over 9,400 U.S. Passport application acceptance facilities in the United States. To find the nearest U.S. Passport application acceptance facility go to the U.S. Department of State’s website at:

At the website, you’ll have to enter your zip code and select how you want to search the nearest facilities. You’ll also have the option to narrow your search by:
  1. handicap access
  2. photo on site - the people at the facility will take your U.S. Passport photo on site (Note: not all facilities take U.S. Passport photos)
  3. photo nearby – a nearby site will take your U.S. Passport photo
Once you enter the information, you’ll see your search results with locations, phone numbers, and distances for each site from your entered zip code. Many post offices act as U.S. Passport application acceptance facilities. If you click one of the facilities, you’ll see the facility’s hours of passport acceptance.

Next, we’ll go over the 5 required documents you’ll need when applying for your U.S. Passport.

Documents to Bring

To apply for a U.S. Passport, you need to bring and/or complete the 5 following documents:

1. Complete Form DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport

  • You can download Form DS-11 at the U.S. Department of State’s site.
  • You can also fill out the form before you go to the application acceptance facility.
  • However, DO NOT sign Form DS-11 until told to do so at the application facility by the Acceptance Agent. Otherwise, your form will not be accepted!

2. Present Proof of U.S. Citizenship. You must present one (1) of the following:

  • Previous U.S. Passport
  • Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state (a certified birth certificate has a registrar's raised, embossed, impressed or multicolored seal and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office.)
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship
NOTE: If you have none of the following documents, you must present secondary identification of U.S. citizenship such as baptismal certificate, hospital birth certificate, census record, early school record, family bible record, or doctor's record of post-natal care. Please go to the U.S. Department of State’s site for more information on presenting secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship:

3. Present Proof of Identification. You must present one (1) of the following:

  • Previous U.S. Passport
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • Current, valid Driver's License
  • Government ID: city, state or federal
  • Military ID: military and dependents
  • Aircraft Pilot's License issued by the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Association (FAA)
  • Student ID: must be currently enrolled (Please note that Student ID is not a legal form of identification.)
Note: Passport agents may reserve the right to require other additional documentation in certain circumstances.

4. Two (2) Passport Photographs. You must present the following:

  • Two (2) identical passport-sized photographs
  • Each photograph must be:
    • 2x2 inches in size
    • Taken within the past six (6) months.
    • The image size from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head should be between 1 inch and 1-3/8 inch.
    • Photos must be in color.
    • Photos must be full face, front view with a plain white or off-white background.
    • Photographs should be taken in normal street attire, without any headgear.
    • Uniforms should not be worn in photos with the exception of religious attire worn daily.
    • If prescription glasses, a hearing device, wig or similar articles are normally worn, they should be worn when the picture is taken.
    • Dark glasses or nonprescription glasses with tinted lenses are not acceptable unless required for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required to support the wearing of such glasses in photographs.

5. Pay the applicable fees

Go to the U.S. Department of State’s site for the most up-to-date fee schedule:

Next, we’ll go over approximately how long it will take to receive your U.S. Passport and the acceptable methods of payment.

How Long Will It Take to Receive the U.S. Passport?

You may elect to go with routine service or expedited service. Routine service generally takes approximately 4-6 weeks from the time of application. Expedited service (which includes overnight delivery to and from the Passport Agency) generally takes about 2-3 weeks and also includes an additional fee.

Acceptable Methods of Payment

When applying at a Passport Agency, you may generally submit payment using one of the following:
  • Credit Cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover)
  • Debit/Check Cards
  • Checks (personal, certified, cashiers', travelers')
  • Money Orders (U.S. Postal, international, currency exchange)
  • Bank Drafts
When applying at an Acceptance Facility, you may generally submit payment using one of the following:
  • Personal checks, money orders, and bank drafts at all locations
  • Exact cash at some locations
NOTE: You may want to call the Passport Agency or Acceptance Facility in advance to find out the methods of payment that it accepts.

When applying for a U.S. passport from outside of the United States, you should check with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for guidance on how to apply. U.S. Embassies and Consulates generally accept the foreign currency equivalent to the U.S. Dollar ($) amounts listed for applying in the United States.

Next, we’ll go over how you can check on the processing of your U.S. Passport application.

How to Check on the Processing of Your U.S. Passport

You can call and/or check on the Internet for the status of your U.S. Passport and/or U.S. Passport Card application.

To Call:

Call the National Passport Information Center toll-free at 1-877-487-2778. Customer service representatives are generally available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, excluding federal holidays. Further, automated information is available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Check Online:

You can check the status of your application at the U.S. Department of State’s website:

At this website, you can check:
  • Whether your application has been received and is being processed; and
  • If the passport and/or passport card has been finalized, the system will give an estimated receipt date based on whether it is being sent via Priority Mail or overnight delivery.
NOTE: The U.S. Department of State recommends that customers wait one (1) week for expedited applications and four (4) weeks for routine applications before checking their status online. Otherwise you may receive a message saying that your application was not found.

Finally, we’ll conclude with a few main points to keep in mind.


Applying for your U.S. Passport the first time does not have to be confusing. Follow the steps and call the U.S. Passport application acceptance facility where you plan to apply in advance with any questions you may have. Once you complete your application, the world of international travel awaits you!

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