Guide to Obtaining Your Passport: Step-by-Step Process

A passport is the key to all kinds of adventures, and even if you don’t have any international travel planned for the near future, it’s still worth getting one. It takes time to obtain a passport, though, so it’s best to start early on.

You’ll need to apply in person at a passport take and receive affidavits, affirmations or declarations acceptance facility for most applications, but some applicants may be able to go to a regional agency or embassy. To find an acceptance facility in your area, check the State Department website. It’s also wise to research how much the application and execution fees will cost before visiting the acceptance facility; they can vary by location, so it’s smart to bring a checkbook just in case you need to make multiple payments.

Before you visit the passport acceptance facility, have all of your required documentation prepared. This includes the completed Form DS-11, as well as proof of your identity and a passport photo. Acceptable forms of ID include a driver’s license, a government-issued photo ID card, or a current foreign passport, among others. You’ll also need a recent photograph that’s 2 inches square and in color, preferably taken within the past six months. The front and back of the photo should be included in your application package.

At the facility, you’ll fill out the paperwork and pay the fees. As of 2021, a first-time adult passport costs $165 and renewals cost $130. You’ll need to choose between a book and a card for your new passport, and you’ll also have the option of choosing expedited processing for an additional $60 fee.

The processing times a new passport or renewal takes will vary throughout the year, so it’s important to plan ahead and be aware that there are extra fees if you need it sooner than the standard eight-to-11-week wait. It’s also a good idea to avoid rush and renewal seasons, as these tend to be busiest during the summer and winter.

If you’re unsure about the processing timeline for your specific situation, it’s a good idea to call the embassy or consulate where you will be traveling to ask about their process and any special requirements that might apply. You can also contact the State Department’s “Life-or-Death Emergency Service” if someone in your immediate family is dying or if you must travel immediately for another reason.