How To Apply for a U.S. Passport

In a Nutshell

If you recently became a U.S. citizen, congratulations! You are now eligible to apply for a U.S. passport. The U.S. passport process is very straightforward, and passport applications are processed much quicker than the other immigration applications you’ve been used to. This article is a step-by-step guide to the application process for a U.S. passport if you’re applying for the first time.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated November 1, 2022

Who Can Apply for a U.S. Passport?

You can apply for a U.S. passport if you are a U.S. citizen, either by birth or naturalization or by a qualifying U.S. national. If at least one of these criteria applies, you need to apply in person using Form DS-11: 

  • You are applying for your first U.S. passport 

  • You are younger than 16 years old

  • Your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were younger than 16 years old

  • Your previous U.S. passport was lost, stolen, or damaged

  • The U.S. Department of State issued your previous U.S. passport more than 15 years ago 

If you don’t fall under any of these eligibility requirements, you can submit a U.S. passport renewal application with Form DS-82.

How To Apply for a U.S. Passport: A Step-by-Step Guide

To complete a U.S. passport application, you need to fill out Form DS-11, gather supporting documents, pay the fee, and submit the form. 

Step 1: Complete DS-11

First, download Form DS-11 from the Department of State’s website. Ensure you use the DS-11 application if you are a first-time applicant or fall under any other of the categories above. Note that you will have to provide a Social Security Number on Form DS-11. 

Step 2: Gather Supporting Documents

To receive a new passport, you need to present original identification documents in person at a passport acceptance facility. When you mail in the application, you will also need to attach a photocopy of one of the following documents to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship:

  • U.S. birth certificate

  • Consular report of birth abroad or certification of birth

  • Certificate of Naturalization 

  • Certificate of Citizenship 

A certified copy of a document should have the seal or stamp of the official issuing authority. For the photocopy, provide a photocopy of the front and back of the certified citizenship documents you gather. These photocopies should be clear, in black and white, and on white, single-sided 8.5-by-11-inch paper. 

Providing Proof of Identity

You also need to provide proof of identity by presenting an original and submitting a photocopy of one of these documents: 

  • Government-issued identification documents (such as a valid driver’s license or photo I.D.) 

  • Military identification; federal, state, or city government employee identification

  • Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship 

In addition, you will need to submit a recent passport photo in color that is 2-by-2 inches in size. 

What if I Lost My Original Citizenship Documents?

If you lost your original proof of U.S. citizenship, you will need to replace them before applying for a U.S. passport. 

  • U.S. birth certificate: You can generally contact the county or local government where you were born. A local government agency, such as a county clerk, will process your request. Fees and processing times may vary. 

  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) or certification of birth: Generally, you would get a CRBA soon after birth. You can request a replacement through the U.S. Department of State. It will cost $50, and the process may take four to eight weeks. 

  • Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship: You need to file the application form for a replacement, Form N-565. The application fee is $555, and you may have to wait six to 12 months. 

Step 3: Find Out the Passport Fee

Passport fees differ depending on the applicant’s age. The passport fee includes two separate costs: an application fee and an execution fee. The execution fee for all ages is $35. 

The application fee depends on whether you want a passport card or book. You can use a passport book for international travel by air, sea, or land. However, you can only use the passport card for land border crossings and seaports of entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. 

For an adult, defined as 16 years of age or older, the additional fee for a passport book is $100 and $30 for a passport card. For a child under 16, a passport book’s application fee is $80, and a passport card costs $15. 

Step 4: Submit DS-11

You have to apply for a U.S. passport in person and show your documents to an acceptance agent. If you are inside the United States, you can submit Form DS-11 along with your supporting documents and fees at a passport acceptance facility. Generally, these passport agency locations include post offices, public libraries, and other sites. Different locations will accept various forms of payment, such as credit card or money order, so check ahead of time to ensure you can pay. 

Try to make an appointment well before any travel plans because routine services can take up to 16 weeks from when you submit the passport issuance application. For expedited services for an additional $60, it can take up to 12 weeks. 

If you are outside of the United States, you may be able to submit your forms at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Each location will have different guidelines and hours regarding passport services.