What Do I Need to Get a Passport?
Travel Tips

What Do I Need to Get a Passport?


Gathering all the necessary documents is essential to receive your passport back as efficiently as possible, so you can enjoy the overseas vacation of your dreams. Before you book your flights and hotels abroad, make sure you understand exactly what documents are needed for obtaining a new passport. 

This comprehensive guide helps both first-time passport applicants and those looking to renew their passport. We will highlight the correct application forms and passport photo requirements, break down the passport fees and provide helpful information on how to check the status of your application. 

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Courtesy of Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

U.S. Passport Application Form

If it’s your first time applying for a U.S. passport, visit the official page and find the DS-11 Form. You can fill out the forms using the online Form Filler or by downloading a PDF copy of the application. The Form Filler is recommended, as it will create the correct form for you based on the information you enter. The process for renewing your passport is similar to first-time passport applicants, but instead, you will apply using the DS-82 Form. 

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U.S. Passport Photo Requirements

Many passport acceptance facilities will take U.S. passport photos for you for a fee, but you can also choose to have photos taken before you arrive. However, make sure to follow the current passport photo requirements carefully, as passport photos that don’t meet the official requirements are the biggest reason applications get held up during the application process. 

Photo Basics

  • Submit one color photo, taken in the last 6 months.
  • Use a clear image of your face. Do not use filters.
  • Have someone else take your photo. No selfies.
  • Take off your eyeglasses.
  • Use a plain white or off-white background.

Resolution, Print Size & Quality

  • Submit a high-resolution photo that is not blurry, grainy or pixelated.
  • The correct size of a passport photo is:
    • 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm)
    • Head must be between 1 -1 3/8 inches (25 – 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head.
  • Print on matte or glossy photo quality paper.
  • Do not digitally change the photo.
  • You cannot submit a damaged photo with holes, creases or smudges.

Pose and Expression

  • Have a neutral facial expression with both eyes open (not required for infants).
  • Face the camera directly with full face in view.

Attire

  • You cannot wear glasses.
  • Wear your normal clothing. You cannot wear a uniform or clothing that looks like a uniform.
  • You cannot wear a hat or head covering. (There are exceptions for religious purposes)
  • You can wear jewelry and keep on your facial piercings as long as they do not hide your face. 

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U.S. Passport Fees

Check the official fee calculator and applicable chart online, as the prices change periodically. As of 2019, passport fees are as follows: 

  • First-time Adult Passport Book – $110 (Application Fee) + $35 (Execution Fee) 
  • Renewal of Adults Passport Book – $110 (Application Fee)
  • Minor Passport Book (under 16) – $80 (Application Fee) + $35 (Execution Fee)

In addition, below is a list of optional passport fees:

  • Expedite Fee: $60 
    • Paid per application, in addition to required fees. Provides faster processing than routine service. 
  • 1-2 Day Delivery: $16.48
    • Paid per application for 1-2 day delivery. Only applies to mailing addresses within the United States.
  • File Search Fee: $150
    • A file search is necessary when an applicant is unable to present evidence of U.S. citizenship or verification of a previously issued U.S. Passport or Consular Report of Birth Abroad. Applicant must submit Form DS-11 and a written request for a file search. 

Tip: Don’t forget to check what payment methods are allowed at your passport acceptance facility, as checks and money orders are often the only forms of payment accepted. (Paid to the U.S. Department of State)

Checking Your U.S. Passport Status

You can check the status of your U.S. passport three ways, online, by mail or by phone. By far, the easiest and quickest way to receive information regarding your passport application is online. Your passport is trackable after seven to 10 days of submitting all your completed documents, while those who pay extra for an expedited service may be able to track it sooner. Visit the official website and fill out your information to find out the latest updates on your passport processing. 

If you prefer to speak to someone over the phone, you can call 877-487-2778 to receive information on your expected passport processing times. Outside of holidays, you can call Monday through Friday between 6 am and 12 am and Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm, Eastern Standard Time.

You can also send an email to [email protected] to check the status of your passport, however, this is the slowest option, as your inquiry will be answered within 24 hours. With this option, you’ll have to share important information via email, including your full name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number and your passport application number.

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U.S. Passport App

If you dread the long lines at the airport when reentering the United States, consider downloading the free Mobile Passport App. This convenient app offers a quicker way of traveling through U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The simple process is done in a matter of clicks, all you have to do is take a picture of yourself and answer a few basic questions (including your passport information) on the government-approved app and you’ll be well on your way to a more efficient landing process. The handy service is currently available at 25 select airports and 3 cruise ports.

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