New Passport: How to Apply for a U.S. Passport [2021 Guide]

A young woman holding her new passport, wearing a backpack

All U.S. citizens require a U.S. passport to travel outside of the country.

To apply for a new passport in the United States, an adult must submit the DS-11 form, proof of citizenship (or naturalization), and a passport photo to a passport acceptance facility. They will also pay passport fees appropriate to their preferred processing method (regular or expedited). Children under the age of 16 will follow the same process but will complete their application accompanied by two parents or guardians.

The following information provides a complete overview of the U.S. passport application process, required documents, fees, photos, and more.

The U.S. Passport Eligibility, Forms, Fees, and More

In this first section, you will gain an understanding of the requirements for a U.S. passport. This includes eligibility, proof of citizenship, forms, fees, photos, and more. It’s important to take your time when working through each of these sections, ensuring you have the appropriate forms and have filed the correct sections before arriving at a passport office or facility.

U.S. Passport Eligibility

U.S. passports are available to those who are:

  • A U.S. citizen by birth
  • A U.S. citizen by naturalization
  • A U.S. national

Passport issuance is contingent on several factors besides citizenship or naturalization. Denial may be the result of a prior revoked passport, extradition, warrants, and other legal matters. The Department of State has the final say about the matter.

Note: Those who hold green cards will need to go through the naturalization process before applying for their U.S. passport. 

Proof of Citizenship

Proof of citizenship is required when applying for a new U.S. passport. These documents must be either original or certified (sealed or stamped by official authorities).

The following are documents accepted when applying for a passport in the United States:

  • A valid, undamaged U.S. passport (may be expired)
  • A U.S. birth certificate
    • Includes your full name, date of birth, and place of birth
    • Lists the city, county, or state of birth
    • Lists your parent(s) full name
    • Has the date filed with the registrar’s office
    • Includes the registrar’s signature
    • Has the seal of issuing authority
  • A Certificate of Naturalization
  • A Certificate of Citizenship
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad or Certificate of Birth

The Department of State may also accept alternative citizenship evidence such as a Letter of No Record, Form DS-10 birth affidavit, or delayed birth certificate. Those born outside of the U.S. may submit the FS-240 for their proof.

It’s recommended that you check with your local passport office or refer to the Department of State’s portal for more information and guidance. We also recommend that you bring photocopies of every document during the submission process.

Passport Forms

The official U.S. passport application form is the DS-11 Application for U.S. Passport.

The DS-11 is for the following:

  • Applying for a first U.S. passport as an adult
  • Applying for a passport under the age of 16
  • Updating a passport that was issued when under 16
  • Replacing a passport if it was lost, stolen, or damaged
  • Getting a new passport if your previous was 15+ years ago

The DS-11 passport form includes a detailed overview of U.S. passport requirements and information, along with the written application to be submitted. This form can be found at a local passport office, post office, or clerk of the court. You may also print and fill out the DS-11 passport application form and submit it in person.

Those living overseas (such as Canada) can submit the Form DS-11 in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate. In some instances, mail-in options may be available.

Where to Apply

Where you’ll apply for a passport is dependant on how soon you need it. In most cases, most will need either a routine or expedited passport service. However, there are circumstances that may require even faster processing such as a life-or-death emergency or to fulfill a very urgent international travel plan.

Service Processing Time Details
Life-or-death emergency service Within 72 hours (3 business days) From within the United States call, 1-877-487-2778/ 1-888-874-7793 (TTY/TDD) Monday- Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time, except federal holidays. Or, visit your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if outside of the country.
Expedited (at an Agency or Center) Within 72 hours (3 business days) At one of the many Passport Agencies located throughout the United States
Expedited 4 to 6 weeks At a passport office or renewal by mail
Routine 10+ weeks At a passport office or renewal by mail

Please note that this information relates to those applying for a passport from within the country. Those living outside of the United States will process their application at their U.S. embassy or consulate, pay the appropriate fees, and wait for its completion.

Passport Fees

The cost of a passport is dependant on the passport type and processing time.

Type Application Fee Processing Fee
Passport Book $110 $25
Passport Card $30 $25
Passport Book & Card $140 $25

The price of the passport does not reflect additional costs such as the passport photo or if you need a money order when submitting payment. This also does not reflect if you need expedited services, or an option fee for an agency to find/collect records for you.

For a detailed overview – refer to our Passport Fees page.

Passport Photos

Every passport includes a photo of its owner for verification. The easiest way to streamline the passport application process is to bring a passport photo of your own. However, it’s important that the passport photo follows the appropriate guidelines and requirements.

Passport photo requirements for a new passport include:

  • 2in x 2in color photo
  • Taken within 6 months of the application date
  • Full face (front view) without any coverings
  • Stark white background

See our in-depth passport photo guide for extra details and answers to questions you may have.

The easiest way to have a passport photo taken is at a local pharmacy such as CVS or Walgreens. You may also use passport photo apps if you prefer to stay at home.

The U.S. Passport Application Process

The following section includes a step-by-step overview of the application process. This process will have you filing and submitting the documents (covered above) to a local passport office or processing facility. By its end, you’ll have taken one step closer to traveling the world!

1 – Fill Out the DS-11 Passport Application Form

Download or pick up a copy of the DS-11 U.S. passport application form. Read through the entirety of its contents and fill out all appropriate sections. However, do not sign the document until you visit a passport acceptance office and are in the actual process of submission.

2 – Gather Your Proof of Citizenship Documents and Photo

Gather the appropriate records needed to apply for a passport. Refer to the ‘proof of citizenship’ section above. Also, make copies of the documents and any other official documents may feel are necessary when applying for your passport (or a child’s).

Gather two copies of your passport photo to bring along, too.

3 – Visit a Passport Processing Facility

Find a passport facility near you and check the hours of operation to ensure they’re available to your schedule. Consider, too, your passport needs such as if you require expedited passport services.

Use the following to discover facilities near you:

You may also call ahead to verify any last-minute details. Or, to check for accessibility options.

Note: Please practice safety and social distancing if visiting an agency or office.

4 – Submit and Pay the Fees

Visit an office or agency, submit your documents + photo, and pay the fees. You may pay these fees with cash, check, or credit card. Follow the instructions provided by the passport agent when paying these fees. Then, get and keep a copy of your receipt.

5 – Wait For Processing

If everything was fine during the application then you can expect your new passport within 4 to 6 weeks if done via expedited services else upwards of 10 weeks for routine processing. The passport may arrive sooner depending on the volume of applications, too.

You may also refer to the following to check the status of your passport:

Otherwise, be patient and use the waiting period to review if you will need a visa when visiting the country of your desire. 

Congratulations! You’ve Completed the U.S. Passport Application Process

Following through the entirety of this guide (and a bit of patience while it processes) means you are a new passport holder and owner. Congratulations! From here, you can travel the world, experience new cultures, enjoy marvelous adventures, try amazing foods, and so much more!

Do you still need help, answers to your questions, or something else? Check out our blog for great travel information and guides, or connect with us about expedited passport services.

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