How to Get an American Passport

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As of June 1, 2009, American citizens traveling anywhere outside of the United States, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, are required to have a passport or passport card. The passport card can be used for travelers traveling on land or by sea to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda. However, travelers traveling by air must have a passport. In order to get an American passport, travelers must follow a series of steps weeks in advance of their first trip.

Things You'll Need

  • Form DS-11
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship
  • Primary identification
  • 2 passport photos

Fill out the form DS-11. The form can be obtained online from the U.S. Department of State's website or from a Passport Acceptance Facility or a Passport Agency (see Resources below).

Collect the necessary evidence of U.S. Citizenship and primary identification. Each applicant must present one item from the list of evidence of U.S. Citizenship and one item from the primary identification list. Necessary evidence of U.S. Citizenship can include a previously issued and undamaged passport, a certificate of citizenship, a certified birth certificate, a naturalization certificate or a consular report of birth abroad. Primary identification includes previously issued and undamaged passport, naturalization certificate, current government ID, current military ID or a valid driver's license.

Have a passport picture taken. Applicants must provide two identical passport photos. Photos must be in color, 2 by 2 inches in size, of the full face, taken in front of a white or off-white backdrop and have been taken within 6 months of applying for the passport. Applicants must be wearing normal street attire in the passport photos.

Submit the completed DS-11 along with the evidence of citizenship, primary identification and passport photos at a Passport Acceptance Facility or a Passport Agency. Many U.S. Post Offices are Passport Acceptance Facilities. Visit the U.S. State Department website to find the nearest Passport Agency or Passport Acceptance Facility (see Resources below).

Pay the application fee set by the U.S. Department of State.

Tips & Warnings

  • Drugstores with photo labs and camera stores commonly take passport photos that meet all of the U.S. Passport requirements for a nominal fee. Visit the U.S. State Department website to find the nearest Passport Agency or Passport Acceptance Facility.
  • Do not sign form DS-11 until instructed to do so by the Acceptance Agent. If you need a passport within 2 weeks, make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency.

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