How to get or renew a U.S. passport

The State Department is expected to implement a program to renew passports online. Here’s everything you need to know

Alonso Martínez
USA Passport
A U.S. passport book.Getty Images

Demand for U.S. passports this year is “unprecedented”, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. In 2022 the U.S. State Department issued a record 22 million passports and 2023 is “on track to break” that record, Blinken said. This means that the standard processing time for a passport (which takes 10 to 13 weeks) could take even longer, so it’s better to be prepared, especially if you’re planning on getting out of the country for vacations.

If you already have a passport but it needs renewal, there’s some good news. The State Department will implement a program to renew the passport online. “65% of renewal customers for passports will be able to do so online, once this program is fully up and running”, Blinken said. The program is expected to be ready this year to help with the high demand, but there’s no official date yet.

Meanwhile, if you want to get a passport or renew it, here’s everything you need to know before you pack your suitcase.

Difference between Passport Book and Passport Card

There are two different kinds of passport documents: the passport book and the passport card. Each one has a different purpose, so you have to consider the kind of travel you’re planning on doing.

A passport book is obligatory for all international travel by air, no matter the country which you’re visiting. A passport card is smaller and less expensive but cannot be used for international travel by air.

Both documents can be used at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

How to apply for a U.S. passport from within the United States?

If you’re in the United States you can apply for a US passport and follow the regular application process or —if you need to get a passport urgently — you can solicit an expedited process. Here’s how both processes work.

Regular process

The first step to apply for a U.S. passport is filling out the application form, which you can find on the U.S. Department of State website. If this is your first time applying for a passport you need the DS-11 form. If you’re renewing you need the DS-82 form.

Fill out the form

The form can be filled by hand by printing the PDF, or you can also fill it through the State Department website. This option is not an online passport application, but it generates a code that links to the data you enter.

You’ll need to write the following personal data: Full Name, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Social Security Number, Email and Primary Contact.

Documents to attach

After filling the form you’ll have to attach some documents. Here’s the list that also appears on the Section D of the form.

  1. Proof of U.S. citizenship: U.S. Birth Certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certification of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization of Citizenship. The form lists different secondary documents that you can use if you don’t have a birth certificate. If you weren’t born in the United States your application will be forwarded to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  2. Proof of Identity: Driver’s license, Military identification, a government employee identification, a previous passport book or card, or a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship.
  3. A recent color photograph, 2x2 in size, taken less than six months ago with the head 1-1 ⅜ inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head, the head must face the camera directly, no eyeglasses and head covering, no uniform, with a plain white or off-white background. The photo has to be printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper.
  4. Proof of parental relationship (for applicants under age 16) or proof of parental awareness (for applicants ages 16 and 17).

Expedited process

You can request an appointment at a passport agency for an expedited process if you are traveling within 72 hours and is an emergency (such as a serious illness, injury or death of immediate family), or if you have urgent travel within two weeks, for which you must have proof of immediate international travel (like airline or cruise tickets).

You can also request an expedited process via mail for passport renewal or in person at a passport acceptance facility near you for a new passport. This has an extra cost of $60 plus delivery costs.

Find your nearest Passport Acceptance Facility

The process can be completed at a Passport Acceptance Facility. You can go to the search page of the U.S. Department of State website and enter your zip code and it will give you a list of all the facilities nearby.

If you’re renewing your passport you can do it by mail sending the DS-82 application form, your passport photo, your payment and your old passport. If you changed your name you’ll need a certified copy of a court order of the name change or a marriage certificate.

What are the fees for a U.S. passport?

Depending on if this is the first time you apply for a passport or if this is a renewal, the fees for a passport vary. Here are the current prices.

How to apply for a U.S. passport from outside the United States?

If you want to apply for a U.S. passport from outside of the United States, every U.S. embassy and consulate has different procedures for submitting and processing your documents.

In most countries, you must apply in person at the embassy or consulate. You can check which documents you’ll need on the official website of each embassy.

According to the Department of State, you’ll have to fill out a form, provide evidence of U.S. citizenship, copies of the evidence, an ID, a photo and determine any special circumstances.

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