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How to Obtain a U.S. Passport

New PassportNeed to obtain a US passport?

If you qualify, this page will help you through the DS-11 passport application form and all the rest of the steps for how to get a passport. This process is the same for first time applicants and current passport holders whose travel documents do not meet the requirements for renewing a passport.

Below are the step-by-step instructions you must follow to get a new U.S. passport book as fast as you need it. These same steps also apply if you are applying for a new U.S. passport card.

Do You Qualify for a U.S. Passport?

Before following the steps of the passport application process below, make sure you qualify. We recommend you check the complete list of new passport requirements to verify that a new passport service is what you need.

To start with, know that completing and sending in the wrong form can lead to delays. Take a few seconds to see who should use Form DS-11 to apply for a new passport.

Use Form DS-11 if any of the following apply:

  • You are applying for your first U.S. passport or
  • You are under age 16 or
  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under age 16 or
  • Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or significantly damaged or
  • 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.

If any of these match your needs, you are ready to begin the application process and get a new passport.

In a hurry? Click here to expedite a new passport in 24 to 48 hours.


Complete Application Form DS-11

There are two ways to complete application Form DS-11:

  1. Fill out the passport application online and print it. This produces a clean document that is easy to read and check for errors. If possible, use this method when applying.
  2. Download application Form DS-11 in PDF format, print it, and complete it offline. Each page should be printed on a separate sheet of paper-not back-to-back. Use black ink to complete the form and write as neatly as possible. Illegible answers will lead to printing errors on your passport, delays in the approval process, or a denied application.

Do You Need a Passport Card, Passport Book, or Both?

At the top of the passport application form is a space for you to choose whether you want to obtain a passport book, a passport card or both. U.S. citizens can have both a book and a card at the same time.

NOTE: the passport card can only be used for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

If you are applying for a passport book, you can choose between a standard, 28-page passport book or a non-standard 52-page one. Pick the latter if you travel abroad frequently.

Once you have made your choice, complete the rest of the application. Do not leave any areas blank.

Do I Need to Include My Social Security Number to Get a Passport?

Some people are reluctant to share their Social Security number, particularly in writing. This is not an optional piece of information on passport applications.

According to U.S. federal law:

You must provide a Social Security number in accordance with 22 U.S.C. 2714a and 22 C.F.R 51.60(f). If you do not have a Social Security number, you must submit a signed statement including the phrase, "I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct: I have never been issued a Social Security Number by the Social Security Administration."

This means, unless you can attest that you have never been issued a Social Security number, you must include it when applying for a U.S. passport.

Other Important DS-11 Passport Application Procedures

The remaining questions on the application form request personal information such as:

  • Your full name
  • Your date and location of birth
  • Your primary telephone number (i.e., the one you are most likely to answer)
  • Your mailing address
  • Any previous names (e.g., maiden name, name changes, names from previous marriages)

The information you include must be accurate. You should also be sure to include the contact information you use most often. If there is an issue with your application or while you are traveling, this is how you would be contacted.

On the last page of the application form, there is a space for you to provide emergency contact information. This should be a reliable person who is not likely to be traveling with you. If there is an issue while you are abroad, this is the first person an official or U.S. Embassy would reach out to on your behalf.

The new passport form also has a section for information about your travel plans. Technically, you are not required to have immediate travel plans in order to obtain a passport. But, if you are applying for an urgent or emergency passport at a regional passport agency, proof of imminent travel within the next 14 days is required.

Does this sound like your situation? Be sure to check out our guide to the fastest ways to get a passport application processed.


Gather Supporting Documents

Several supporting documents are required when submitting Form DS-11 to get a passport. It is important to meet the exact requirements for each document. This is the only way to avoid delays in the passport approval process and get your travel document as fast as possible.

The list of supporting documents include:

  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship - The most common examples include a hospital birth certificate, a certified copy of a birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Certificate of Citizenship.

    NOTE: The document that you submit as evidence of United States citizenship has to be an original or a certified copy.

  • Proof of identity - Most applicants bring a driver's license or other, government-issued identification to their passport appointment. Your most recent passport can also be used, even if it is expired.

    If you have had a name change, the Department of State requires also requires evidence of this as part of your passport application.

  • Photocopy of the identification document - In addition to the original copy that you bring to your passport services appointment, an 8.5" by 11" photocopy must be included with your application materials.
  • One (1) recent passport photo - There are very specific requirements for passport photos. Luckily, there are many locations where you can get a passport photo taken that will give you results acceptable enough to submit with your application. These passport photos are the same that will be used in your passport book, so be sure you are satisfied with the result!

