How to Get a United States Passport

It is required that all citizens of the United States no matter what age they are, even newborn babies, obtain a passport if they plan to travel internationally by air, sea, or land. There are several steps involved with obtaining a United States passport, but that does not mean it is a tedious process. Once you read through these steps, you will be well on your way to obtaining your passport and getting ready for your travels.

Step One: You must have the necessary documentation together.

In order to obtain a United States passport, you must first have some key documentation on hand. If these pieces of paper are not already in your possession, keep in mind that they will take some time to order from the proper officials and locales. Therefore, advance planning is crucial for this step in the planning process.

• Proof of citizenship: original birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship.
• Proof of identity: driver's license, government identification, military identification, or naturalization certificate. (Each of these items should be current, contain your signature, and have your photograph on them.)
• Secondary identity (this is only acceptable if primary identification is not available): library card, social security card, or credit card.

Step two: Have your passport photograph taken.
Keep in mind that this is not an ordinary photograph and it even differs from the photograph on your driver's license or other forms of identification. The photograph must be extremely clear, and it must be of a particular size in order to be suitable for a United States passport.

There are many pharmacies, grocery stores, and big box chain stores containing photo labs that offer passport photography services. Some of these services offer a quick turn-around, but others have to send away, so it could take time before your photograph returns. Therefore, it is important to inquire ahead of time to be sure. That way, you can plan ahead of time in case you are up against a tight travel schedule.

Step three: Fill out a DS-11 form.

You can find this form online, print it out, and fill it out at home at your leisure. When filling out this form, it is imperative that it is filled out completely, including your social security number. There are not optional fields. If you do not fill out the form completely, you will be asked to do so when you visit the passport authority during the next step.

Step four: Submit documentation and DS-11 form in person.

Even though you can obtain the DS-11 form at home by printing it from the Internet, you must submit it in person. Visit your local passport authority that, under many circumstances, is located within your local post office. You can find a list of passport locations at Bring the DS-11 form along with all the rest of the required documentation with you during this visit. If you did not obtain a DS-11 from the Internet, there are forms available in the office for you to fill out right there, or you can take them with you to fill out at home and return at a later date. That way, you do not have to feel rushed or worry about others seeing your personal information if the lobby is filled with other patrons.

Step five: Make the required fee payment at the time of your visit.
In order to obtain your United States passport, you must submit all the required paperwork and pay the required fee at the same time during your initial visit. Be prepared because the cost for your United States passport is high. The average cost is $135, and your local passport authority will have a breakdown of the fee for you if you have any questions about why it is so high. Most fees can be paid by cash, money order, or credit card. Depending on your location, you may even be able to pay by personal check.

Just like many other steps throughout the process, it takes time to receive your United States passport once you have completed the steps above. The wait time varies, so plan accordingly. You can inquire with your passport authority and this may be able to give you some indication as to when you will receive your passport. That way, you make your travel plans accordingly.