How to Get a Passport

Written by |

If you are a U.S. citizen and plan to travel to another country, you will need a passport in most cases. Even for those without travel plans in the near future, a current passport can still come in handy. For example, you can use it as your primary photo ID if you misplace your driver’s license or even if you’re just traveling domestically.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to submit a passport application.

7 Things You Need to Have to Get a Passport

For new passport applications, you must make a trip to a nearby Passport Acceptance Facility. You can search for one in your area here. When you are ready to apply, you will need the following things:

1. Primary Identification

Most people use a valid driver’s license as proof, but other acceptable forms of ID include:

  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • City, county, state or federal government employee ID
  • U.S. military or military dependent ID
  • Current (valid) foreign passport
  • U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • Trusted Traveler ID

Note that if you present and out-of-state ID, you must present an additional form of identification.

2. Photocopy of Primary Identification

In order to process the application, you must also supply a copy of the primary identification being used (both sides if applicable).

3. Evidence of U.S. Citizenship

Most applicants use a certified birth certificate as proof of citizenship. Make sure it has a raised seal. The office will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of the birth certificate as proof. If you don’t have a certified birth certificate in your possession, contact the local government in the area where you were born.

You may also supply a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship if that applies to you.

4. Photocopy of U.S. Citizenship

You must also supply a copy of the proof of citizenship being used. Again, you will need both sides if applicable.

5. One Passport Photo

A photo is required to get a passport. Your local drugstore  or photo print lab likely will take it for a few bucks. Some passport acceptance facilities will provide photo service on-site.


You can take your own photo, but  you must follow some key instructions in order for it to be accepted.

Passport photo requirements:

  • In color
  • Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
  • Must be a clear image of your face, with no photo filter
  • No selfies
  • Plain white or off-white background
  • High resolution
  • Printed on matte or glossy photo quality paper
  • 2 x 2 inches in size
  • Sized such that the head is between 1 and 1 3/8 inches (between 25 and 35 mm) from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head. See examples here.
  • Taken with a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, and with both eyes open

6. Payment

For first-time adult applicants, expect to pay the following for your passport:

Type of Passport Application Fee Execution Fee
Passport Book $110  $35
Passport Card $30  $35
Passport Book plus Passport Card $140  $35

For the application fee, checks (personal, certified, cashier’s, traveler’s) and money orders are accepted but credit and debit cards are not.

The $35 execution fee is paid separately. All locations take money orders for this fee. Personal checks and exact change in cash work at some locations. U.S. postal facilities and some other locations will take a credit card.

You should verify acceptable payment methods with the acceptance facility ahead of time. Note that if you are paying by check or money order, you will need two of them since you will be making two separate payments.

7. DS-11 Passport Application

This application can be filled out ahead of time online. When finished, print it and bring it with you to the acceptance facility. Be sure not to sign this document until a processing agent asks you to.

How Long It Takes to Get a Passport

Most first-time applicants will receive their passport by mail within 6-8 weeks after submitting all the paperwork. If you are in a rush, you can request expedited service for delivery in as little as 8 business days but it will cost you more.

You can check the status of your passport application online here.

More Travel Stories From


best travel rewards credit card Best Travel Credit Cards: Top Rewards Picks for 2024 - The best travel rewards credit cards! Compare the latest sign-up bonus offers to start earning free flights, hotel stays and more.