Any original citizenship document you provide as part of the application process will be returned to you. However, it may arrive separately and/or on a different day from your new passport.

You should use a protective package and a trackable delivery method. This will help ensure that your citizenship documents arrive and return safely.

Applying for children's passports starts by following these same procedures. But, there are additional documents that must be included with an application for minor children.

If you are applying for a passport on behalf of a minor child under the age of 16, be sure to read our guide to child passport information.


Visit Application Acceptance Facility

Passport Application Acceptance Facility at Post OfficeThe next step is to visit a passport application acceptance facility.

The majority of the passport acceptance sites are public buildings. For example, many USPS post offices and libraries serve as the passport acceptance facilities for their communities.

That said, most locations will require an appointment to accept a passport application. You should call before you visit to guarantee you will be seen. You can also make a passport appointment online at some USPS locations. For more, check out these tips on applying for a passport at a post office.

At your passport appointment, a Passport Acceptance Agent will look over your completed Form DS-11 and supporting documents. If everything is in order, the agent will administer an oath and witness you sign the application. Do not sign your application before arriving at your appointment.

Passport Payment Information

Payment for the new passport application fee is sent with the completed application form and supporting documents. The fee for expedited service can also be included as a part of this payment.

The execution fee is paid separately to the acceptance agent you are meeting with on your appointment date. The acceptance facility charges a separate $35 fee that can be paid with a check or money order, as well. Some facilities will accept cash, debit card, or credit card payments for this fee.

Payments for passports can be made with a check(personal, certified, cashier's, traveler's) or money orderpayable to the "U.S. Department of State."

Consult our Routine & Expedited Passport Fees page for a full breakdown of the costs to apply for a passport.

How Long Does It Take to Get a New US Passport?

Application for a New Passport Form DS-11It depends. You can choose between routine and expedited passport processing when applying at a passport acceptance facility.

According to the U.S. Department of State, routine processing is currently estimated to take from 6 to 8 weeks. It can take longer, especially during peak travel periods. Expedited processing is estimated to take 2 to 3 weeks. Although faster, it costs more. You need to pay an application fee and an an expedited service fee for each passport or passport card you need rushed.

Can't wait 2 to 3 weeks or more to get your passport? It is possible to obtain a United States passport faster. You have two options:

  1. Apply in person at a regional passport agency. There are 25 agencies located in major cities of the United States. While applicants are usually required to make an appointment, walk-ins who have urgent travel needs are welcome. The same documents and application fee explained above are required.

    Urgent application processing time can range from as fast as within 24 hours to as long as 8 business days.

  2. Get the help of a qualified passport expediting courier service and get a U.S. passport fast. Through an expediter, you can have your new passport delivered to you in 24-48 hours. Travel document expediting services can do this because they have a special relationship with the regional agencies that give them priority status. They can also obtain travel visas if you require them for your trip abroad.

    Depending on your situation, this can lead to serious savings of both time and money. There are a number of additional costs when getting a passport that a passport expediter helps reduce or eliminate.

How to Check Your Passport Application Status

The US State Department website makes it simple to check the status of your passport application. Two weeks after your documents have been accepted, you can visit the U.S. Passport Application Status web page and get real-time updates about your passport.

You will need to provide the following information exactly as it appeared on your application:

  • Your last name (include suffixes without punctuation)
  • Date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy format)
  • Last 4 digits of your Social Security number

There is also an option to call the Department of State for passport application status updates. 1-877-487-2778 is available between 7 a.m. - Midnight, Monday-Friday. An alternate number, 1-888-874-7793 (TDD/TTY) is available for the hearing impaired.

Top 5 Questions About Expedited Passport Couriers

1. How can you get a passport when you're in a hurry?
2. What exactly does a passport expediter do?
3. Are passport expediting services legitimate?
4. How can I identify a reliable passport expeditor?
5. Is expedited passport service worth it?

Get answers to these questions and more in our Ultimate U.S. Traveler's Guide to Passport Expediters.

You can also visit our library of articles about passport expediting.

In a Hurry? Get Reliable Expedited Passport Courier Service:Expedite My U.S.Passport Now!

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About the Author: For over 20 years, the U.S. Passport Service Guide team has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers with their travel document questions and shared advice about how to make traveling abroad simpler, safer, and more enjoyable.

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