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How to Apply for a U S Passport

Updated on November 17, 2006

The Process is Not That Difficult

In this post 911 era, passports have become a necessity if you wish to travel abroad even if you go no further than Canada or Mexico. Beginning in January 2007 Americans are going to have to show a valid U.S. passport in order to return from Canada or Mexico and already Canada is starting to ask for passports from Americans visiting Canada. Of course, I am referring here to U.S. citizens, resident aliens have to use passports from their country of origin when traveling abroad and use their U.S. “green” card as identification for entering and exiting the U.S.

If you have a passport that is about to expire, or has expired and was issued less than 15 years ago, the process for getting a new one is fairly easy. So long as the expired passport was issued no more than 15 years ago, it has not been altered or mutilated, your name has not changed and you were at least 16 years old when the passport to be renewed was issued, you can renew it by mail. There is one other restriction on passport renewals by mail and that is the passport can only be mailed to you at a U.S. or Canadian address. If you are living abroad you have to go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to renew the passport. So long as the above conditions are met, the process is simple:

Obtain and complete Form DS-82 – this is available on line as well at many Post Offices, state courts and other government facilities.

Complete Form DS-82

Mail completed form with expiring or expired passport, check, payable in U.S. dollars, made out to U.S. Department of State for renewal fee (currently $67) and two passport photos (these can usually be taken at most photo shops, Kinko's and many other print shops and private mailing services) to:

National Passport Processing

P.O. Box 13349

Philadelphia, PA 19101-3349

If you are a first time passport applicant or if you passport expired more than fifteen years ago you will have to apply in person at the nearest passport office in the U.S. or U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. The State Department no longer issues family passports. Each person, including babies, must have their own passport. Each person, including babies and children, must appear in person to apply for a passport. Additional rules may apply for minors under the age of 14 – check the State Department's Passport page for more information.

The following documentation is required to apply for a new passport or replacement of a passport that has been altered or mutilated, or has been expired for more than 15 years:

Complete Form DS-11 – this is available online for downloading or can be obtained from a passport office.

A CERTIFIED birth certificate or undamaged U.S. passport (regardless of age) to prove U.S. citizenship

Certified copies of birth certificates can usually be obtained from the local county records office or county health department. Due to identity theft and growing concern over illegal immigration, these are becoming more difficult to obtain. You will almost always have to apply in person for a birth certificate and be prepared to prove your identity. Fees will vary from state to state.

If you do not have a previous passport or birth certificate (i.e., one was never issued, was destroyed, was sealed at time of adoption, etc.) refer to the State Department Passport site (first link below) for acceptable alternative forms of proof of citizenship.

Since types of acceptable forms of alternative proof of citizenship are decreasing and certified birth certificates becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain it is a good idea to obtain and keep in a safe place (such as bank safe deposit box) one or more certified copies of birth certificates for each each member of the family. If you are one of the few for whom no birth certificate was issued, it would be a good idea to obtain a passport to use as proof of U.S. citizenship even if you do not plan to travel abroad.


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    • flint3099 profile image

      flint3099 7 years ago

      Great information Chuck. I had to apply for one for my trip to the Philippines and didn't run into any trouble.

    • petermdhart profile image

      petermdhart 7 years ago from Cornwall, UK

      Helpful, thanks!

    • HecVille profile image

      HecVille 8 years ago from Texas

      I sell Passport Photos in my pack & ship store, but I don't really know a lot about the passport application process. Thanx for the info.

    • profile image

      Fun message board 10 years ago

      Good one. Thanks for sharing

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 11 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Thanks for catching and pointing that out, LJ. The key is whether the expired passport was issued more than 15 years ago and not whether it has been more than 15 years since it expired. I have made a correction to that part of the hub. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      LJ 11 years ago

      You have a very important detail wrong regarding renewal requirements for expired passports. The US Secretary of State info states that it's not just whether your passport expired more than 15 years ago but "if your previous U.S. passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago" that determines whether you need to jump through extra hoops to renew it.