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Complete Guide to U.S. Passport Requirements in 2024

a closed United States passport book on a table in front of an open passport book.

Getting a U.S. passport can seem tricky, but knowing what you need to do is a big help. If you're getting a passport for the first time, need to renew an old one, or have special situations like applying for a child, it's important to follow the right steps. This guide is here to show you exactly what to do so you can get your passport without any trouble.

On this page, you'll also find links to helpful guides and the application forms you'll need. We've made it easy for you to find everything in one place, so you can fill out your forms and know what documents to gather without feeling lost or overwhelmed.

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Confirming Your Passport Eligibility

Before you start your passport application, the first step is to make sure you're allowed to get a U.S. passport. This means checking if you are a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen national. Here's how you can tell if you qualify:

U.S. Citizenship or Non-Citizen National Status

Who Can Get a U.S. Passport?

To apply for a U.S. passport, you need to be a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen national. Most people get their passport using their U.S. citizenship. This includes people born in the United States and some people born outside the U.S. to American parents.

What is a Non-Citizen National?

Non-citizen national status is less common. This status is for people who were born in American Samoa or Swains Island, which are parts of the United States but don't grant full U.S. citizenship at birth. Non-citizen nationals can still get a U.S. passport, but their status is a bit different from citizens.

Already have a passport?

If you already have a U.S. passport and need to renew it, you're eligible and we've got you covered. Check out our Ultimate U.S. Passport Renewal Guide for step-by-step help and tips to make renewing your passport as easy as possible. This guide is perfect for current passport holders looking for updated information and advice on the renewal process.

Remember: confirming that you're eligible for a U.S. passport is the first important step in the process. Once you know you qualify, you're ready to get your application process started!

Complete the Correct Passport Application Forms

When you're ready to apply for a U.S. passport, picking the right form is your next big step. There are different forms depending on if it's your first time applying, if you're renewing, or if you're getting a passport for a child. Let's break down which form you'll need and how to fill it out without any mistakes.

Choosing the Right Passport Application Form

  • First-Time Applicants: Use Form DS-11. This is for people who have never had a U.S. passport before, kids under 16, and those who got their last passport before they turned 16.
  • Renewals: If you already have a passport and you're not a child anymore, you'll likely use Form DS-82 to renew it.
  • Minors: Parents applying for their children under 16 will use Form DS-11 and need to follow special rules, like both parents showing up to the application appointment and completing extra paperwork.

Filling Out the Form Correctly

  • Read Carefully Make sure to read each question carefully before you answer. This helps prevent mistakes that could slow down your application.
  • Black Ink: Use black ink if you're filling out a paper form. This makes it clear and easy to read.
  • Check Your Work: Double-check your form when you're done to make sure all the information is correct and complete.

    In particular, pay attention to instructions about signing applications. Many applications, particularly Form DS-11, require applicants to sign in front of passport agency officials duiring the application appointment.

Choosing and filling out the right passport application form doesn't have to be complicated. With these tips and the right information, you'll be on your way to getting your passport in no time.

Make a Passport Appointment

If you need to submit your application in person, like first-time applicants and minors often do, you'll need to make an appointment. You can easily schedule this online.

Visit our guide on How to Schedule Your US Passport Appointment Online for a step-by-step walkthrough on making your appointment. This guide will save you time and help make sure you've got everything ready for your visit.

If you need a passport fast, you will need to get an appointment at one of the 26 regional passport agencies located across the country. These appointments can sometimes be challenging to both get and attend depending on when and where you need to go. In these situations, many applicants opt to get help from registered passport expediting services.

Passport expediters can perform many of the tasks detailed here on your behalf so you don't have to. This is particularly helpful if you need a passport in two weeks or less. For more on what these services can and cannot do for you, check out our Ultimate Guide to Passport Expediters.

Note: If you are renewing a passport or applying for a passport correction, you can usually mail your application without needing to visit a passport office or regional passport agency. Passport expediters can help speed up these types of applications as well.

