Passport Requirements: What It Takes to Get an American Passport
There are general passport requirements and then there are those that
are specific to each particular type of service. The general
requirements are listed below with a brief description for each. Choose
the type of service you need from the menu in the left column for more
1. You must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen national.
Passports are only issued to applicants
who possess U.S. citizenship or are non-citizen nationals. Frequently,
we receive emails from green card holders wanting to know how they can
apply for a U.S. passport. This is not possible unless they go through
the process of becoming naturalized citizens of the United States
first. U.S. citizenship must be proved in order to get a United States
passport unless the person is a non-citizen national.
What is a non-citizen national? Not a surprising question given
the fact that non-citizen nationals are rare. Section 308 Immigration
and Nationality Act confers U.S. nationality but not U.S. citizenship
on persons born in or having ties with "an outlying possession of the
United States." The outlying possessions are defined as American Samoa
and Swains Island. Also, children born abroad to two non-citizen
nationals or to one alien parent and one non-citizen national parent
are eligible for non-citizen national status. This is so rare that the
State Department does not even issue a certificate for it. Non-citizen
nationals are delineated as such in their passports.
2. Complete the appropriate application form.
Each service requires the completion of a specific passport application form
It is important that the appropriate form be filled out as completely
as possible. Failure to answer any questions may result in a delay.
Even so, an applicant should never knowingly include incorrect
information. Instructions are included with each form to help with the
process. The applications are short and usually only require a few
minutes to complete. The use of black ink is required when completing
the printed form.
3. Submit required supporting documents.
Just as each service requires a specific application form,
specific supporting documents are also required for each. Documents
that are most frequently requested include evidence of United States
citizenship, proof of identification, photocopy of ID, a passport
photo, name change document, evidence of relationship between parent
and child and any number of other documents that the Department of
State deems necessary. You will be notified by mail if additional
documents are required.
Instructions for each passport service include a list of
primary and secondary documents that are acceptable. Careful attention
to the specifications of each document is vital if you want to avoid
delays in the process.
4. Pay the passport fees.
There are both required and optional passport fees
The number and amount of the fees depend on the type of passport
service you are requesting and how quickly you need to get your travel
document. Possible payment options include personal check, cashier's
check, money order, cash or credit card depending on the location where
you are applying.
These general passport requirements are just an introduction to
what is necessary in order to obtain a US passport. For a list of
specific requirements, visit the web page for the service that you need
by selecting from the options in the menu to the left.
Expect to receive your new or renewed passport in 4 to 6 weeks.
Applicants can accelerate the process to get a passport in 2-3 weeks by
requesting expedited service. The fastest way to get a passport
is to apply at a regional agency where processing is done in 8 business
days to as quickly as the same day. Those who are unable to visit one
of the processing centers can authorize a third party
to hand carry the application.
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