Applying for your American passport is a lot easier than you might think.
But before you actually apply, you’ll need to figure out what passport type works for your needs and when you’ll need it by.
Which passport type should I get?
In the U.S., we have two options: a passport card and a passport book. Passport cards cost $30, but are valid only for land crossings between Canada and Mexico, or by sea between Bermuda and the Caribbean.
If you really want to explore the world, you’ll need to get the passport book, which costs $110 and is valid for 10 years of international travel.
Alternatively, you’d also be able to get both the book and card for $140. Once you’ve decided on which passport type you need, it’s time to apply!
How soon do you need your passport?
In a rush to get your passport asap? The State Department provides a number of options:
- Standard Processing: no additional cost, but it takes between 4-6 weeks to process.
- Expedited Processing: an additional $60, and takes 2-3 weeks to process
- Expedited at Agency Processing: an additional $60, and takes between 5 business days or less to process. This option is available only by appointment at one of the Passport Agencies around the U.S., and you must provide proof of travel within 2 weeks, or 4 weeks if you’re traveling to a country with a visa.
The State Department also gives you two delivery options: standard, which comes free of charge, and overnight, which costs an additional $14.95.
Three Easy Steps to Getting a Passport
Now that you’ve figured out how quickly you need your passport, it’s time to start putting your application together!
Step 1: Gather your documents
You’ll need three things when submitting your application for a passport: an original document that proves evidence of U.S. citizenship, photo identification, and a photocopy of your photo identification. Here’s what the State Department counts as a valid forms of evidence and identification:
Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
Any one of these documents would suffice as evidence of U.S. Citizenship:
- Certified U.S. Birth Certificate (with the following requirements)
- Issued by City, County or State of Birth
- Your full name, date and place of birth
- Your parents’ full names
- The date has been filed with the registrar’s office within one year of birth
- Has registrar’s signature
- Has the seal of the registrar
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Certificate of Naturalization / Citizenship
Photo Identification + 1 photocopy of the same ID
You can use any one of the following as proof of photo identification:
- Valid Driver’s License (plus a second ID if your license is issued in a different state than where you apply)
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Valid Government ID at the city, state or federal level
- Valid Military ID
Step 2: Get your picture taken
You’ll need one 2×2-inch color photo of yourself, which you can get at most retail stores (like CVS and Walgreens). The photo should be taken in normal street attire, and you cannot wear tinted glasses. Special exceptions on attire and glasses are made, but must be accompanied with a statement citing medical or religious reasons.
Step 3: Fill out the Application
After you’ve gathered your documents and taken your photo, you’ll need to fill out the application. You have two options:
Step 4: Submit your application in person
Either way, you will need to submit your application in person at an Acceptance Facility. In addition to the Passport Agency’s, these acceptance facilities are places that accept passport applications. Some of these places include:
- Post offices
- Clerks of court
- Public libraries
- Other state, county, township, and municipal government offices
The Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page will help you figure out which is the closest facility near you.
Step 5: Wait (excitedly) for your passport
Depending on if you’ve rushed your passport processing, it might take 4-6 weeks before you receive it. But fear not, so long as you completed your application correctly, you’ll get it.
So…what are you waiting for? Get started on applying for your passport TODAY!
If this is your first time getting one, let us know by using #gotmypassport and we’ll share your pictures on social media to celebrate with you!
Jason Bilog is an avid globetrotter and travel hacker who loves to pay for travel through credit card points and frequent flyer mile programs. Jason is also a StartingBloc Fellow and a full-time Marketing Operations Manager.