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Ready to Travel More Next Year? Here’s Everything You’ll Need to Know About Your Passport

Written by Chris Osburn

Looking forward to renew or apply for a first US passport for yourself or another family member? The steps required to get a passport are quite reasonable. But you should be well aware of them and prepared long before you walk into your local passport agency, just in case!

Here’s what you need to know to get a frictionless application process and alleviate any potential frustrations that may arise.

Applying for Your First Passport

Woman holding passport

If you want to travel internationally as an American, you need a valid US Passport. To be eligible to have a US passport, you need a US citizen by birth or naturalization. Assuming that’s all squared away, the process to apply for a passport is pretty much straightforward!

To apply for your first passport, you’ll need to be able to present your application in person at a passport acceptance facility (quite often that’s your local post office), and you’ll need to have the following documents with you:

  • Filled out application form DS-11, which can be downloaded or completed online via the government’s Passport Application Wizard and then printed out
  • Original proof of citizenship document
  • Acceptable photo ID document such as a valid driver’s license
  • Photocopy of the front and back of the photo ID document
  • Passport photo that meets the specific requirements.

You’ll also need to have the funds on hand to pay for your passport fees. If you’re applying for a first-time passport as an adult, expect to pay $135 for a passport book. The charge is $110 for minors.

Renewing Your Passport

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You can renew your current or expired US passport unless your passport falls into one of these categories:

  • Issued before your 16th birthday
  • Issued 15 or more years ago
  • Damaged, lost, or stolen
  • Issued in your previous name and you don’t have a legal document like a marriage license to prove your legal name change

If any of the above is true, you cannot renew your passport. Instead, you must apply for a new passport in person. If the above isn’t the case, then you’ll need to make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency (or if not in the country at an embassy or consulate). When you go to your appointment you’ll need to take the following:

  • Filled out application form DS-82
  • Passport photo that meets the specific requirements
  • Your most recent passport
  • Only if you’ve changed your name: a certified copy of your marriage certificate or a court order of your name change

You’ll also need to have the funds on hand to pay for your passport fees. If you’re applying for a first-time passport as an adult, expect to pay $110 for a passport book. If you need to get your passport back in two weeks or less you will need to have your passport renewal expedited and pay additional fees ($60 plus delivery fees).

The State Department suggests that it’s a good idea to renew your passport about nine months before it expires.

Here’s a handy tip:  if you travel frequently, consider checking the “52 page” box at the top of your passport application to receive a larger passport book with 52 pages.

Applying for a Spouse Who’s Not a US National

Married couple with passport and boarding pass

When applying for a spouse’s passport who’s not a US citizen, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  • The US generally recognizes marriages abroad, but every state and territory has its own marriage laws. So it would be wise to check for relevant information with the Department of State (Federal) as well as the local equivalent for whichever state or territory you intend to reside with your spouse.
  • An immigrant or nonimmigrant visa is required for a non-American spouse to enter the US.
  • Your spouse won’t become a US citizen automatically by marrying you. They will need to naturalize to become a citizen.
  • In most circumstances, people can have dual citizenship, keeping their citizenship of another country and that of the US.

It’s important to inquire in your spouse’s home country about procedures regarding retaining citizenship and marriage to foreigners. With doing so from within the United States, that country’s embassy or consulate would be the best place to start.

Applying for Minors Under the Age of 18

Young girl traveling with passport in hand

As with adults, children must apply or reapply for a passport in person at a passport agency. If under 16, they need parental consent with both parents present with them and co-signing the application. Between the ages of 16 and 17, minors can apply on their own, though the State Department still recommends at least one parent appears in person with the child to show parental awareness.

You may also like: Damaged Passport? Here’s What You Need to Do!

Replacing a Lost Passport

Man realizing he lost or forgot something

If you lose your passport while in the United States, make an appointment to apply in person at your nearest passport agency to replace it. If you haven’t booked those cheap international flights yet, just make an appointment (if necessary) to apply at an authorized passport acceptance facility to replace your passport at a time convenient for you.

If you lose your passport while traveling abroad, contact your nearest embassy or consulate to cancel and replace it. Do this as soon as you know for sure it’s gone and make sure the incident is reported to the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Finally, if you’re certain your passport was stolen, contact the local police to report the incident. If you are a victim of a serious crime do this immediately. Be sure to request a copy of any police report!

Still have questions about your passport? Your best resources for answers are usa.gov/passport and travel.state.gov.

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.

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