Gather the Correct Supporting Documents

Getting together the right documents is a crucial part of your passport application. These documents prove who you are and confirm your eligibility for a U.S. passport.

Here's a rundown of the documents most people will need to provide, along with some special cases to be aware of.

Commonly Required Documents

  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship: This could be a birth certificate for those born in the U.S., a naturalization certificate for naturalized citizens, or a consular report of birth abroad for those born to U.S. parents overseas.

    For more, veiw our up-to-date guide about what counts as proof of citizenship.

  • Photo Identification: A valid driver's license, state ID, or military ID can serve as photo identification.

    For more, veiw the current guidance about what counts as proof of identity

  • Passport Photo: You'll need a recent photo that meets the strict passport photo requirements.
  • Application Form: The correct completed application form for your situation, as discussed in the previous section.

Special Considerations

  • Minors: Applications for children under 16 require both parents' consent and additional documentation, like a birth certificate showing both parents' names.

    Visit our comprehensive guide to getting a child's passport for a complete walkthrough of all the forms and documents required.

  • Name Changes: If you've changed your name since your last passport was issued, you'll need documents to prove the name change, such as a marriage certificate or a court order.

    Follow the steps in our passport name change guide for which documentation does and does not work for this purpose.

  • Non-Citizen Nationals: If you're a non-citizen national, you might need to provide additional or different forms of evidence to prove your status. Visit the U.S. Department of State's official Certificates of Non Citizen Nationality documentation.

By understanding and collecting the necessary supporting documents, you can ensure a smoother passport application process. Make sure to check our resources for any help you might need with special cases or to find the forms you need.

Pay the Correct Passport Fees

Paying for your passport is an important step in the application process. There are different fees depending on what you need and how quickly you need it. Understanding these fees can help you plan better and avoid any surprises.

For up-to-date fees and costs, be sure to visit our Complete Passport Fee Breakdown page.

Understanding Passport Fees

There are different types of passport fees that will vary depending on the type of passport application you are submitting and how fast you need your passport.

  • Standard Fees: These are the basic fees for getting a passport. They vary depending on whether you're applying for a passport book, card, or both, and if it's for an adult or a child.
  • Expedited Service Fees: If you need your passport quickly, you can pay an additional fee for expedited service. This option speeds up the processing of your application.

    Expedited processing currently takes 2 to 3 weeks.

  • Optional Service Fees: There are other fees for optional services like overnight delivery of your passport or obtaining a file search for missing citizenship documentation.

Payment Methods

You can pay passpot application fees in several ways, including checks, money orders, and, at some locations, credit or debit cards. It's important to check what payment methods are accepted at the place you're applying.

Cost-Effective Planning Tips

  • Apply Early: Avoid expediting fees by applying for your passport well before your travel date. The standard processing time currently takes 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Choose What You Need: Think about whether you need both a passport book and card or one or the other. The passport card is less expensive but can't be used for most international locations. It also cannot be used for any type of air travel.
  • Budget for Optional Services: Pay careful attention to optional services like overnight delivery or file searches that you may need. These can add up.

By being informed and planning ahead for the different passport fees associated with your application, you can ensure avoid any last-minute stress. Make sure to review the fee structure and budget accordingly for your passport application.

The Fastest and Easiest Way to Get a Passport

Applying for a U.S. passport involves several important steps: confirming your eligibility, choosing the right application form, gathering necessary supporting documents, and understanding the fees involved.

By following the steps above carefully, you can navigate the passport application process smoothly and efficiently.

If these steps seem daunting, or you just simply don't have the time to follow them all yourself, remember that professional expediting services are available to help make the process faster and simpler.

Our Ultimate U.S. Traveler's Guide to Passport Expediters walks you through how to take advantage of these services. They can and will save you time and minimize the potential stress surrounding getting these steps right to get your passport when you need it.

If you are in a hurry, visit our directory of the top passport expediting services and get the support you need today.

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!
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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